After I became pastor, I found myself reading biographies. The stories of the great figures of history gave me just the advice and encouragement I needed. Biographies on Abraham Lincoln were particularly insightful. But I also found interesting the stories of LBJ, Napoleon, Douglas MacArthur, Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson, Al Smith, Cardinal Bernardin, George Washington, and Ulysses S. Grant, just to name a few that I have read over the past few years. I have been given many books on leadership and administration from parishioners, but the best I have received have been these biographies.
I would particularly like to thank Deacon Bob Ryan, who gave me the comparative study on Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson by Doris Kearns Goodwin, titled Leadership in Turbulent Times. These four presidents, I discovered, were not all that different from each other. Sure, they were each born to distinct levels of society—Lincoln in poverty and Roosevelt in luxury—and had each varying political inclinations, but they were all immensely driven, a drive that was fueled by their interior woundedness. Lincoln and LBJ struggled with their fathers, while the Roosevelts battled health issues. These men—and we must remember that they were men—had a modicum of insecurity. It did not always work to their advantage—see LBJ and Vietnam—but the reality of weakness in leadership is an important one.
No one is perfect or without flaws. A leader is good to the extent that he or she can be human. For in being human we recognize our poverty and we rely not on our own talents but rather on grace from the greatest leader of all, Jesus Christ.