The organization I work for is all about continued learning and growth in its employees. As a part of that, some of us were able to attend a leadership conference that was being held in Atlanta, but we viewed via a live feed in our city auditorium. The conference is called Leadercast and it is put on by Chick-Fil-A. I do not patronize Chick-Fil-A because I think they have awful business practices and they are far too religious and bigoted for my taste. So, needless to say, I had some sort of expectation that this was going to be bad.
Last year, Chick-Fil-A put on the same Leadercast event and, except for an interview with Tim Tebow (can he PLEASE just go away already?!), it was great. I learned a lot from the many speakers and they all had very useful things to say. I even purchased a couple of books from my favorites.
This year was different. Much different.
The speakers ended up being just blegh but that wasn’t my problem with them. All of them, with the exception of maybe one, had an underlying Christian tone to their thoughts about leadership. The funny thing was that even though they all mentioned having faith of some kind, the things they were teaching about leadership — the principles one is supposed to take in and implement in their daily professional lives — were completely and totally contradictory to their Christian faith. It was a phenomenon I saw time and time again as each speaker wandered on the stage.
John Maxwell, a bestselling author of leadership self-help books mentioned in his discussion that he has figured out our problem. He says that our problem is that we are always trying to find a leader to fix all of our problems. He said the answer is simple: be the leader that solves the problem.
Now, in the realm of professional development this is great advice. This is how people move up in companies and corporations; this is how shit gets done in this country (or doesn’t). But how can one believe in that while still believing in a god? How does this relate to Christianity? The truth is, it doesn’t. In fact, it is completely contradictory to everything Christianity teaches.
If going to church the majority of my youth taught me anything, it was that god would take care of everything for me. If I loved him and did right by him, well then he was going to look out for me. I was taught that he had a plan for me and that, no matter what, everything would always be OK. This is a direct contradiction to Maxwell’s idea about leadership and responsibility.
The worst offender, by far, was Condoleezza Rice. I have never been a fan of hers and after her interview it only further concreted in my mind that she truly is an idiot. At one point in the pre-recorded interview, John Maxwell asked her who had inspired her most in life — who she would always strive to emulate. Good ol’ Condi answered delightfully, telling a story of how the family was all together for some holiday (I can’t quite remember which) and one night they were all awakened to find her uncle had fallen incredibly ill. She said that everyone was running around the house putting clothes on, finding keys, gathering him up to put him in the car and take him to the hospital. But, she said that in the midst of all that mayhem, she happened to glance over at her grandmother who was sitting calmly on her bed not doing a thing. Condoleezza said that she asked her if she was going to help, to which her grandmother replied, “God’s will be done.”
Let’s recap: Condoleezza’s uncle is possibly dying, everyone is rushing around trying to get him to the hospital for help except for grandma who basically says that she isn’t going to do shit to help save his life because it may be that god wants him to die. Gnarly shit, right?
Not to Condoleezza! Oh, no. She thinks this is admirable. She finishes the story by saying that she is in awe of her grandmother in that moment because it is “remarkable to have that kind of peace.”
Remarkable to have that kind of peace? Or that kind of ignorance? Or that kind of basic disregard for human life?
THIS IS WHAT THEY WERE TEACHING US AT A LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE. Can you believe that? Neither can I.
One speaker, however, Dr. Henry Cloud, spoke a few words that really resonated with me, being an atheist. He said about leadership:
“The worst thing a leader can do is hope. Leaders must create a necessary ending.”
I agree with this whole-heartedly and honestly think the world would be better off if the majority of the people on it did too. For example, Christians hope and pray that something will happen — that their god will implement his divine will in a (hopefully) favorable way. This has always seemed like such a waste of time to me. Why hope and pray for something? Why not go out and get it? Or position yourself in a way that you are more likely to achieve what it is that you want to achieve? That is not true leadership, that is true helplessness.
Basically, all I learned from this leadership conference was that god and religion hold people back from ever amounting to their true potential. So many of these Christian speakers spoke about their faith being the strongest guide in their ability to lead but, from what I can tell, it has been the most hindering. These people had a real opportunity to make a difference in young people’s lives and give them helpful advice for tackling issues in the real world. But sadly, instead they opted to preach about a god that doesn’t exist and while telling us one thing, they were preaching the opposite. Although, I suppose that isn’t anything special or different. Christians do that all the time.