The countries that are likely to be more attractive and gain soft power in the information age are those with multiple channels of communication that help to frames issues; whose dominant culture and ideas are closer to prevailing global norms (which now emphasize liberalism, pluralism, and autonomy); and whose credibility is enhanced by their domestic and international values and policies… To the extent that official policies at home and abroad are consistent with democracy, human rights, openness, and respect for the opinions of others, America will benefit from the trends of this global information age. But there is a danger that the United States may obscure the deeper message of its values through arrogance. – Joseph S. Nye Jr; Soft Power, The Means to Success in World Politics
In my day job as a Financial Security Advisor I have the opportunity to meet some extraordinary people.
In actuality, everyone is extraordinary in their own way, from the entrepreneur who discovered a new way to teach kids to love the Arts (my first client) to the 61 year old letter carrier who still works 10 hours a day with a smile on his face and love in his heart and the stay-at-home mom who stopped counting the hours she spends keeping her kids happy healthy and wise after she had her fourth. I count all my clients not only as extraordinary, but I draw inspiration from them as I go about everything I do. That’s why the person I met last Friday had such a profound impact on me.
About twice a year our office hosts a full meeting of all the affiliated Financial Advisors in our city. In any given year there are about 150 of us. The management gives some basic updates on our performance, recognizes a few of the top players in each product line and lays out some goals for the coming months, then they turn the morning over to a guest speaker. Usually the guest is a top player from one of our offices in another city or someone sent down from head office with a specific message that corporate thinks we should here.
We mark our time, sign the attendance sheet for our Continuing Education credits and get out of there as fast as we can so we do what we get paid for. But this year was different. This year we had the opportunity to hear from a truly extraordinary Canadian; General Rick Hillier (retired) of the Canadian Armed Forces.
I’m an unapologetic pacifist. (That doesn’t mean with you think it means, more on that in previous posts here and here) So I am a bit skeptical of anything a military man might have to say but if there is one thing that the military can teach everyday civilians, pacifists included, it’s how to practice and cultivate leadership. And there is no greater leader in the history of the Canadian military than Rick Hillier.
Hillier made his mark on history as the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2004 and as the Chief of Defence Staff, the Canadian equivalent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from 2005 to 2008.
Here is what I, a pacifist, learned from Canada’s top military man on leadership. Hillier calls it the two step cycle of leadership. Step one, provide inspiration – tell stories, show the way, take concrete action and give people the tools to do their jobs. Step two, draw inspiration – listen to their stories, ask them where they want to go, let them take action, ask what they need from you to do their job. Repeat!
General Hillier spoke to a room of 150 Financial Advisors for an hour and half. Honestly, it felt like ten minutes and at times there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. He told us a bunch of stories about showing the way, taking action and providing tools, and at the end he quoted another great Canadian to sum up it all up.
“Vision without a plan is just a fantasy and you’re wasting your time.” – Mike Babcock; Head Coach Detroit Red Wings and Canadian Men’s Olympic Team (2010 Gold Medalists)
Meek people can be great leaders. In fact I am convinced that meekness is an essential trait for true leadership. The key to Hillier’s two step cycle of leadership is meekness. You have to be able to step back and allow others to lead you and inspire you in order to provide leadership and inspiration yourself. You have to release your grasp on power and hold it in an open palm in order for true respect and power to be given to you. At the end of the day, that’s the definition of true leadership and I’m glad that our military is staffed by men and women who get it.
Every once in a while I feel compelled to explain why I use the word meek to describe the work I do and the movement I’m trying to start through this blog, my books and my public speaking. As I say in the introduction to “Meekonomics; How to Inherit The Earth and Live Life to the Fullest in God’s Economy”; meek is one of those bible words we don’t use in regular conversation anymore and as a result it has lost much of its meaning.
Originally published in 1937, at the height of Nazi Germany, it’s a clarion call directed at German Christians to reject the godless politics of National Socialism and return to an uncompromisingly orthodox understanding of scripture. It’s precisely this kind of writing and preaching that landed Bonhoeffer in a jail and saw him hanged by the Nazi’s just two weeks before the allied armies would have liberated him. That, and the fact that he was implicated in a plot to murder Hitler could apparently get you killed in the 1940s, go figure.
Now, over seventy years after it was first published, and in a Christian culture dominated by right wing political ideology, the message of “The Cost of Discipleship” remains just as relevant as it was in Hitler’s Germany, and for a book written in a different era, it’s a surprisingly easy read.
Bonhoeffer’s interpretation of Matthew 5:5, which I base most of my writing on, is perhaps the most clearly profound explanation of this biblical passage I’ve ever read. I don’t poach the work of other authors very often but I’d like to take this opportunity to quote Bonhoeffer at length and allow his writing to speak for itself.
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” This community of strangers possesses no inherent right of its own to protect its members in the world, nor do they claim such rights, for they are meek, they renounce every right of their own and live for the sake of Jesus Christ. When reproached, they hold their peace; when treated with violence they endure it patiently; when men drive them from their presence, they yield their ground. They will not go to law to defend their rights, or make a scene when they suffer injustice, nor do they insist on their legal rights. They are determined to leave their rights to God alone – non cupidi vindicate, as the ancient Church paraphrased in. Their right is in the will of their Lord – that and no more. They show by every word and gesture that they do not belong to the earth. Leave heaven to them, says the world in its pity, that is where they belong. But Jesus says; “They shall inherit the earth.” To these, the powerless and the disenfranchised, the very earth belongs. Those who now posses it by violence and injustice shall lose it, and those who here have utterly renounced it, who were meek to the point of the cross, shall rule the new earth. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer; The Cost of Discipleship
I really have nothing to add. Instead I challenge you to meditate on that for a bit and ask yourself; are you ready to inherit the earth?