Imperfect Leaders

Peter Oye Sagay

Humans are very group oriented. This is because Grouping is an important universal concept necessary for existential progress. The group does not have to be large. It can even consist of just two persons. A group, almost always has a leader or leaders. Usually, the initial leaders are founding members of the group. Thereafter, in most cases, procedures are instituted for the selection of new leaders when it becomes necessary to replace the group leader or leaders.

The basic criteria used to select a leader or leaders of a group are usually established early in the life of a group. For example, to be president of the United States of America a candidate must be a birth-citizen of America, must be at least 35 yrs old and must have resided in the country for at least 14 years. Interestingly, there is no minimum education requirement and surprisingly no minimum morality requirement. However, over the years, the moral character and education of a candidate has become increasingly important. This trend is essentially good. In general, members of groups want their leaders to be educated and to be of good character. The trend becomes bad when petty character flaws of a candidate seeking a leadership position in a group are interpreted as serious character flaws by members of the group and therefore used as important selection criteria. Such a trend if allowed to prevail will often prevent the realization of great accomplishments in the human space because existential perfection is existentially elusive and is always work in progress. Many of humanity's great Leaders were imperfect persons. In fact some of them had serious character flaws. The following are some of my favorite imperfect great leaders. The lives of these great leaders remind us that perfection is elusive even in the moral space:

Abraham: from him came three great world religions and a group of people that have contributed greatly to humanity. He slept with Hagar who was the maid of his wife Sarah. He also lied that Sarah was his sister during their early sojourn in Egypt: a strategy to protect himself and Sarah from Pharaoh's lust.

Moses: he gave us the creation story. He was the first human to establish in a very vivid way the containership property of Space which he characterized as a void. Without him there would have been no Israel. He was hot tempered and he killed an Egyptian out of anger when he saw the cruelty the Egyptian perpetuated upon a Hebrew slave.

King David: a great king and psalmist. His great accomplishments are many. He was first introduced to the world as the young shepherd who killed Goliath the philistine. It is generally accepted by Christians that Jesus is his descendant. He lusted after Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite who was one of his generals, slept with her, impregnated her and set up her husband to die in war, then married Bathsheba.

St Peter: Jesus's favorite disciple and a major pioneer of Christianity. He denied knowing Jesus at His most trying time. He and other disciples were prejudiced against Paul because they did not believe that Paul has become saved.

St Paul: the single most important architect of gentile Christianity. He was formerly known as Saul of Tarsus before his conversion during which time he persecuted many early Christians vigorously, and was directly or indirectly responsible for the death of many early Christians.

In general, in our modern world, serious character flaws that lead one to commit murder automatically disqualifies a candidate from seeking a leadership position in a group. This is understandable and okay because we are humans and do not have the profound insight of the One who selected the aforementioned great leaders for their respective leadership roles. However, as humans we have the insight to differentiate between petty character flaws and serious character flaws and the ability to understand the elusiveness of existential perfection. We must be slow to judge and interpret petty character flaws as serious character flaws because it is only when we understand that there are no perfect leaders and are willing to take calculated risks in the selection of leaders, that we can be beneficiaries of the greatness that sometimes come to humanity through imperfect leaders.

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