Making decisions can be hard enough when it comes to personal choices. How much harder is it to commit to action when your choice directly impacts other people!
Over the past decade the role of experts as leaders in thought on specific subjects has been challenged or perhaps eroded. Subjects like human-caused global warming, refugees, sugar consumption, food regulation and vaccination have rightly sparked serious debate. The responses to these subjects continue to be minimal with few exceptions. Is this our leader’s fault or are we also to blame?
Everyday problem solving
I feel that we often like to think that choosing the best option is just a matter of applying a little “common sense” to a problem. Indeed, logical problem-solving skills are relatively ubiquitous; we practice them regularly on a day to day basis in general life and at work. We may not all be solving the hard-hitting issues we see in the media, or find solutions that will have us heralded as heroes, but we all practice everyday problem solving as common sense.
A novel solution
We’ve all run into problems which we have (or perhaps haven’t yet) worked out how to solve. But through applying a little more common sense to the problem we can often come up with a novel idea which solves the problem.
A novel idea doesn’t have to be profound yet we often know when we see one. It’s that idea that no one else seems to have, but yet someone thought of it and now it seems obvious.
Common sense for specialisation
What if we could come up with these novel ideas faster? Perhaps even come up with better novel ideas? Well if you feed this common sense with more information and give it some practice at solving problems, we can see this common sense improve at solving the problems it has practiced and learnt about.
This process of specialising is exactly what we try and achieve when we pursue education for our profession. So an expert is a specialist at solving specific types of problems in a specific subject. As such since we as a society have been investing in these experts, through schooling and education, to be solvers of our problems, why don’t we listen to them?
Although we could all try and solve these problems ourselves, we generally haven’t been trained to find these solutions. It is common sense to listen to experts! As such we have experts in fields such as Biology, Medicine, History and Music but we also have experts in areas of Public Policy and Media which have a more direct influence on our leaders and society as a whole. But are these leaders trustworthy as individuals?
A lesson from experience
About ten years ago I used to teach martial arts. In a teaching context where you are directly leading students in their learning, students must ascribe a level of respect to you as their teacher; else the relationship no longer functions to allow effective teaching. However a teacher or leader must be responsible in their role.
I can remember that changing from being a student to an instructor presented many challenges, the greatest of which was being disciplined in keeping up my own training. As the saying goes “practice what you preach”.
After a year of little practice it was clear that I had let my training slip and was no longer able to teach as well as when I had been practicing as a student. I stopped teaching at the time as I was moving for study but this lesson has stuck in my mind since then.
While some positions of leadership are earned and others are pushed upon us, a leader must be reliable and disciplined in ensuring they are qualified to lead, else those they serve will suffer.
How can we expect ourselves to submit to leaders and listen to them unless we consider them trustworthy? In the passage, 1 Timothy chapter 3, verses 2-12, Paul describes to Timothy what the character of a leader should look like. While this passage is directed to the church, it does fit with our ideal of a leader we can trust. Sadly the reality is that this is seldom the case.
Even in the case where a leader is trustworthy the people they serve are often not trustworthy in reciprocation (consider King David’s reign). However, in Romans chapter 13 we read that we must submit to earthly authority as they would not be in that role unless it was God’s will.
Thus as Christians we should, at the very least, try to promulgate this idea as leaders or as subjects. We should pray for both our leaders and for our society that God will raise up trustworthy leaders and that as a society we will be trustworthy towards our leaders. In this way, we will all benefit in peace. A peace which we can look forward to in the life to come with God dwelling with his people.
Sam Gillespie is a composer, programmer and PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales.Sam Gillespie's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-gillespie.html