Today we are not only profoundly lacking in humane leadership, but also human leadership.
To be fully human means becoming what you truly are, in all of your complexities and contradictions. What would happen if, as a nation, we presented ourselves to the world openly, acceptingly, and honestly? What would be the result?
This is precisely the thought experiment the great humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers put forward in an essay published in 1960. According to Rogers, here are some of the elements that such a communication would contain:
- We as a nation recognize our enormous strength and the power and responsibility which go with that strength.
- We make many mistakes. We are often inconsistent.
- We are far from perfect.
- We are deeply frightened by a view of life different from our own.
- We have some very selfish foreign interests, such as in the oil in the Middle East. On the other hand, we have no desire to hold dominion over peoples.
- We have complex and contradictory feelings toward the freedom and independence and self-determination of individuals and countries: we desire these and are proud of the past support we have given to such tendencies, and yet we are often frightened by what they may mean.
- We tend to value, respect, and admire the dignity and worth of each individual, yet when we are frightened, we move away from this direction.
To many, to be this vulnerable, authentic, and human, would be a sign of weakness, and lead to greater conflict and war. However, according to Rogers, here are some of the actually probable outcomes of just such a communication:
- We would be much more comfortable, because we would have nothing to hide.
- We could focus on the problems at hand, rather than spending our energies to prove our own greatness.
- We could use all of our creative imagination in solving the problem, rather than in defending ourselves.
- We could openly advance both our selfish interests, and our sympathetic concern for others, and let these conflicting desires find the balance which is acceptable to us as people.
- We could freely change and grow in our leadership position, because we would not be bound by rigid concepts of what we have been, must be, ought to be.
- We would find that we were much less feared, because others would be less inclined to suspect what lies behind the facade.
- We would, by our own openness, tend to bring forth openness and realism on the par of others.
- We would tend to work out the solutions of world problems on the basis of the real issues involved, rather than in terms of the facades being worn by the negotiating parties.
In short, we would become a more human world.
Photo Credit: Kristopher Allison | Unsplash
Note: I modified a few of the statements to make them even more relevant to today’s political scene.