There is no such thing as ‘The Ideal Leader’, but there are leaders with ideals! Ideals guide our lives like rudders direct ships. The captain chooses which way to turn the rudder (which ideals to live by) and then that rudder (ideal) steers the ship in the set direction. Our ideals are the rudders in our lives. We choose our values, then our values steer us.
While there is no such thing as ‘The Ideal Leader’, there are leaders with ideals. Socrates lived for his ideal of wisdom. The founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, lived for his ideal of “justification by faith alone”. Gandhi lived for his ideal of freedom. Martin Luther King lived for his ideal of justice. President Reagan lived for his ideal of a restored America. Billy Graham lives for his ideal of salvation in Jesus for every person in the world.
“The great men and women of history were not great because of what they earned and owned, but rather for what they gave their lives to accomplish.” – Dr. John Maxwell
So, what ideals are you living for? Perhaps when you hear the word ‘ideal’ you’re tempted to blow it off as pie-in-the-sky, ivory tower, only for dreamers kind of non-sense. You’ve heard the label ‘idealist’ thrown around as a criticism against someone and you’ve concluded that ideals just aren’t practical. “There’s the ideal” you say, “and then there’s the real.”
We all have to deal with the gap between what’s real and what’s ideal; with what is and the way we wish things were. Ideals, for some, feel more like wishful thinking.
A practical way for you and I to think about ‘ideals’ is to see them in their solid form, as when water freezes and turns to ice. Ideals (liquid concepts) harden into solid substances the way water turns from liquid to ice. Ideals in liquid form are concepts. But in solid form they become our expectations. For us, the ideal becomes what’s real.
Let me explain. When I was growing up, my mom taught me to hang up my clothes in my closet in a certain way…the hanger was hung in a specific direction. When I got married, my wife hung my clothes in my closet one day in the exact opposite way my mom had showed me. When I mentioned it to her (NOT the ideal thing to do:), she said, “Well, then, you can just do it yourself!”
What happened here? The way my mother showed me how to hang clothes in my closet had morphed into a solid expectation for me. I came to see the way my mom hung clothes as ‘the ideal’. Without realizing it, I had made my mom’s method ‘ my ideal’ and it had solidified into a solid expectation. The ideal (Brad, here’s how you can hang your clothes in your closet) became my expectation (Here’s how clothes SHOULD be hung in a closet).
NOT ALL IDEALS ARE CREATED EQUAL
I’ve matured since then, and now understand that not all ideals are equally important. I choose my family over my career. I try to choose what’s right over what’s wrong. I value what’s true instead of what’s false. I prefer to honor people rather than dishonor them. I decide to be better not bitter. These are just a few of my ideals. What are some of yours?
“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” ― Louisa May Alcott