Ambition

At Mass today there was a reading from the Letter of St. James that got me thinking: “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.”  It goes on to say, “Where do the conflicts among you come from?  Is it not from passions that make war within your members?”

It reminded me of several passages from the Tao Te Ching, one of which says: “Those on tiptoe don’t stand up, those who take long strides do not walk; those who see themselves are not perceptive, those who assert themselves are not illustrious.”

These are some teachings that have lasted centuries and what, exactly have we taken from them?  When I was younger, I wanted it all.  When I grew up and could have it all, it was hard at first for me to understand, but I realized that it wasn’t altogether worth it.  Power comes from within and can’t be seized.  If you let it come to you, it will.

Conflict comes from people wanting something.  The amusing part of that is those who have power will say all day long, “If you really want it, you have to let it come to you.”  I’ve found that to not exactly be true.  That concept relies on enlightened leaders seeking people who are also enlightened, and not on surrounding oneself with “yes-men” and deceivers.  Had I waited my whole life for people to come to me and ask for my help, I’d probably still be waiting.

Thus the neverending struggle between seizing opportunities and creating them;  I have put a significant amount of research into what it would take for me to get from Point “A” to Point “B” and in some cases, made it happen.  I’m happy to say, however, that a lot of what I have accomplished has actually come about because I didn’t walk up the backs of others to get where I am at.

Ambition is not necessarily a bad thing; being deceptive, manipulative, and doing things contrary to the good of the team and the public we serve is.  What we individually have as a vision of our organization is proper if it involves service to the people we are charged to protect and assist, and not if it involves the “benefits” of public service.  By those, I mean the “perks” of having a badge, importance in the community, and the ability to lord over others and speak down to people.

There is such a thing as being an advocate for those who have no power, for standing up and doing the right thing, even when the right thing requires going out of our way to do so.  The other day I was driving down the road in my chief’s wagon and saw a family broken down on the side of the road.  I also saw several other official vehicles (not ours, thank God) pass these people by.  Had I been going somewhere in a hurry, would I have stopped?  Maybe those other official vehicles had places to go and people to see.  I stopped and helped them out.  They were grateful but I didn’t do it for their gratitude, I did it because it was the right thing to do.

As leaders, are we interested in the chase for power?  Or what we can do with the power once we have it?  I was talking about money with my oldest daughter today and explained to her, what good is money if you already have what you need and you are more interested in accumulating “stuff”?  Wouldn’t it be a better idea to help others who are in need, or at least taking the time to do something nice for others?  Once we hit the mark we desired, as a company officer, or a chief officer, what will we do with that newly found power?  Will we share it with others and empower them?  Or will we use it to beat others down and tell them what to do and where to go?

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