Leadership Sometimes Means Taking a Stand

kennebunk stand kids

By Connie Goodbread

Great leaders continually examine their motives. They ask themselves, “On what principle am I taking this stand? Am I acting
for the common good? Am I trying to push a personal agenda? Do I just want my way or is there a principle at stake here?”
Great leaders will admit to themselves when they are not standing on principle but rather acting out of other motives and can stop themselves.

"Force always attracts men of low morality." —Albert Einstein

It is not always easy taking a stand. One of the things that can help us when we find ourselves in the position of needing to is a deep understanding of the principle at the foundation of our actions. If we can ask ourselves the questions above and answer them honestly, the direction we need to take becomes clear. When called to defend our position, decision or action we can state clearly what principle we are upholding. We know we are not taking action for selfish reasons.

This does not mean that all others will fall in line, agree with us, always see the wisdom in our words or go the direction we are suggesting. It does not mean we should close ourselves off to great ideas, the wisdom of others or a different tack that would uphold the common good and the deepest principle. We should remain in relationship but be able to cut through the emotional quagmire that can arise when a stand must be taken.

James Luther Adams said that there is no coercion in Unitarian Universalism. This is foundational part of our faith. Force is out of the question. We should never find ourselves forcing our way on others through manipulation, debate, temper, trickery or any other of means of coercion. If we are taking a principled stand we will not need to use any of these tactics to be heard. When we are taking a principled stand we state the action we are thinking of taking and the principle it upholds. We hear others and set boundaries. We correct the course when needed and take action lovingly.

Each of us is capable of wanting our way. Each of us is capable of noble thoughts, actions and deeds. Each of us is capable of demanding from ourselves first, and then from others, the very best that we can be. This is what it means to be in covenant. This is what it means to be practicing our full polity.

Covenant and polity are the backbone of Unitarian Universalism. Both of these words are relational words. We are a covenantal, not a creedal faith. There is no coercion. Each of us comes to this faith of our own free will and we stay together in respectful loving relationship. We hold ourselves to the highest of standards. We call one another back into covenant when we slip. We recognize the individual authority for their faith, the congregational authority to govern itself and the need to be in relationship with others to build a better world.

Our covenant and polity demand that we take stands. To build a better world we must understand the bedrock we build this better world upon. Examining the motives for our actions and making sure that our actions are principle driven is a way to help us insure that we are building a better world. We are the leaders we have been waiting for! Let’s be great!

About the Author

Connie Goodbread

Connie Goodbread is congregational life staff for the Southern Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Richard Speck is retired from full-time ministry and former district executive of the Joseph Priestley District of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

For more information contact .