I was talking to a priest-friend about Cardinal Law. He was saying that Law’s flaw was that he believed he could lead by affirmation. He had apparently succumbed to the pop-psychology idea that positive reinforcement could solve anything. Just look at the mushy letters he sent to perverts who had been removed from ministry. Or the way he was seen just a few months ago on the cover of a newspaper with his arm around a priest who everybody knew was trying to undermine him.
The other thing that undid him was his inability to manage those with whom he worked. A prime example was the priests’ meeting back in January just as all this broke. He let the whole format of the meeting go to hell and it ended up being a session for the discontented to whine and complain and lash out at him. And rather than control and lead, he appeared to listen and take it all in.
That’s fine sometimes. But a good leader knows when to listen and when to shut down the conversation and act. Leadership is not just affirmation, sometimes it’s a kick in the pants. Like a father who wants to be best friends with his kids so they’ll love him, the kids end up resenting him because he doesn’t show he loves them by doing the tough thing and disciplining them. Yes, I know that sounds paternalistic toward the people of the Archdiocese, but it’s just an analogy.