It has been interesting to follow some of the news reports concerning the European financial crisis and the various strategies for solving it. Greece’s economy is in acute distress, and many other European countries are on very unstable economic footing. The Germans, who are doing somewhat better than their neighbors, have become a lightning rod in the debates about fiscal policy.
Germany continues to maintain that economic austerity is the best way forward for the European Union, but reaction to restrained spending and cutbacks has been negative lately. Some have even cited this negative reaction as an indication that the EU should abandon its attempts at economic tough love and instead promote growth through increased spending.
These commentators have missed, or at least minimized, a critical principle of leadership: When people react negatively to a leader’s initiative, that indicates that the people are uncomfortable, but it does not necessarily indicate that the leader has erred.
Think what you will about macroeconomic policy, but don’t tell me that a leader who makes cuts must have taken a misstep just because people get hacked off at him or her. I would argue, in fact, that negative reaction to a leader’s direction is often a very good sign, because it can indicate that the leader has made the sort of tough changes that are necessary in a difficult situation. We don’t hold leaders to be great because they tweaked things and went along with the crowd. That’s not leadership; that’s followership.
Christlike leaders don’t go on a witch hunt looking for opportunities to make people angry, but they do recognize that leading people toward a sometimes unpopular person (Jesus) will require sometimes unpopular decisions.