Leading Blog


Great Expectations

Samuel Johnson lamented that, “Tongues, like governments, have a natural tendency to degeneration.”

Michael Curtin, Vice Chairman, COO and Associate Publisher of The Columbus Dispatch, spoke recently on the degradation of language:
Of course, we know that all living languages change. They must to survive. Language never is what it was in the good old days. The real question is what constitutes change and what is decay.

There is abundant evidence that the American people are growing more worried about language decay—an increase in casual profanity, rudeness and incivility in our expression.

The Associated Press reported recently that three-fourths of Americans say they encounter profanity in public either occasionally or frequently, and a majority agreed they encounter it noticeably more often than 20 years ago.

Words that once were shocking to hear in public now are heard commonly on television and radio, in music and movies, at work and on the street.

Are we on an irreversible downward slope?
Interestingly enough over on the Christianity Today Blog they have been debating for months as to whether a young poet should have been allowed to use the F-word throughout the public recitation of her poem at church. Oddly, the debate is all over the place. I know the poet’s pastor thought that he was being caring, loving and accepting, but in the end he failed her. He was disrespectful to the young girl by allowing her to recite the poem with all of its profanity intact.

To be sure, a leader needs to be accepting of those they lead. They need to try to relate to and understand those they lead. But more importantly, they need to be respectful and they need to expect the best of their people—or they will seldom get it.

If in trying to be accepting, we lower the bar and drop the standards, we all lose. Perhaps in the short-term this seems to work but in the end it backfires—we lose ground and respect. Unfortunately, we see this kind of misguided thinking happening in homes, schools, companies and yes, even churches.

In short, the pastor sent the message that she was not capable of coming up to a standard that is acceptable to society at large. Apparently her pastor didn’t feel she was talented enough to express herself in a proper manner. It is insulting.

If a leader is to make a difference they must act courageously. Upholding standards is not always easy but it is necessary. Emerson wrote, “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” We need to have enough respect for the people we lead to expect the best from them. What we expect is all too often, exactly what we get.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:23 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Leadership



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