Good leadership is something that is essential to us all at this time- we seek that in our Government and its politicians, we ask that of our scientists, and all those in power.
Fortunately, we are blessed at St Mary’s with excellent leadership from a range of individuals who come together as a team to allow people to grow spiritually and for us to truly ‘share the love of Christ with all’.
But what exactly is leadership and what makes a genuinely great leader? The example of what a Christian leader should be that we are given in the Bible is “The one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:8).
In my time there have been some inspirational leaders like Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King and both of them used oratory and the art of public speaking to empower others.
If I was forced to give a more recent example of great leadership I would turn to someone that a lot of you may not have heard of. His name is Colonel Tim Collins. In 2003 and on the eve of the Iraq War, he commanded the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment and gave a speech to his men and women who were about to go to war.
It is put simply, a magnificent example of what I regard as true leadership- I know of soldiers who were there when he gave this eve of war speech and even today they are moved by the example he set for them. Listen to some of what he said:
“We go to Iraq to liberate not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them. Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread, tread…lightly there”.
What Tim Collins is saying here is that although his team were going to war, that they should show respect to that country and those in it and understand where they are going- they are going into Holy land and they should revere that.
“If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day. Allow them dignity in death. Bury them properly and mark their graves.”
Here the Colonel talks about the need to show compassion to those who may die and that they should again be shown true respect and dignity.
“It is a big step to take another human life. It is not to be done lightly. I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts, I can assure you they live with the Mark of Cain upon them. If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer. You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring shame on neither our uniform nor our nation.”
Tim Collins was born and raised in Belfast and grew up in ‘The Troubles’ and had personal experience of the impact it has on someone who takes another life. He talks well when he refers to people living with the ‘Mark of Cain’ on them forever more when they take a human life. He was keen to impress on young soldiers that real war is not like the movies- it is not fun, it is not glorious, it is not something to be proud or boastful of- sometimes it is necessary, but it is always regretful.
“As for ourselves, let's bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there. Our business now is north. “
Tim Collins ends his inspirational speech by making it clear to all those under his command what they are there to do- and to get on with it.
You get a flavour of just how impactful Tim Collins’ speech was on people with the clip below where Richard Branagh (also born and brought up in Belfast) speaks his words in the TV drama ’10 Days to War”.