Thursday, January 27, 2011

How the Mighty Fail: Lessons in Leadership (Part 6)

3. – Contributing Environment
    The third component of the "Toxic Triangle"

During times of instability and change, “followers” are more likely to accept an assertive leader.  When a group feels threatened and a leader emerges, the individual followers may not notice the characteristics of the leader which otherwise might be a cause for concern or alarm. Those who become aware of the negative traits may choose to minimize or ignore them because they believe in the leader’s vision

For instance when a group of people feels mistreated or threatened, they seek to find an assertive leader who can help remedy the wrong or mitigate the threat.  The greater the threat the more easily followers overlook the leader’s faults. A leader usually “emerges” to solve a problem. We thus have political, military, labor, religious, and social leaders.  Depending on the magnitude of the perceived “problem” that needs to be solved, a leader can enhance his or her power by advocating radical change to resolve the threat, right a wrong, or restore order.

The perception of threat is all that is needed.  Objective threats are not necessary. Politicians of all stripes manage perceived threat (weapons of mass destruction, cost of healthcare, budget deficits, and etc.)  Corporate leaders often frame the company’s “competition” as the “enemy” in order to strengthen their power and motivate followers.

Within an organization closed to external scrutiny the dysfunctional traits of a leader’s personalities are easier to hide.  For instance in a cult, a shrewd leader has more opportunities to can exploit unsuspecting followers.

In unstable situations, we are more likely to grant more authority to the leader because we know that instability demands decisive action. “Decisive action” sometimes means unilateral decision making.  History shows just how hard it can be to revoke authority when the leader becomes a dictator.

Was there a “conducive environment” in which my former CEO emerged as a leader and founded his organization?

The Mexican Revolution and the Cristero War

The Mexican Revolution in 1910 had a huge impact on the Catholic Church in Mexico. It affected Catholic how Catholics perceived themselves and how they were perceived. One of the consequences was so-called “Cristero War” a conflict between the revolutionary Mexican state and Catholics during the 1920s. It was in the aftermath of this revolt that Maciel founded his Legion. Over the years the Mexican governments have positioned the events as the Mexican Revolution defending itself against a reactionary clergy in cahoots with pre-revolutionary elites, both of which were trying to block progress and justice and were willing to invoke foreign intervention.

By 1940, the Catholic Church in Mexico had no legal corporate standing. It had been stripped of its real estate and had no schools, monasteries or convents. Clergy were forbidden to wear clerical garb. They were not allowed to celebrate public religious ceremonies. They could not hold a passport, nor had they the right to vote.  Foreign priests were not allowed to enter the country. The Church had no access to defend itself in the courts of law. These prohibitions presented a constant threat although some of them were ignored by both Church and State. Virulent anti-clericalism that has seldom been surpassed in any country was one of the most important results of the Revolution. Fr. Maciel was born in 1920.

The Cristero war started in 1926 and continued until 1929. The uprising, against the Mexican Government, was sparked by the on-going persecution of the Mexican Catholics who formed the majority of the population.  The rebels called themselves “Cristeros” because they felt they were fighting for Christ.
Jesus Degollado Guizar was perhaps their most brilliant general.  This itinerant salesman of pharmaceutical products before the rebellion was Fr. Maciel’s great uncle. The two other top generals were simple priests. The army numbered 50,000 when it seemed on the brink of victory.

Other than at the very beginning, they the Cristeros were not supported by the Mexican Bishops. There were 38 Mexican Bishops at the time of the Cristero War. Seven of them supported it. Most of the country’s bishops were in exile in the U.S. at the time. The Holy See which had spoken out against the regime in Mexico City did not support them although it seems the Vatican never condemned their war. Fr. Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi (Kingdom of Christ) Movement, was related to four bishops Luis Guízar Barragán, Antonio Guízar y Valencia, José González Arias, and Rafael Guízar Valencia.  Bishop Guizar is now a canonized saint of the Catholic Church. The Cristeros believed they were a Christian nation, the “Kingdom of Christ,” for which they were shedding their blood.

In 1927 a deal, fatal to the Cristeros, was reached between Church and State. Insofar as the bishops and Holy See went the route they did, instead of supporting the Cristeros, it could be said the peasant-warriors were betrayed by the very men for whom they fought. The documents embodying the “arrangements” between Church and State were signed in Mexico City on June 21, 1929. As for the Cristeros, Gen. Jesus Degollado (Fr. Maciel's great uncle) sent a last-minute, desperate telegram to the Pope: “In grief we approach Your Holiness humbly imploring words to guide us in our present situation and not to forget your faithful sons.” The telegram was never answered. 

The Mexican Bishops agreed to the resumption of public worship. The Mexican government declared, (only verbally,) that the Constitution of 1917, the supreme law of the land, would stand, but its anti-Catholic provisions would no longer be enforced. 

The Cristero story is further complicated by the interactions with the US Government of the time, the US Bishops, the Knights of Columbus, Protestantism, and Freemasonry. An article which I have found useful in terms of background analysis and from which I have drawn for my own analysis of the “contributing environment” is entitled Valor and Betrayal. It is well worth a read.  (To be continued...)

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