“Blessed be the body of Christ”. One after another, all my schoolmates knelt with hands outstretched before the priest to receive Holy Communion. As a non-Catholic attending Catholic school, it was regularly my experience to sit alone in the church pews while my friends received the most important of the sacraments, the Holy Eucharist.
I once tried to join them, but was quickly instructed to sit down – not only by the priests and nuns, but by my classmates. It was isolating, hurtful and confusing. Unsurprisingly, the experience also made me angry. I became driven to prove I was no less than any other – regardless of faith.
Chariots of Fire’s Abrahams and Liddell were both highly successful in sport, and subsequently as leaders. It could be argued that for Liddell, it was easy to be gracious, generous and statesman-like when he experienced such adulation, support and acceptance. Abrahams, though ostensibly privileged, felt he was shunned, disrespected and resented. Liddell used his faith as motivation to run. His body became a vessel through which to show the world the power of God. Abrahams described his motivation as compulsive. His running became a weapon used in defence of his religion.
Both men were undoubtedly leaders. One became so with support and inclusion – the other through indignance and exclusion.
This clear inequality causes immense suffering and deprives leaders the full expression of their talents. It unnaturally elevates some, and punishes others. For my part, in leadership positions, I have felt driven by a need to be liked, included and accepted by my teams.
I’ve also felt compelled to achieve and be recognised – to gain positions of status and renown as a form of protection from judgment and exposure.
We all crave a sense of purpose, a higher calling and a reason to perform at an elite level. Ideally however, leaders should develop and grow with passion and love for their chosen pursuit, not in a distorted and often unconscious need to justify their place alongside their fellow man.