Having Enemies

Winston Churchill, you have enemies good

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something in your life. 
Winston Churchill

There are a number of reasons why leaders will have enemies... and not all of them are good reasons.

1.  You may have an enemy because of poor, inept leadership and the decisons flowing from such leadership that makes things hard for others.

2.  You may have an enemy because of flawed character. You are just not a very nice person. You lack emotional and social intelligence. You don't know how to engage with others in appropriate ways.

Those are two bad reasons to have an enemy. And they are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes a leader is both inept and flawed.

Winston Churchill speaks of a third reason, which hints at the very nature of leadership.

3.  Agendas, Causes, Worldviews. Sometimes you will have enemies because people oppose the positions on which you stand, and the causes to which you are devoted. It is the nature of life in this world that people have very different agendas, worldviews and casues to which they are fully devoted. At times, those agenda, causes and worldviews clash with other agendas, causes and worldviews.

World War 2 was a time of great enmity against enemies. The democratic west and the Nazi regime were enemies. With vastly different views of what a good world would look like. Churchill, long before most of his peers, saw the danger and was willing to take a stand. Churchill also recognized the enmity that would come from the communist states of the world. He was willing to take a stand against those enemies.

Differing agendas, causes and worldviews are everywhere.

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris are the most recent extreme example of enemies.

The political debates going on for the presidential primaries are an example.

The discussion about the environment, abortion, refugees, taxation, family values, changing sexual mores and almost any other issue - are all examples.

Agendas, Worldviews and Causes - we all have them. That does not mean they are all good, true and beautiful... although the holder almost always believes her or his way is good, true and beautiful.

But it is the very nature of standing for something with conviction, and seeking to implement what you believe, when it is at odds with what others profoundly believe, that generates enemies.

Then, what you do about your enemy is crucial. Jesus tells us to love our enemy. Which to modern and post-modern sensibilities seems ridiculous. Hate your enemy and punish your enemy is more typical, no matter what agenda-worldview-cause you hold.

What do we do when an enemy seeks to hurt us? Whether the enemy is a criminal, a sex-offender, a forger, a CEO, a tyrant-ruler of a nation, a terrorist . . . What do we do? That is one of the important questions every society must answer, and it is a core question for global politics. 

I wonder what advice Churchill would give us today?

Brian K. Rice
Leadershp ConneXtions International