Recently world leaders gathered in France for the G7 summit. It was a moment for photos, dinners and plenty of political rhetoric. Sadly, elected officials around the world regularly resort to an exercise of seeing who can incite and exorcise their supporters into white-hot political passion. True leaders, on the other hand, are more inclined to inspire individuals to compassion and peaceful, purposeful action.
Politics has been transformed into a full-contact sport with rallies looking and sounding more like sporting contests than a battle of ideas or policy proposals. Large gatherings with raucous supporters, filled with passion for their candidate and contempt for their opponents, is the norm.
Sports in general, and soccer in particular, has long been the space for such passion-producing leaders. I remember conducting a leadership seminar for a software company about 20 years ago. The meeting was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and included the executives and managers from the Brazil and Argentina offices. At one point in the morning, I asked them to get into groups and come up with a list of great leaders. I had no idea what my simple request was about to incite.
For the Brazilians, there was just one name to put on the list: soccer legend Pele. For the Argentinians, there was also just one name to put on the list: their soccer hero, Maradona. Within seconds, the passions of the group were beyond the boiling point and nearly came to blows. I quickly called a timeout and sent everyone to a break to cool down. It was not the company’s finest hour of leadership. While passion in sports and even in politics is understandable, it doesn’t necessarily lead to the kind of leadership the world needs.
I have been reminded recently of the difference of inciting passion and inspiring compassion. I have witnessed UVU president Astrid Tuminez, Sharon Eubank from Latter-day Saint Charities, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and JetBlue chairman Joel Peterson each speak of principles that lift and inspire purposeful action and selfless service filled with compassion toward others.
I am watching two world religious leaders inspire such compassion this week in South America. President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Quentin L. Cook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been sprinting through Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil. They have hosted capacity crowds in stadiums, sporting arenas and convention centers. But rather than raucous displays of passion, the crowds are more contemplative as they are instructed in ways to compassionately serve, lift and help each other and those in their local communities.
President Nelson and Elder Cook met with Colombia President Iván Duque and spoke of religious liberty and the good that people of faith can do for a country. President Nelson stated during the meeting, “A plural society with religious orientations are very strengthening to the values of a country and the strength of families.”
On Wednesday evening in Argentina, while President Nelson was meeting with a small group of young people, Elder Cook addressed representatives of various faith groups along with political and business leaders. He spoke of the need for people of faith to be able to compassionately take their faith into the public square where it would bless the lives of neighbors and neighborhoods.
Inspiring compassion was also on display as President Nelson met with wheelchair recipients from the joint efforts of the church’s Latter-day Saint Charities and CILSA, a nongovernmental organization that works in Argentina to engage and elevate people with disabilities. President Nelson, Elder Cook and their wives, along with other leaders from both organizations, met with the recipients on an outdoor basketball court. There were no teams or sides to choose and no taunting chants or cheers to yell. The compassion to reach out lifted up, united and blessed receivers and givers alike. The wheelchairs are promoting respect, inspiring hope, creating opportunity and transforming lives.
While incited passion may stir the soul for a moment, it is inspired compassion that leads to better people, better communities, better countries and better days for people everywhere.
Correction: A previous version misspelled the name of a former secretary of state. Her name is Condoleezza Rice, not Condelezza Rice.