Posted in Autistic Identity, Catholic leadership, leadership

Truth and the Renegade Leader

One of the things about being Catholic is that we are called to believe in one Truth (capital T) which is Jesus/God/Holy Spirit…you know, TRUTH.  And this actually fits in line with what I think the Autistic view of Truth is…the idea that there is one factual truth in all things.

But we also, as Autistics, believe in multiple perspectives.  As in, one person’s experiences will affect the way he or she tells the story.  Sometimes Autistics who have not been “woke” to this truth still fight it and believe only one view of events can possibly exist, but increasingly, as one becomes an activist, one learns about perspective, white privilege and so on.

In leadership, there is another kind of truth, I think.

Truth has to do with the mission and vision of your organization; its guiding principles.  You can dissent or disagree with these principles, sure, but that’s something that you do inside the organization.  You talk to your supervisors, and you explain why this or that isn’t quite right.  You work together to refine and clarify the truth as applies to the place you work.  But when you speak to outsiders, you hold up the truth of the organization as advertised.  This place is beautiful and true, and the leaders, visionaries.

You keep your family squabbles behind closed doors.

In the end, our human version of the truth will always be a little fuzzy.  It just is what it is, but you do your best to support those before you.

But truth, even the human truth found in organizations does not exist in a vacuum.  You need to learn the history of the place and its roots.  But each person has his or her own version of what that history is.  Combining those stories you can approximate truth.  But approximated truth is never exactly perfect either.  You will make mistakes.

In my vague way of speaking, I learned some things as a leader this week.  I learned that because someone tells you one version of truth, that does not at all mean that person is telling the truth, and it doesn’t mean that person isn’t, in fact, manipulating you and taking what you say or do to others and twisting it in such a way that distorts the truth.  As an Autistic leader, I have to be mindful of my naiveté and trust, which is both beautiful because people can often get a “fair shake” with me as I can forgive rather easily and explain away seemingly cruel behaviors, but also a potential weakness in terms of my being perceived as a strong leader.  People can manipulate me quite easily, and therefore, I have to be wary, but not change to be cruel or I will lose what makes me unique as a leader.  I am a work in progress on this front.

I also learned, however, that sometimes where one is called to lead has a strange history, a history of people running with scissors, rather than doing what is expected of them.  A history of randomness and renegade actions.  You know, the kind of place that can be unpredictable.  This is terrifying to an Autistic in some ways because when people behave randomly we cannot predict their actions and we rely on that predictive skill to bring order to our part of the universe.  But this randomness has a purpose.  After all, in this case, it is also the kind of place that survives.  My predecessors were scrappy, living in a frontier place where there may have only been one other church (Congregationalist; the Frontier equivalent of a generic Protestant) anywhere around.  They had to build a church before they had a priest.  They probably had to scheme to get one to come in the first place.  They survived even when religious leaders didn’t care about them or about their school.  They ran with scissors.  But they were running, following Jesus directly through the Magisterium.  They wanted a priest; they didn’t want to go without a spiritual leader and go off and do their own thing.  It’s a strange combination.

And this place is still open even if it makes NO sense in terms of finances or anything else quantifiable.

The “truth” I was told misrepresented and distorted the truth of the community.  These people were power-hungry and would do anything to take over!  They hate you!  They resent you!

The more I know about the history and the people who were involved in it, the more I know, that while they have no idea what I’m doing since it’s kind of foreign to them…I am more like them than they realize.

Autistic leaders run with scissors.  We break the rules because we can be focused on one goal and sometimes we don’t explain what we’re doing too well to others.

But I’m learning that that is what this school, this parish, needs.  We’re renegades, but renegades for Jesus.  Faithful to the Magisterium, yet quirky in our individual way of supporting the Church.  Over time, I think, they forgot to keep themselves focused on the Truth.  If we can reorient ourselves to Jesus, our “random” nature will be a blessing again.

We are, of course, many parts in the same body and each of us has our own gifts and they need to work together, in the same body.

In the end, I think, that’s what an Autistic leader may well be best at: unexpected actions, but all focused on a singular goal.  Maybe I am meant to be here, in this place, at this time.  And maybe I am the one who has to lead us through this rough patch because my gifts as an Autistic person may well help us get back to focusing on Jesus and Truth, in our own unique way.

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