[October 10, 2020] Last night at our weekly Boy Scout meeting, the boys held an election to determine who would be their next Senior Patrol Leader. The Scoutmaster, an experienced and fine gentleman, explained how the Scout election process worked and how to judge the candidates properly. He made several important points. First, among his points was that leaders are not neutral.
Leaders have opinions, they make judgments, and they favor those who closely adhere to Scout values. The Scoutmaster gave several examples. He said that the Scout should have a better opinion of those candidates who are present at all their meetings, who go on campouts, help them obtain merit badges, mentor younger Scouts, and answer their questions respectfully. They should not be neutral, and the leader they will elect should not either.
“The U.S. Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of people.” – William O. Douglas, American jurist and politician, best known for his defense of civil liberties
Some of the younger Scouts were confused. They had been told in school that only by being neutral could they be respectful, fair, unbiased, and happy. Their confusion was the result of misunderstanding the difference in neutrality and impartiality.
On the one hand, impartiality is a good thing; it is to be active. On the other hand, neutrality is a passive concept. Impartiality keeps away bias, while neutrality keeps success away. Neutrality abandons, isolates, disengages, and demotivates.1 Neutrality forces us to reject our values, opinions, and judgments. And, by being neutral, we must reject everything that makes us human.
Our best leaders are those who personally engage us with care and inspiration. Leaders motivate, coach, teach and push us to be better than we are today. They see our weaknesses and have the experience to help us if we chose to improve. Those same leaders recognize they can judge others, maximize their use of essential thinking skills, and simultaneously encourage others to achieve excellence in everything they do.
Neutrality is silence. It indeed is not respectful, fair, unbiased, or the path to happiness. By telling the truth, adopting reasonable responsibilities, and training one’s self to make proper judgments, can we be a true leader.
Only then will others see us as someone who can be relied upon to stand with us in times of tragedy. Only by the careful rejection of neutrality can the real leader emerge to do what is moral and what is right. Leaders certainly are not neutral.