Books have been written about leadership skills, but war leader and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had very concise advice:
“In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory: Magnanimity. In Peace: Goodwill.”
Magnanimity comes from the Latin root magn (great) and animus (generous). In other words, a person showing great generosity.
Goodwill is, of course, goodwill toward others, benevolence and kindness.
Which, unfortunately, is anything but what Lewiston Mayor-elect Robert Macdonald promised his opponents following Tuesday’s election.
An angry Macdonald told reporters and TV cameras he had been maligned during the campaign by “the machine” and alleged that rumors had been spread about his wife’s health.
“I bit my tongue,” he said, although Macdonald seemed to be doing anything but during the campaign.
“You know, I just won,” he said Tuesday night, “so I don’t have to be quiet anymore, and they are going to pay for this. They are going to pay.”
Although Macdonald expressed admiration for his opponent, the recently deceased Mark Paradis, he promised to unleash his revenge Thursday on the “sleazy” people working for Paradis’ election.
“I’ll tell you right now,” he told local residents and a southern Maine TV audience, “I’m not going to take this. I won. OK? I won; now they are going to feel the penalties.”
It is sad that our new mayor’s first impulse is to punish his enemies, rather than offer them the hand of friendship and forgiveness.
History is replete with examples of generosity shown by great leaders, even after long and bloody wars. Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House is an inspirational example.
Grant’s terms of surrender to his former enemies were simple: Lay down your arms, take your horses and wagons and go home to your families.
As Lee left the surrender ceremony, Grant’s men began celebrating, but he quickly stopped them. “The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall,” he later wrote.
Many in the country were calling for the Confederates to be imprisoned or executed as traitors. But Abraham Lincoln and his government would have none of it.
It was a magnanimous and generous gesture that began healing a war-torn nation.
From U.S. presidents to small-town mayors, the most successful leaders are those who do not hold grudges and are determined to build bridges to their opponents.
Revenge and punishment are the impulses of petty people who play upon our fears, but who eventually fail and are never well-remembered.
Angry things are said during campaigns. Feathers are ruffled. But we must have the ability to come through an election, shake hands and work together.
Macdonald will have an opportunity Thursday to forgive anyone who slighted him during the campaign and to call for his supporters to do the same.
A mayor’s actual powers are few in Lewiston city government. One important role is serving as the public spokesman for Lewiston, its institutions and people.
This is a great city, built by strong people with a bright future. We of all people know that public images are hard-won but easily damaged.
With the Christmas season upon us, we hope our new mayor will find magnanimity in victory while promoting goodwill, peace and progress for his city.