Dorothy Day writing to an inquirer, January 1948

Leaders. We have no committees. Whenever in our houses we have had them they do not work. The person in charge of the house, living in the house, working there, is father and mother of the group. The Benedictine ideal, not the idea of majority rule. The leader may make mistakes, but he can repair them. He has to stand a lot of criticism, and keep going; or leave, or step down and let another take his place. People could take turns, but in general it is best to have one leader to take responsibilities and make decisions. We are absolutely opposed to committees. Personal responsibility, “littleness” are points too important to the work to be neglected. They are the very basis.

Day is a bit discursive here, so I don’t know if she’d share my reading, which is that leadership is (or can be) itself a form of littleness, of humility. This occurs when the leader assumes genuine personal responsibility for everything which happens under his watch. Personal leadership allows the possibility of repentance in a way which rule-making, for example, does not.

About Eve Tushnet

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