Am I a Wimpy Leader?

Family members and I vacationed last week at a tropical, water park/ resort filled with predominantly American families. After indulging in some water fun, we had parked ourselves beside a smaller pool – off the beaten track – when an idyllic time turned repellent. While conversing, I noticed a couple of teens, about sixteen years old, in the pool. They started out kissing and with no objections, they kept moving to the next phase… till they decided to indulge in oral sex – yes in the pool. I was in disbelief at first – but unfortunately this was no illusion. I was outraged, insulted, disgusted and in pure shock at the audacity of these two teenagers. I alerted the lifeguard but at that moment these kids were taking a rest! So I decided to say something myself and told the girl (who was near me) “You need to stop your behavior – there are kids around” She replied “okay”. They left the pool after a few minutes and joined what looked like the girls’ parents. Ironically, the “father” was wearing a tee shirt that said “#1 DAD”. I wondered if I should alert the parents – thinking: if this was my daughter, I would want to know. I didn’t, however. Eventually they moved to a different area with the parents.

That would be the end of the story if not for the typical Marisa analysis… I agonized about whether I had done the right thing and realized I had failed. While I had temporarily halted the behavior, I had sent the wrong message verbally. I had said in effect “if kids were not around, your behavior would be acceptable.” Honestly, I chose those words because while I knew I wanted to do something, I didn’t want to “offend” or “battle” anyone – and there’s the problem.

Not everyone has the title of a leader; which by definition is “a person followed by others”. However, often we are called to be leaders just by virtue of the circumstances we find ourselves in. A couple of years ago, a fellow parishioner congratulated my daughter on the leadership qualities she displayed, namely: reaching out when she saw a need and being unafraid of going against the “norm”. In other words, even kids can be leaders. Some of us like parents, teachers, managers, pastors or governors are called to be leaders all the time by virtue of our job description.

Here are five road blocks to being an effective leader:

  • Ego

If I am a leader by virtue of my job description, for any stand I may take, I will have some affirmation and some condemnation. It’s when I make decisions based on my need for constant stroking and approval (as in a fan club), superseding the truth, that I become an ineffective leader.

  • Sloth

Sometimes I may just want the easy way out. Taking a stand means work, which I may not be prepared to do. I dislike conflict and avoid it at all costs even to the detriment of my team or “followers” – making me a wimp – not a leader. Being a leader requires me to be selfless. In my case, fear of a negative rebuttal prevented me from speaking the whole truth.

  • Ignorance

I can’t believe or convince anyone else to believe in something I don’t know much about. I need to be a person of convictions. Knowing my message and learning to deliver it effectively and consistently makes me a credible leader.

  • Lack of Introspection

It is easy to gravitate toward positive reinforcement. As a writer for example, I have people I don’t even know, praising my perspective and even my actions. It is therefore imperative to constantly self evaluate – analyzing my motives, mindset and message; to seek trusted counsel.  A dynamic leader is open to constructive criticism and incorporating changes.

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Marisa Pereira


Marisa Pereira is a mother, fashion designer, currently runs a Design and Image Consulting business in Atlanta, GA, is a freelance writer and volunteers at her church and in the community. She holds a BA in Fashion Design and a BA in French with a minor in Psychology and has worked in the Fashion Industry for over twenty years. Frustrated at her inability to find appropriate church clothes for her 14 year old daughter, she heeded God’s call, and created the stylish but modest, Michaela-Noel clothing collection, now available on-line. Having lived in multiple countries, she is acutely aware of the emphasis cultures place on visual appeal. She analyzes the importance of presenting the best image of ourselves and passionately insists that it starts within. She regularly addresses adult and youth audiences – encouraging and teaching them to make a memorable first impact but more importantly - to create a lasting impression. Her websites are: and

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  • Rosanne Bowen

    Excellent food for thought…..extremely difficult thing to do….takes courage and moral strength….I was with a couple one night when the wife saw some teens coming into the restaurant obviously dressed for prom….one of the girls had a very revealing dress on and my friend was horrified…she tried to get out of the booth to go tell the girl something but her husband was furious…thought she was interferring in something that was not her business….she CRAWLED under the table to go speak with the girl….she said that she would want someone to talk to her daughter if she left the house looking like that….she told the girl that she was just inviting her date to treat her disrespectfully and that she (the girl) was worth way more than she looked in that dress…that God treasured her and she hoped the girl would expect others to treasure her also…..when she came back her hiusband didnt speak to her…. I always have remembered that and wonder what is the right thing to do?  Our precious teens need SOMEONE to tell them what gifts they are and not to let people treat them like trash……thanks Marisa for this article……..

  • Ffarrell

    Wow.  Where to start? FIrst, the shock would disorient anyone.  It’s not just the outright lewdness, bad enough, it is the sheer audacity and disrespect to themselves, their families and to others. Given all of that you probably handled it as well as can be expected.  We’ve all faced similar (though, not so extreme) situations. You and Rosanne below raise a number of good points.  Today’s culture has brainwashed us in to a “I’m OK you’re OK” mentality. The issue of leadership ties in well with story. While many by nature recoil from taking  a leadership position for the reasons you list, we do well to look at the thought behind those reasons.  Our young people desperately need AND WANT leadership.  Wouldn’t be surprised if at some point your admonishment, even if in your view not perfectly delivered, will have caused good for those two young people.

  • Appreciative Teen

    My mother sends me all of these articles and tells me to give her “my thoughts” and as always, I learn so much from them. I hope all parents share these articles with their teens. I can assure you, most of these articles make me rethink my behavior and actions…

  • Dear Appreciative Teen,
    Thank you for taking the time to post this comment. I commend your mother for not only encouraging you to read but for asking for your “take”… ensuring that you ARE thinking. It’s when we THINK that we are better off!

  • Amanda

    Thank you, Marisa! I needed to read that; appreciate the comments too. 
    I often wonder where you draw the line between caring for and loving your neighbour, and “interfering” in one’s personal life/opinion. My chaplain at GT had often told me that to love someone means sharing the “truth” with them and offering advice/guidance even though it may seem harsh/judgmental at times…and even though they may not share my Catholic faith. 
    While particular person’s actions may not affect me directly, together we constitute a society, and I think we are held accountable for our impact (or lack thereof) on society too.

    Thanks again! Not sure if you planned it, but it ties in perfectly with last Sunday’s Gospel. God bless you!

  • FrJosephPeek

    Baptized into Christ as ‘priest, prophet, and king’, each Christian is called to lead, by witness at least, the non-believer and fellow believer.  None may beg off the great commission!  Therefore, that others may see Christ in me, I must make time to put on the mind of Christ, becoming less as he becomes more.  Humbly admitting my own sinfullness, I must admonish my brother’s sin, lest by my lack of true charity, i be held accountable for his sin.  Better ‘hell on earth’ from those who choose not to hear, than eternal hell because I denied to speak Truth Himself. Duc Exemplo, Lead by Example, is the motto of the Marine Oficer Candidate School;  May we take Christ’s example to be our own.