GLS21 Notes: Extraordinary Leadership

Published August 6, 2021

As the world seems to be becoming increasingly polarized, finding leaders who can lead with vision, intellect and unity seem few and far between. A.R. Bernard is one such leader.

At The Global Leadership Summit, Paula Faris interviewed Bernard, asking questions like: How can a leader build trust in a culture that lacks trust? What insight can you share about leading in environments with diverse perspectives and agendas? And what advice would you give to leaders that are just starting out on their leadership journey?

Enjoy these official session notes to help you dive deeper into what you learned!

A.R. Bernard


Why is bridge building important?
    • We are social beings. We are meant to be together; nothing can be accomplished alone. We need each other.
    • Building bridges is finding common ground, finding the place of agreement.
    • Agreement is a place of power. Disagreement is the place of powerlessness.
    • Common ground creates pathway for communication.
How do you go about bridge building?
    • It begins with attitude. You need an attitude of humility. Jesus said to assume the lower place.
    • Humility takes empathy. Empathy is about understanding the state of the other’s existence.
    • The basics of debate are about knowing the other side.
    • Hebrews – remember those in prison as if you were one of them. Put yourself in the place of the other person.
    • Moral courage – the willingness to take moral action despite the risk or consequences.
What’s the mindset going into meetings with opposing leaders?
    • I live and thrive at the intersection of faith and culture. Culture is the attitudes, disposition of society, customs and practice, institutions, language.
    • As a person of faith, my responsibility is to urge culture, especially those in power, to measure themselves against God’s perspective for society.
    • It’s about trust. Every relationship is based on trust. You build trust by consistency, integrity, reputation.
Working with NYC Mayors
    • I see my role as salt and light. To speak to individuals in power and help them rethink.
    • I have 275 members of NYPD that are members of my congregation.
    • The situation between de Blasio and NYPD had gotten very ugly. I was able to adjust his lens enough that he was able to adjust.
    • You have to build trust. Relationship is a network for life.
    • The shooting of Sean Bell – how Bloomberg responded stopped it from escalating.
Rebuilding Trust
    • You begin by giving hope toward some future goal or objective that you can all agree on.
    • It’s about keeping your word, integrity.
    • When you don’t know where to start, find something you have in common. There’s more that unites us than divides us.
    • The climate in our culture has people taking sides. When you have the proliferation of the extremes, it expands the middle.
    • The only way to move forward in a divided society is to have conversations.
    • The voice of the people is not necessarily the mind of the people. The voice has been hijacked by the media, special interest groups, political parties, even the clergy.
    • There is a greater division in Washington than there is among the people. Let’s find common ground and build bridges of relationship.
    • You’re not going to convince everybody. You just have to convince enough of the right people if you’re going to affect change.
Working with Leaders of Other Faiths
    • Society requires civil order and a moral value consensus. Religion brings that to society.
    • I look to engage other faiths. I can do that because I’m secure in my faith.
    • My conversion did not come by way of the institution. It came by way of a person, Jesus Christ.
    • I grew up in two contexts. I learned how to build relationships in both contexts. Jesus was comfortable as a Jew even though he knew his mission was beyond that.
    • I thought God, truth and life were synonymous.
    • I heard a voice: “I’m the God you are looking for. I and my Word are one.” It took me to Scripture. I met Jesus in his Word.
Tension and Conflict
    • Those of us who believe in and participate in the kingdom of God are immediately put into a tension.
    • Jesus said they were in the world but not of the world. That creates tension.
    • It puts me in a tension between separation and assimilation. I’m living between the need to be different and the need to be a part of the culture I live in.
    • It raises questions. How much do I adjust to the culture without losing my identity? Should I get involved in politics?
    • This tension has existed since the inception of Christianity in the Roman world.
    • Jeremiah – “Settle down. Plant gardens. Pray for the peace and prosperity of the city.”
The Most Difficult Bridge
    • They all have their challenges.
    • The most difficult has been to change the image of Christianity in the mind of those who have been hurt by it or see it as the enemy.
Advice to New Leaders
    • Managing continuity and change.
    • Change is the only constant in life. It is the essence of maturation. It’s movement from one stage to another. It can move you from comfort to discomfort.
    • Truth is the only agent that effects true change.
    • All truth is confrontational. It confronts our attitudes, choices.
    • The Bible reveals the purposes and plans of God. It also is a book with patterns, principles, precepts that work for successful life.
    • Knowing what to change and what to continue is the challenge. If you change what you should continue, you lose your identity. If you continue what you should change, you become irrelevant.
    • The past becomes the foundation for imagining what can be in the future.


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