A NEW BOOK
I would like to recommend to readers a new book of mine that speaks of love. This radical new interpretation of love as the touchstone of the Christian message explores the human longing for meaning; the Scriptures; the relational model of the Trinity: the ideas of human vocation, destiny and community; the mystical spiritual traditions; and our own experiences to explain what love is, how we find it, and how it can change the world. Love is critical component of good leadership.
Spiritual leaders insist that people and relationships precede structures and tasks. This implies leaders need to think positively of others, try to understand them, forgive when necessary, and always show compassion. After all, the journey to spiritual leadership begins with an awareness of being loved, not with the leader’s love for others. The latter follows on the former and is a response to the call to leadership. It is a journey in which the leader daily makes decisions based on love. Thus, he or she changes attitudes to life, rejecting selfishness, greed, self-satisfaction, and thus moves away from self-centeredness to the service of others. Appreciating that one can transform leadership with love is a rigorous self-training. When a leader is motivated by a conviction of the transforming value of love, he or she treats others with a natural benevolence, wishes them well before any encounter, appreciates the good in others, and presumes that they will do good. This positive, optimistic approach to others has a healing effect on relationships and opens up the development of a different kind of leadership. Loving and encouraging approaches are more effective than adversarial ones and give the leader far more ability to influence others and draw the best out of them. In such an environment followers sense they are loved and grow as individuals and then contribute more to the common vision and mission.
When a leader focuses on the love of others in daily life, he or she emphasizes simple human qualities that are also a noble part of being human—attitudes that are humanizing, caring, trusting, and supportive. Focusing on others requires tolerance of their differences, dialogue, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It means mutual respect, appreciation of each other’s gifts and genuine solidarity. A leader can do so much good to others by allowing them to be themselves, living in interdependence and mutual esteem. For such a leader the welfare of others is as important as one’s own. This includes concern for others’ health and well-being, both material and spiritual. Engaging in the welfare of others calls the leader to delight in others’ growth and advancement, furthering their rights, protecting their justice, and celebrating their achievements and progress.
A spiritual leader who recognizes that he or she is called to love makes a positive difference to other people’s lives by respecting their dignity, empowering them in whatever ways possible, thus releasing their human energy, talent, and dedication. A spiritual leader can look into others’ hearts. Such a leader does not impose views, vision, or priorities, but influences others to be the best they are capable of being. Part of that response will be to help others appreciate their own basic values, enduring purpose, and mission in life. The leader can also train others to be visionaries; helping them to see what others do not, but also challenging them to look at things in a different way. This requires understanding, building connections, giving visibility and significant responsibilities to others, collaborating, challenging constructively, and working toward shared values and mission. Recognizing that one is called to love has serious consequences, for love is very practical and demanding on a leader at every moment of each day.
2. APPRECIATE WHAT LIES BEYOND NORMAL HORIZONS.
Some leaders are entrapped in the parameters they have established. They pace around inside their own cage, the stronger eating the weaker, and they call this success. Not only is there a world outside the narrow confines of current leaders, but genuine leadership is only found outside such confines. Other so-called leaders plod ahead like the Budweiser horses with blinders on, less they be distracted by realities around them. The vision pursued by the leader of hope lies beyond normal horizons in the plan of God. Such a leader must have a facility in rising from daily occurrences to make connections to transcendent values. This is one of the most practical things anyone can do, for thinking of the vision of promise gives clear understanding and directives for daily life and leadership.
When you see someone being treated unjustly, ask yourself why you made such a conclusion. Are the links between right and wrong, justice and injustice something you have a natural feel for? Why? From where did you get such judgment? What is the measure you are using? When you witness exploitation, abuse, oppression, profiting from underprivileged, making money from undocumented immigrants, why do you consider this abnormal? What should be normal? Why do you think you should treat others as you would wish to be treated? When you hear of bosses rotating from one job to another, barely coping with their responsibilities, but receiving obscene salaries until you can get rid of them so they will do no more damage, how do you think they ought to act and why do you think so? What is the purpose of all our efforts? We work, earn, live, retire; is this all there is? When you look at the emptiness and smallness of the world of organizational development, why are you appalled by some actions and impressed by others?
Some values seem to draw out the best in people. When you see you are loved by someone, for no particular reason, you find that you are loveable and wonder why. Other people are loveable too, for no particular reason, except the fact they exist. Why do we appreciate love so much and just find it is right for everyone, not merited, but just right? Likewise, when you look beyond normal horizons of daily life, you appreciate justice, equality, love, interdependence, and goodness. Why?
Seeing what lies beyond normal horizons leads us to see and experience a loving God, and that experience changes all understandings of leadership. A leader of hope becomes ever more aware of the importance of love. “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). The seeker encounters values beyond normal horizons, and this new focus produces inspirational leadership. The new approach to leadership is more expansive and is based on a worldview that includes transcendent values.
Some spiritual leaders and visionary mystics who have appreciated what lies beyond normal horizons of life speak of their vision as one of beauty. They refer to this self-immersion in values of love, justice, goodness and so on, as an experience of beauty. John of the Cross, a dynamic individual to whom I have previously referred, speaks of seeking the beauty of God, experiencing a certain spiritual feeling of God’s presence, and glimpsing God’s way of dealing with humanity as something of beauty. This beauty is not something visual but rather a glimpse into the harmony that exists in the vision of promise, a grasp of just how right everything is in the vision beyond the normal horizons of life—this is the vision for which the leader of hope strives every day.
1. When faced with decisions, not only ask how, but also why.
2. Spend a little time each day in quiet reflection, empty of concerns, and ready to receive.
3. Look at things that surprise you in life and ask why.
4. Think about why you are loved and loveable.
5. Ask yourself for answers to puzzling attitudes you meet in leaders you know.
For further developments see my book Courageous Hope: The Call of Leadership (Paulist Press, 2011).
“Leaders are people who offer new horizons to their followers and move people beyond mediocrity and indifference. They give hope amidst the problems of contemporary working life. They are willing to take risks and transcend boundaries. As leaders they share their experience of the mystery of God and thus bring a sense of hope to followers, reestablishing the perspective of life under God, and providing the basis for value oriented leadership.”
Leonard Doohan, Spiritual Leadership: The Quest for Integrity (Paulist Press, 2007, p.76).
1. MOURN LEADERSHIP’S FAILURES
It is frequently heartbreaking to follow the daily news. We often find ourselves wanting to turn off the TV, put down the paper, and switch off the computer, so we do not have to follow it anymore. We know so much is wrong with our world, and most of it results from bad leadership. We see countries run by vicious, oppressive dictators, violence against women and children, genocide perpetrated and defended, torture accepted as policy, overwhelming oppression of the poor, national disasters mismanaged, wars of aggression that are unjust and immoral, failures of businesses with criminals at all levels, hypocrisy, inactivity, and blasphemy of religious leaders, judicial systems that still favor the wealthy and the connected, and national leaders that do nothing for their people. So many problems have lasted for decades, they are well-known, but deliberately left unaddressed.
We live in a culture of greed, clinging to power, and arrogance. We are immersed in malfunctioning and sick leadership, and the sickness is contagious. So much leadership breathes artificiality and falsehood. How many good people, even family and friends, have you seen sucked into the systemic corruption of contemporary leadership? Good people who live as well as they can still work in organizations that cheat a little, waste a little, corrupt a little, and even oppress a little. Successes in leadership are so few; we must sadly conclude that failed leadership is the normal order of the day. Things could be so different, if only we had good leadership. However, one cannot build new leadership on the foundations of recent years.
As leaders we must mourn our world of failed leadership. When we think about mourning we refer to something that pains us to think about it; it is a loss that tears at our hearts; it is a pain that stays with us; you just wish things were different and what happened never occurred. So it is to mourn leadership’s failures. Our mourning is not just intellectual, but emotional and spiritual; it is a loss beyond words, and we must first savor the pain before we can move on.
“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt 5:4). As leaders we can be comforted, but the injustices and failures will remain until leadership itself changes. The basic steps in mourning leadership’s failures are: 1. Acknowledge the failures. 2. Think about and even savor the harm bad leadership has done. 3. Disassociate yourself from it. 4. Examine your own life for traces of failures and get rid of them. 5. Express the sorrow of your heart for the harm and injustice done to others. 6. Move on with changed attitudes or move away from the corrupt structure in which you have found yourself.
There are so few good models of leadership today. As leaders each of us must daily live with the memories of harmful leadership. We should try to understand the motivation of failed leadership and the false values failed leaders promote. Understanding better, we must never take the first steps towards accepting the kinds of values and approaches to life which lead to such failed leadership.
1. As leaders, never support greedy, selfish, unethical leaders.
2. Beware of the company you keep, and stay away from people whose values you despise and whose leadership you do not wish to imitate.
3. Never accept promotion in your leadership if you must prostitute your values to get it.
4. Every day spend some time thinking about those who suffer because of failed leadership.
5. Remind yourself often of your own failures as leaders and lament and mourn them.
8. MOTIVATE PEOPLE TO MOTIVATE THEMSELVES
Without a leader’s inspiration and persuasion followers gifts are log jammed, and their creative contributions go nowhere. A leader creates a suitable climate for the growth of ideas, fosters responsiveness and cooperation, and provides the creative spark that moves people forward. Great leaders of hope ask people to be greater than they are, and they work so that they might be.
A common error of leadership is to presume that motivation already exists because people come to work and put in their time. This mistaken assumption fails to appreciate that enthusiasm and apathy are two points on the same continuum.
In motivating others, leaders at times need to restrain their leadership, allowing followers to move alongside them. So, a leader should inspire not order, pull not push, and let people use their own initiative. Being alongside, a leader can ask probing questions, challenge expectations, affirm and reward successes, network, and build confidence through agreement.
In motivating others a leader must involve them in the work at hand and the process of change. A leader of hope will delegate significant responsibilities
A leader of hope appreciates the advantages of surprise. He or she can surprise followers with anticipatory benevolence; an attitude of always anticipating good will towards others. In contemporary working environments this surprising attitude of good will and affection can achieve wonders.
Part of motivation is to foster a collective commitment to a vision of hope.
1. Identify ways to keep yourself motivated in your work.
2. List the ways you try to motivate others.
3. Train yourself to get out of the way and let others find their own leadership.
4. Involve workers in significant responsibilities.
5. Think of ways to surprise your workers and customers.
7. CREATE INTERRUPTIONS
Our world of leadership seems sure of itself. Programs turn out graduates with a packet of skills to become leaders themselves. Well-known presidents and CEOs write their memoirs and tell us how it is done! We have seen so many failures, and each leader inflicts his or her own particular damage. In this process of interruption, doubt and uncertainty are good points of departure, followed by a healthy suspicion and skepticism, and culminating in enjoying a little insecurity for a while.
Part of the task of a great leader who wants to be a servant leader is to fight against the nearsightedness of contemporary leadership, to oppose the prepackaged answers, and seek something deeper. This can be an anxious time for a leader.
Often this questioning of the direction of leadership leads to conflict, but this too can raise the energy level and produce significant discussion. Conflict itself can lead to crisis which is an opportunity to make different judgments on the matters at hand
As a leader interrupts the discourse on the nature of leadership, he or she can engage in networking to surface ideas that can lead to new directions.
A lot of contemporary leadership is moderate management sprinkled with a little inspiration. If there is a culture of trust and a climate of creativity, then proactive individuals can think differently about the same things, engage in provisional thinking and decision-making, and courageously move to explore new concepts about leadership at the margins of organizational life. Here the skills are flexibility, improvisation, alternative thinking, bypassing of problems, innovation, and breakthrough.
1. Spend some time reflecting on what is working in your leadership and what is not.
2. Identify those aspects of your leadership you would like to get rid of.
3. Think about which leadership practices in your organization you would like to stop.
4. Reflect on the leader you admire and ask yourself why.
5. Make sure you have created a climate where other people can interrupt your leadership.
6. UNLOCK THE POTENTIALS OF THE HEART
The ideal human community is characterized by love. When people know they are loved they respond with dedication and give of their best. If a leader treats followers negatively, he or she will receive diminishing returns from followers. A good leader of hope shows everyone respect, and they know he or she speaks from the heart. Followers must find trust, honesty, and integrity in their leaders, and leaders must show respect for the dignity and competence of followers by trusting them, empowering them, providing significant responsibilities, giving teams authority, searching for consensus, providing an enjoyable working environment, establishing participative structures, and sharing power. Caring needs to be practical; the leader treats others with politeness, gentleness, candor, graciousness, and sensitivity. A good spiritual leader dedicated to servant leadeship appreciates people, and they know it.
There is a tendency to underestimate the importance of affective and emotional aspects of spiritual leadership. Followers need to know that a leader is there for them. The leader must make sure everyone with whom he or she works knows he or she is not only respected, but also loved.
Jesus called his followers “disciples,” until towards the end of his ministry when he said, “I do not call you servants any longer, . . . but I have called you friends” ( John 15:15). The evangelist said, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1
It is important that we all do everything for each other, the firm, customers, and stakeholders with loving commitment.
1. Examine your relationships with your workers and ask yourself if they like you?
2. Be sure that when people leave your presence they know they are loved.
3. Act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God.
4. Review with your workers whether the working environment is enjoyable.
5. Think of new ways to show your trust to those with whom you work.
5. TEACH A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF COMMITMENT
Spiritual leaders propose a new understanding of commitment. Every good leader challenges self and followers to wholehearted commitment. The leader of hope links professional commitment to the integral human, spiritual maturing of self and each follower. Professional commitment becomes part of one’s spirituality and thus draws out discretionary dedication from everyone. In this context outstanding performance is a matter of personal growth, integrity, character development, and simply being who one feels called to be. Leaders must fire followers’ hearts to see professional dedication and spirituality as two facets of the same life.
Leaders enthuse followers to be dedicated to a shared vision of hope. Commitment relates to the future and so includes imagination, contemplation, and hope. This implies networking to discover other people’s hopes and constantly urging and encouraging others to be open to the unexpected. Commitment is essentially making the vision of hope real in the present.
This commitment to hope implies transformative action as part of one’s dedication. ommitment becomes part of one’s spirituality and thus draws out discretionary dedication from everyone.
Leaders enthuse followers to be dedicated to a shared vision of hope. Commitment relates to the future and so includes imagination, contemplation, and hope.
This commitment to hope implies transformative action as part of one’s dedication. Leaders of hope not only have a deep capacity for hope but a life long dedication to realizing the future we long for.
Commitment is relational. Others are included in our commitment as we are in theirs.
Commitment is to each other to work synergetically. Synergy refers to people who are different creating desirable results greater than the independent parts can do. It is a form of fusion that implies joining, coming together, creating connections and partnerships. It is about reducing barriers by encouraging conversations, information sharing, and joint responsibility across boundaries.
Commitment means encouraging each other to be leaders.
This loving service will also manifest quality commitment in collaboration in culturally and gender diverse situations. For a leader of hope commitment is not merely to a job well done, but to a vision of community.
1. Think about ways you can make an ideal future alive today.
2. Ask yourself why are you committed at work and what is the quality of your commitment.
3. Check how you contribute to the development of your colleagues.
4. If you contribute more on your own than with others, ask why.
5. Identify the links between your professional dedication and personal spirituality.
“Leaders we admire do not place themselves at the center; they place others there. They do not seek attention of people; they give it to others. They do not focus on satisfying their own aims and desires; they look for ways to respond to the needs and interests of their constituents.”
J. M. Kouzes and B. Z. Posner, Credibility: How leaders Gain It and Lose It, Why People Demand it. Saan Francisco: Jpssey-Bass, 1993, p. 31.
4. A SPIRITUAL LEADER ASKS QUESTIONS NOONE ELSE DOES
Leadership deals with establishing the vision of hope in our contemporary human communities. This means going beyond what leaders have done in the past. It means struggling with more fundamental questions, living in a state of sustained dissatisfaction with what has been achieved, looking to the future in hope, and being willing to live with the tensions of human frailty in its search for the best human values and for God. All this will mean new ways of looking at the world, new experiments in community interaction, and new percolating structures. Leadership questions today are philosophical and theological. How does what I do affect the human community? How do my decisions reflect God’s plan for humanity? Am I maturing as a human being through my leadership? Am I aware of my covenant with the organization I serve and of the organization’s covenant with its customers, shareholders, and so on? Do I serve the common good? Do my colleagues and I reflect the best of humanity? Does my leadership image the past or explore the future?
When a leader of hope makes decisions, he or she should ask why am I doing this, not only in the short term but in the long term too. In later life will I be proud of what I do today?
What are the alternatives that we can use to achieve our goals equally well but which do more good?
The leader of hope constantly asks self, is what I do in keeping with the best of who we are as human beings?
1. Question yourself on the reasons for your decisions.
2. Do not offer answers until you have exhausted the questions.
3. See yourself and encourage others to see you as a person who asks questions not as someone who gives answers.
4. Ask questions about the future not the past.
5. Ask beyond and beneath what others ask.