Some practices that spiritual leaders can emphasize


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.

5 suggestions:

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.


About Leonard Doohan

Dr. Leonard Doohan is Professor Emeritus at Gonzaga University where he was a professor of religious studies for 27 years and Dean of the Graduate School for 13 years. He has written 17 books and 160 articles and has given over 350 workshops throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the Far East. Leonard's recent books include Spiritual Leadership: the Quest for Integrity, in 2007, Enjoying Retirement: Living Life to the Fullest, in 2010, and Courageous Hope: The Call of Leadership, in 2011. Leonard's wife is Helen who was also a Professor Emerita at Gonzaga, specializing in the writings of Paul.

Posted on December 5, 2012, in Leadership and spirituality, Leadership and values, Spiritual leadership. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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