Some Practices that Spiritual Leaders Can Emphasize


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.

5 Suggestions:

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).


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 February 6, 2013, in Leadership, Leadership and spirituality, Leadership and vision, Spiritual leadership, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Sr. Rose Joseph SCJM

    Highly inspirational and innovative understanding of spiritual leadership that contains profound transformative powers within. I find it very practical too. Enjoyed reading it. It gives the needed nourishment to nurture my own deep yearning of the heart to follow Jesus’ way of loving, giving hope and abundant life.

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