Spiritual Leadership Includes Encouraging Followers to Welcome Change and Crisis

One of the important  ways of influencing followers to be spiritual leaders of vision is the way a leader encourages them to deal with change and crisis, and to handle those special moments when vision can become reality. Managing change well is what leadership is all about. This part of a leader’s commitment includes changes in the physical aspects of the organization – working conditions, financial stability and so on. It also focuses especially on the intellectual parts of change that leads the organization to new perspectives on their work, innovation, creativity, and appropriate environment that is conducive to creativity. Moreover, leaders must manage the emotional aspects of change that assure the mutual support, respect, and appreciation that all need. Leaders will also need to overcome resistance to change and foster a willingness to pay the price of change. Finally, they must focus on the spiritual aspects of change that produce inner transformation leading to love, integrity, justice, and mutual dignity. Making these changes with followers and managing them well is a way that the leader can establish ownership for the changes.

Major changes that significantly affect an organization are generally referred to as crises. Crisis is defined as a crucial or decisive turning point, an unstable condition, a sudden change in course, the point at which hostile forces are in a state of opposition. The original meaning of crisis is judgment, or discernment. Crisis is a turning point when a new kind of judgment is needed. That is why leadership theorists suggest that leadership emerges in times of crisis; without crisis we generally have simply management. In other words, leadership is the combination of that vision and those skills that empower a person to handle crisis creatively, caringly, and productively. But crises, like most changes, are different now than they used to be. In fact, many former crises are now handled proactively as part of good management, and some former crisis management skills are now left in disuse.

Contemporary leaders know that their effectiveness is linked to confronting crises with style. We still deal with explosive crises that need a leader’s immediate and full attention, but we need to redefine crisis based on the problems that a leader meets on a day to day basis. The contemporary challenge for leaders is whether they can handle productively the creeping crises that their institutions face in struggling for vision, financial security, market share, and personnel stability. Crisis is now structural and systemic; it is not out there, but is part of who we all are together in an organization. Moreover, leaders do not view crisis negatively but as an occasion when a leader can work with followers to discern a new direction and bring all members of the community to greater maturity in the way they implement a shared vision in times of change. Again we can see that part of the creeping crisis that organizations face is that leadership is different than it used to be and requires changes in roles and emphases. In fact, leadership itself is part of the ongoing creeping crises in organizations. Leadership used to be presumed to accompany authority and was given to experience, tradition, and institutional positions. No one can live off a title anymore. In fact, authority is now short term for many; and without them realizing it many people’s leadership evaporates and all they are left with is their position. Crisis still calls forth great leaders but now they courageously respond aware of their interrelatedness with their followers. Leaders today establish directions for their organizations, and they reaffirm confidence in the gifts, maturity, and growth potential of their followers. Such persons see crisis and the disagreement, tension, and conflict that accompany it as part of life. Leaders encourage the participation of all in solving a crisis, avoid the power plays of the needy immature, and dedicate themselves to eliminate any pathological aspects that organizations can evidence in time of change and crisis. In times of change and crisis management, leaders show confidence in followers, channel their gifts, unite them in a common vision, and motivate their commitment.

Explosive crises of the past called forth the lonely visionary whose skill and judgment brought speedy resolution to an immediate and critical problem. Nowadays lonely visionaries cannot  answer creeping crises but only communities can do so in their collaborative responses. Spiritual leaders appreciate that their effectiveness depends on their ability to foster a sense of shared responsibility, and to utilize collaborative skills. Good leaders do not anxiously anticipate change and crisis, but rather they enthusiastically welcome them for these situations give leaders significant opportunities to model, and to coach others through times of change while preserving the essential characteristics of a shared vision.


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 January 27, 2014, in Leadership and spirituality, Leadership and values, Leadership and vision, Servant leadership. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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