Category Archives: Servant leadership

Train Others to be Visionaries

In recent blogs we have looked at characteristics of spiritual leaders. In this blog and in the next I would like to share with you some ideas concerning a spiritual leader’s need to train others to be visionaries.

Train Others to be Visionaries

Clearly an individual can have a vision for his or her own life with little impact on others. In other words, vision and leadership do not have to go together.  Healthy hermits have vision.  When we speak about vision and leadership, we imply that the leader’s vision is shared with others who are also inspired and motivated by it.  For any leader who believes his or her vision has value for others, he or she must give others the time and space to identify the common vision and make it their own.  A leader can initiate this process, encourage people to question and challenge the status quo, even gently motivate and persuade others as to its values, but can never impose the vision nor allow it to override the visions of others.  In fact, a leader will have to let go of his or her individual vision so that it can gradually become the group’s vision. Ownership of a vision must be enthusiastically discovered by each individual, changing mind and mind set, buying into a new way of looking at reality.

Sometimes members of an organization believe in the common vision, but they do not understand it or live it, nor do they understand its implications, nor would they know whether the vision was actualized or not.  In fact, they simply presume it exists.  This is not enough because not all visions become reality.  A leader must facilitate commitment to a shared vision. These visionary leaders are not born but self-made. They bring people together into a cohesive group through dedication to common, basic values, and shared purpose in life.  It is these common spiritual values that generate commitment and energize people, create meaning in their lives, establish standards of excellence, and bridge the present and the future. When this is done successfully visionary leadership is made visible, and the transformative impact on individuals and organizations is exceptional.

A leader needs communication skills to both convey and maintain a vision, needs impressive management skills to maintain the charismatic image, and needs empowering skills to assure participation.  Leaders must also live in a state of continued dissatisfaction with things as they are, knowing that to be fully satisfied means to have lost vision. Since training others to be visionaries means helping them to be proactive, the leader must help others to anticipate problems and responses. A leader must surface new ideas in others and celebrate them when discovered. This outlook is particularly evident in times of crisis and chaos, when one order is passing and another has the chance to come forth. Leaders’ guidance and vision are critical at such times, when groups move to alternative consciousness and perception from that of the surrounding culture.


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.

Several suggested practices for a spiritual leader (Five)


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.

5. Suggestions:

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.

Spiritual Leadership and Vision

Spiritual Leadership and Shared Vision


A vision articulates what an individual or organization wishes to become.  Having vision essentially implies seeing what others do not see; it means appreciating the beauty, hope, and challenge that new ideas can bring to individuals and organizations. It is a form of wisdom to really know where one is going—even amidst ambiguity, conflict, and constant change—this gives one authority with others.  Vision includes the ability to see the big picture, all sides of an issue, to let go of vested interests and eliminate biases, and thus to avoid problems that arise from short sidedness and parochialism. Frequently, it refers to the future and implies that a leader acts proactively; it then brings out the best in oneself and in others.  Increasingly, it means having insight into present realities and capitalizing on some immediate perspective that others do not appreciate.  Vision is not simply the prolonging of the present but the rethinking of the whole immediate reality. Vision becomes an attractive and attainable dream. While unsettling and seemingly dangerous, it is constructive of the future. Vision can also be retrospective, analyzing untapped energy in past failures or short-sightedness in leaders who could not see.  So vision can be exercised toward the past, present, and future; it is retrospective, perspective, and prospective.


More importantly nowadays, vision is not only seeing in a way others do not see, it is a deliberate decision to look at things in a new way.  It starts with one’s basic values and one’s deliberately identified purpose in life.  These two facets of one’s personality together form one’s philosophy of life.  These lead to one’s sense of mission or destiny, and out of this comes goals and strategies.  Vision as a deliberate effort to look at things in a new way is personal wisdom and guides one’s own life.  Burt Nanus suggested that a leader will know a new vision is needed when, 1. There is evidence of confusion about purpose, 2. Employees complain about insufficient challenge, or that work is not fun anymore, 3. The organization loses its competitive edge, 4. The organization is out of tune with trends, 5. Employees lack pride in the organization, 6. People avoid risk, 7. There is a lack of shared progress, 8. There is a hyperactive rumor mill. If it is self-centered, then the vision can be bad; if it transcends self in concern for others then it can be good.  For leadership to exist, other people must buy into the leader’s vision. Then it not only affects the leader, but motivates and energizes others.  Such a vision is specific enough that it guides the leader, but vague enough that it suggests courses of action, and brings forth the best from others in its ongoing development. Some consider that visionary leadership is made up of four interlocking components—personal  vision, organizational vision, future vision, and strategic vision.


Vision is not what you see but how you look at things; it’s not what you think but how you think; it is not that you see the future, but how to respond to the future; it is not that you appreciate community, but how you see others interacting as a community; it is not that you see things clearly but that you look at things in the context of the big picture. Vision is not necessarily having a plan, but having a mind that always plans This kind of visioning energizes workers and gives meaning to their work of sharing in a vision that becomes a communal standard of excellence


When a vision eventually comes together, it must be powerful enough to take hold of an organization and its common purpose and goals, to capture people’s individual and common hopes, to challenge and stretch everyone in the organization, to energize professional and discretionary commitment, and to satisfy the hopes and longings of all who share it. A vision is always specific enough that people can grasp it and appreciate its sense of direction, yet vague enough that everyone can find a contribution in it that they can make. However, as already stated, a vision for an organization is only useful if followers buy into it. Moreover, once a vision is defined, it must be redefined continually through the new insights of all members of the organization. Although others continually refocus the vision it is still the community’s vision, and a leader must always be able to articulate it. In other words, a vision is never final but is open to further clarification. Common values find new ways to express themselves. Values are the way individuals and organizations measure the rightness of their direction. Values do not create vision, but they always measure the authenticity of  new articulations.

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an author and workshop presenter He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog