Category Archives: Spiritual leadership
Integrity is not a word we frequently use for today’s leaders. Many leaders today lack integrity and transparency, and we hear denunciations of corruption too often for comfort. integrity requires courage to speak the truth, to accept one’s own independence and autonomy, to honestly present the implications of a vision, and to faithfully persevere in the demands of a vision even when it means standing alone. Integrity includes accepting one’s own blind spots and failures. Integrity is primarily an inner self-knowledge but also refers to followers’ perception that leaders’ values and actions match their words. It is a form of holistic living. Leading holistically also means living one’s life motivated by a set of core values that place a high priority on integrity, service, and spirituality. Integrity includes being absolutely candid and evidencing intellectual honesty in the things one says, consistency in dealing with others, honesty in handling conflict. It implies accepting what we have been and imagining what we can be. It is the spiritual discipline of always speaking the truth, of making sure we do what we claim we will do, and of being ready to hold on to the course of action. When a person has integrity he or she gains trust. However, the integrity must involve every aspect of one’s life—personal, relational, organizational, and societal.
This basic leadership ingredient is an added value to competence. It is beyond expertise and motivation, it is the honesty that one’s core beliefs guide one’s decision-making in leadership. It requires self-acceptance, truthfulness, fortitude, and inner peace. It establishes congruence between one’s inner and outer reality. Individuals earn the right to be called leaders when people find authentic unity between their organizational and professional commitment and their spiritual lives. In fact, a person is not free to lead unless he or she understands humanity, its nature, feelings, processes, and inner yearnings for self-actualization.
Leaders of integrity bring quality presence to all they do. Aware of their own stature as leaders, sensitive to their obligations to others in society, they can peacefully face the falsity and dark side of themselves, of their communities, and of society. Because of their integrity they can attain the characteristics of a successful leader, namely one who can challenge the process, inspire a shared vision, enable others to act, model the way, and encourage the heart of the followers. Let us hope for more leaders of integrity.
How to Become a Great Spiritual Leader: Ten Steps and a Hundred Suggestions
This is a book for daily reflection. It has a single focus—how to become a great spiritual leader. It is a book on the spirituality of a leader’s personal life. It presumes that leadership is a vocation, and that it results from an inner transformation. The book proposes ten steps that individuals can take to enable this process of transformation, and a hundred suggestions to make this transformation real and lasting. It is a unique book in the literature on leadership. This book is a challenge to think about leadership in a new way. People who follow these steps will give the world something to think about regarding what leadership ought to be and can be.
1. Rediscover great leadership.
2. Emphasize remote preparation
3. Set a new direction for your leadership
4. Accept your vocation of leadership
5. Implement your call in a vision
6. Live your vision with courage and perseverance
7. Establish supports for your spiritual leadership
8. Evaluate your leadership: an artist’s challenge
9. Work with your followers-disciples.
10. Accept ten personal reflections
This book is the third in a series on leadership. The first, Spiritual Leadership: The Quest for Integrity gave the foundations of leadership today. The second, Courageous Hope: The Call of Leadership, gave the contemporary characteristics and qualities of leadership. This third book focuses on the spirituality of the leader.
Leonard Doohan’s books on leadership have been described as “highly readable,” “profound and caring,” “clear and challenging,” “a profound guidebook for leaders of the future,” “beyond or better beneath many current volumes,” “elegant, powerful, forthright.” Commentators have said “I highly recommend,” “He strengthens our resolve,” “Read every word,” “He restores our hope,” “Learn how to this kind of leader.”
This book is available from amazon.com
While the concept of spiritual leadership is wider than Christianity, those Christians who wish to dedicate themselves to spiritual leadership need to be well-informed about the essential values of Christianity. Here are two books that help in that regard.
There is a great excitement and enthusiasm among so many people today to deepen their knowledge of their faith and strengthen their spiritual commitment by pursuing the priorities of Jesus. This yearning of so many was met by the teachings and renewal of the Second Vatican Council which attracted people of all walks of life to a more responsible and active dedication to their faith after decades of fostered passivity. After the Second Vatican Council many believers read books and studied their faith. They attended workshops, conferences, courses, and retreats. There was lots of enthusiasm and intense desire to know more about faith and spirituality. We had an informed laity. Unfortunately this is no longer the case today. Much of this enthusiasm has waned, as many Church officials have returned to a pre-Conciliar approach to theology and spirituality and focused more on social-sexual issues rather then evangelical challenges. A Church with these emphases has no future.
A new spirit is stirring in the Church. We must overcome the failures of the past and prepare ourselves for a future of growth and responsibility. Let us rekindle spiritual insight, accept our spiritual destiny, and refocus on the essential teaching of salvation. While many have left the institutional churches, and sadly may never return, perhaps the challenge to renewal of Pope Francis may re-attract them to the essentials of Christian commitment.
The Church needs to refocus on informed believers, giving them opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the essential teachings of faith and nurture their spirituality. I have written two short books that I believe can help you nurture your faith and spirituality and enable you to be a serious Christian presence in the contemporary world.
These books are short and divided into even shorter sections, so that you can read one section a week to nurture your spiritual life. They include questions for personal reflection. Take an e-book with you on your daily travels and read a section now and again. It will make all the difference to you in your Christian commitment. Form a discussion group around the idea of each book.
1. Ten Strategies to Nurture Our Spiritual Lives: Don’t stand still—nurture the life within you.
This book presents ten key steps or strategies to support and express the faith of those individuals who seek to deepen their spirituality through personal commitment and group growth. These ten key components of spirituality enable dedicated adults to bring out the meaning of their faith and to facilitate their spiritual growth. It offers a program of reflection, discussion, planning, journaling, strategizing, and sharing.
2. Rediscovering Jesus’ Priorities.
This book urges readers to look again at Jesus’ teachings and identify the major priorities. It is a call to rethink the essential components of a living and vital Christianity and a challenge to rediscover the basic values Jesus proclaimed. Use the book for a short meditation and personal examination, as a self-guided retreat to call yourself to renewed dedication to Jesus’ call, or for group discussion and renewed application of Jesus’ teachings.
Books are available from amazon.com/author/leonarddoohan
Leadership is part of who we are. There is no possibility of separating leadership from the values of our daily lives. When we see top managers in politics, business, or service industries living a style of leadership that seems closer to dictatorship than anything else, then we must conclude that these are the values of these people’s daily lives. The opposite is also true of course. Namely, that the values of spiritual leadership enable us to become better spouses, parents, and members of community. There is always something immature about autocratic leaders and something noble about genuine servant leaders.
” The evolution and development of a mature inner consciousness provide us with a resiliency, a joy and optimism of life. This inner mastery enables us to assume tasks of leadership by responsibly inspiring hope and confidence among others that the right path will emerge and we finally shall succeed.” (David Ramey, Empowering Leaders, p. 217).
Dedicating ourselves to the development of servant and spiritual leadership will improve our lives.
We have been looking at a series of qualities necessary for authentic spiritual leadership. Perhaps the most fundamental is integrity. Recent years evidence a series of shifts in the values people expect to discover in their leaders. Among the shifts we see new emphases on others, on service, on collaboration, and on family values. Some values seem to be perennial, among which we find respect, honesty, and integrity. This shift in values is part of recent theories of leadership that emphasize followers’ attributions to leaders, seeing leader-follower relationships as critical to the understanding of leadership. Nowadays, people want to see that their leaders are genuine, do not need to defend every issue that is questioned, and can maintain their values with humility. Some followers trust a leader based on experience, nowadays followers trust as an act of faith in the sincerity of a leader’s proclaimed values. So, from this perspective, two attitudes are critical to leadership, personal integrity in relation to one’s vision of life, and integrity in relation to the organization’s primary values, issues, and loyalties. People need to know that their leaders are credible and are true to themselves in what they convey by word and life. Integrity is a constitutive component of leadership. People want to have confidence in their leaders, knowing they will consistently live according to the vision and values they proclaim. Since being an agent of change is essential to leadership, people need to be assured that the individual leading them through change is a person of integrity in terms of the communal vision and values.
Wise transformational leaders who need to constantly deal with ambiguity, with change, and frequently with conflicting solutions need to be people of integrity. Then when they see solutions others do not see, their followers will still trust them. The indispensable quality for leadership that holds everything else together is integrity, the balance between personal and public life.
Although integrity is so central, we also must acknowledge that people are not finding it, and they are crying out for it. We all know individuals who had potential as leaders but never achieved a position of recognized faithfulness and integrity. We talk about striving for excellence, but we know there is a lot of rottenness. Some seem intellectually or spiritually maimed by inappropriate training. Some potential leaders continue to do what they have always done and find enough work to keep themselves busy, as the thoughtful, polite undertakers of stable, declining, or dying organizations. Some leaders practice selective perception, only seeing what they want to see, seemingly unaware that eighty-five percent of all problems in an organization are caused by management. Afraid of the future and insecure in interpreting the vision for changing times, some cling to non-essentials. Some leaders still manifest the kind of neutrality which hides a commitment to the status quo, and followers quickly perceive the lack of integrity. However, we need also to acknowledge that followers sometimes have such deep needs that they grant credibility to a leader even though they know integrity is lacking.
We have some great leaders in every walk of life, but besides them, we often have a lot of mediocre personalities in situations where they claim to be leading others who are clearly ahead of the leader. The increasing problem of burnout in leadership, spiritual impoverishment in some cases, a passive stance by others, lower levels of self-esteem, have all weakened integrity. Some leaders feel their lives are controlled by outside forces. Others, while achieving institutional goals, do not seem to attain their own full potential. Some knowingly live with organizational disabilities, without the courage to confront or challenge. Some current leaders, facing insecurity and challenge, generate myths about their own authority and expect followers to believe them. Others have had serious problems, suffering as they do from the tyranny of petty laws. They allow structures and systems to continue when it is clear they are not working, and yet they are unwilling to change the organization and its culture. Others are dominated by causes and not by the pursuit of truth. Some traditions have a distorted understanding of their leaders, turning them into gurus and myths. Some organizations intended to facilitate the charismatic end up obscuring it, promising care but delivering control, insisting on service but emphasizing authority. In all these cases integrity is sacrificed.
Leaders in dysfunctional organizations frequently strive without success to generate the integrity that leads to trust. Trust is born from a combination of integrity and competence. Without integrity there is no trust. When workers practice secrecy, live in constant competition and jealousy, and do not show mutual respect, appreciation, and support, the resulting attitude is negative, evidences fear of rejection, and creates a sense of constant mutual distrust. Some managers become bureaucrats who give inadequate attention to followers, are unavailable for interpersonal reactions because of constant meetings, and ask for mere token involvement by others—attitudes that followers readily recognize and repay with distrust. Some managers do not trust others enough, claim authority in non-essentials, and lose themselves in organizational trivia. They end with inadequate time for their own personal growth and for quality time with others—attitudes that generate the same responses in followers. The lack of trust leads to fragmentation, competition, and reactiveness. When a leader pays lip service alone to the idea of creating an environment of trust, the followers give only lip service in return.
Leaders who strive to be recognized for integrity must build trusting environments around them. Leadership is achieved together, and it implies a bonding with others. An organization with a trusting environment appreciates diversity, shares values and vision, fosters good clear communication, and mutually challenges members to their tasks. It is at the same time centralized and decentralized; the leader appreciates that excellence in building a trusting environment demands constant focus on organizational culture. Today=s leaders must see themselves as creators of the values, mission, and spiritual dimension of an organization=s distinctiveness. In fact, they must have the courage to create a loving environment, constantly aware that without such an environment political infighting, petty jealousies, lies and distrust arise.
When a leader wishes to foster trust, he or she must highlight the positive, give clear visible evidence of trust, respect others= freedom, handle their mistakes well, and be ready to compromise to meet consensus. Trust includes the acceptance of risk—letting others be free enough to make their own choices and decisions. A leader must eliminate fear in the organization, create an atmosphere of interdependence, make it obvious that he or she appreciates the gifts of others, and that he or she yearns to collaborate by sharing concerns, values, and vision. The leader will need flexibility in dealing with others’ approaches, and a facility in living with ambiguity and tension as a step on the road to shared commitment.
Trust comes—and an acknowledgment of integrity will follow—when followers become convinced that a leader is worthy of them, that he or she approaches issues with well established prejudices of people over laws and collaboration over autocracy. Nowadays, followers trust a effective transformational leader who maintains a healthy concept of self, community, common vision, and mutual responsibility.
Trust implies a confident hope in others, relying on their authenticity and integrity—at times even before they have proved it. It is at the same time an expectation and an obligation—the emotional glue that binds leaders and followers together. Trust is earned by taking risks—allowing others to make their own choices. It implies treating others as dependable, deserving of confidence, and reliable. Trust is the foundation of collaboration and partnership in a shared vision and a common mission.
5. TEACH A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF COMMITMENT
One key practice that spiritual leaders can emphasize is to teach others a new understanding of commitment. Spiritual leaders embody both professional commitment and discretionary commitment. Every good spiritual leader challenges self and followers to wholehearted commitment. The spiritual leader 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.
Such leaders enthuse followers to be dedicated to a shared vision that can fill everyone with 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. Leaders of hope not only have a deep capacity for hope but a life-long dedication to realizing the future we long for. Doing well needs to be permeated by doing good; ethics matters in one’s commitment. This includes strengthening the conviction that work leads to transformation. The primary commitment of a leader is personal transformation; all else follows from this focus.
Commitment is relational. Others are included in our commitment as we are in theirs. It means sharing experiences, integrating individual and communal dedication to shared goals—professional and personal. This approach calls for mutual trust, benevolence towards each other, and shared hope. It implies mutual dedication to draw out the best in everyone and to capitalize on the unique contribution each one can make.
Commitment is to each other to work synergetically. Synergy means working together of unlike elements to create desirable results greater than the independent parts can do. No one can achieve significant transformation alone. Commitment of each one is everyone’s business. This “fusion leadership” makes productivity and professional development a part of personal and communal spirituality. This kind of leadership “is about joining, coming together, creating connections and partnerships. It is about reducing barriers by encouraging conversations, information sharing, and joint responsibility across boundaries”. (a good book to consult on this topic would be Richard L. Daft and Robert H. Lengel, Fusion Leadership: Unlocking the Subtle Forces that Change people and Organizations (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1998).
Commitment means encouraging each other to be leaders. No one can be passive, for we live in a time of great need for quality leadership. Everyone needs to be inspired but also inspire, to be motivated but also to motivate, to be healed but also to heal, to be taught but also to teach, and to be led but also to lead. This commitment to mutual leadership implies humility, listening, mutual appreciation, and a sense of group development.
Commitment not only implies excellence, hope, transformative action, sharing, fusion, and mutual leadership, but it calls for selfless, loving service at every level of the organization. Leaders can no longer hide from major trends in contemporary society or become faceless to the social needs for justice and equality. In practice this means one’s commitment includes daily striving to understand others, share with them, and receive emotional support, show care and mutual compassion. 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 dedicated 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.
3. THINK, MEDITATE, CONTEMPLATE
Leaders of hope are men and women of wisdom who make their judgments based on a combination of conceptual thinking, imaginative skills, an artistic sense, intuition, contemplative insight, and the system and community skills of love. These components of decision-making imply new ways of thinking, meditating, and contemplating. These leaders process information for judgment in more integrative ways and always in light of the vision of promise. Making practical judgments requires all the usual research and analysis, but it also becomes a work of art, of hope-filled critical analysis, and of love, thus integrating and reconciling efficiency with the vision of hope. We must imagine possibilities outside of conventional categories, envision actions that cross traditional boundaries, and anticipate repercussions and take advantage of interdependencies, to make new connections or invent new combinations.
Nowadays we no longer value leaders who can make snap judgments, but those who think things through and make correct judgments. We have no use for the so-called leader who makes “those tough decisions,” but one who thinks of every alternative and of everyone involved, and comes up with a decision that is hope-filled in difficult times. We value leaders who have intellectual curiosity.
The leader of hope is not satisfied only with thinking, but learns to discover and appreciate deeper levels of meaning through meditation. This latter is a discursive form of reflection; in quiet and peaceful recollection a person leaves aside prejudices and prior thought patterns and opens mind and heart to the pros and cons of each issue. This detached reflection process enables a leader to see the positive and negative aspects of decisions. No one has speedy answers to today’s complicated issues in leadership; often it is not clear what is ethical and what is not, what is for long term benefit and what is not, what is selfish and what is altruistic. One needs to ready one’s heart and soul to make good decisions today. Meditation is primarily an individual practice, but leaders can also achieve its basic purpose in group or team reflection on issues under discussion. As one practices meditation, it becomes less a method and more a simple way of calmly thinking things through. Moreover, the more one uses meditation with skill, it becomes less an exercise of thought and more one of love.
Meditation is discursive thought but gradually becomes a form of prayerful reflection on concrete matters to determine how things ought to be done according to the vision of promise. Gradually, this process becomes simpler until it is a form of centering mind and heart on the issues. Once learned and practiced well it takes less time and is similar to “centering prayer.” Less and less discursive, one’s heart detached from prejudices, one’s whole being desirous of doing good, the leader of hope become contemplative in his or her approach to life’s issues. Contemplation is non-discursive; a more intuitive experience in which a prayerful leader just sees what is the right thing to do. More than a process it is an experience. Too many individuals make decisions based on their accumulated experiences, others on the best of current knowledge and research. All that is fine, even desirable. However, leaders of hope base decisions on the vision of God’s plan for humanity, and they learn of that in reflection, mediation, and contemplation.
1. Make judgments you can live with and die with.
2. Train yourself to leave aside prejudice in decision-making.
3. Learn a simple method of meditation; if necessary find a teacher.
4. Think of the consequences in others’ lives of what you do.
5. Besides preparing yourself with research and analysis for your work as a leader, also ready your heart and soul.
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).
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.