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Contemporary Spirituality for Christian Adults

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

Spiritual leaders lead others to a shared vision

In a recent blog I shared with you some ideas concerning a spiritual leader’s responsibility to train others to a shared vision. Here I continue those ideas.

Leaders serve as facilitators and animators of a common vision.  They know that no individual owns the vision to share with followers, but that the vision is built around that shared identity of the group.  Shared values in a healthy corporate culture are the most important unifying force of the group. A good leader will achieve this through a process of vision development. The group participates in predetermining the vision either by their involvement or apathy.  Sometimes a group will need a leader to identify their distinctive contributions, selecting, synthesizing, articulating, and revising the group’s values.  Groups often cannot express their own mission, but they can recognize it when a leader they trust articulates their enduring values for them. Thus a leader can focus others’ attention and create in them a pervading passionate commitment for a vision that is unknowingly within them.  A leader attains consensus by making conscious what lies unconscious in the followers, calling them to articulate what is important to them in the core of their being.

Identifying a shared vision will require collaborative styles of learning, new group techniques for sharing ideas, and new skills of consultation, dialogue, group goal-setting, and strategic planning.  The group together seeks solutions, finds the common ground of unity and community, and searches for the synergy that common problem solving and planning can produce.  These creative forms of collaboration expand the group’s thinking, and can generate new meaning to the group’s decisions.  These early efforts to identify a shared vision is an experience of interdependency.

The leader will push down as far as possible not only consultation and decision making but also planning, strategizing, and goal setting.  The team or group takes over the role of the hierarchy in an organization.  However, to assure that the vision is shared within the organization, the leader will train groups to keep others in the next group above or below them informed about the essential components of the vision.

To identify a shared vision, a leader appreciates that the vision must turn inward to the group, but the focus must be on the people who are served by the vision.  He or she will take the vision seriously enough to seek out needed resources to attain it.  Identifying a shared vision cannot be restricted to one’s working life since a vision that enthuses people will do so because it touches their core values that will be the same in personal, community, and social life.

Groups do not pursue a vision that they do not own.  Vision refers to what a group is convinced it should be doing in a given time and situation.  Leaders must generate ownership of the vision they find in themselves and their followers; and this can take a long time, and much patience and fortitude. It is often said that leaders must leave followers a legacy, and surely it is the legacy that everyone has a part of the vision; everyone is individually important to the common enterprise.


When we look around at our so called leaders today it is often a sad experience. There are so many failures. Last year we celebrated the life and leadership of Nelson Mandela. People from all walks of life all over the world praised his exceptional gifts of mind and heart that enabled him to become one of the great leaders of history. It was hard to listen to universal praise without thinking of the dearth of good leaders that we face in our own times, especially in politics, business, healthcare, and religion.

A few comments I though you might like to read:

“Whether we think of Congress or the courts, business or industry, the news media or mass entertainment, the church or other voluntary associations, many of us feel deepening despair about the capacity of our dominant institutions to harbor a human agenda, to foster human purposes.”

Parker Palmer, Foreword in Seeker and Servant: The Private Writings of Robert K. Greeleaf, xi.

“The history of the world if full of such leaders, whose errors of judgment and refusal to listen to the good advice of their followers have left millions of followers as physical, emotional, or economic casualties.”

Kieth Grint, The Art of Leadership, p. 420.

“Leadership requires changing not only the way you think and the way you act, but also the way you will. Leading is taking change of your will–the innermost core of your humanity.”

Peter Koesterbaum, Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness, 2.

Let us hope and pray that more men and women will take inspiration from Nelson Mandela and dedicate themselves to the service of others in leadership. We need leaders motivated by inner values, selfless, generous, and totally dedicated to others. These are leaders who are committed to their position for the good it allows them to do and not for the status or money it gives them.

I recently wrote a more detailed article on this topic which you might like to read. linked2leadership (March 8th)


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 and the Need of Integrity

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.



We have been looking at different aspects of spiritual leadership. One quality that permeates the whole of the leader’s life is reflection. Leaders must be contemplative. Leaders today must be men and women who can think, reflect, reintegrate, and transform the many aspects of their lives. Leadership is no longer based merely on knowledge, competence, and experience, unless these are linked with reflection that produces alternative ways of thinking and acting. In the past we tended to stress leaders who were doers and achievers not reflective thinkers. Today’s new models of leadership all demand critical reflection, imagination, and an openness to the unknown, the unexpected, and the unexplored. The source of real learning in one’s leadership is within and this implies the importance of reflection. Below are offered four suggestions to help one be more reflective.

STILLNESS: The major preparations for reflective leadership can be viewed as one’s personal contribution in attitudes of stillness, inspiration, concentration, and silence.  Each of these is a gift and is also an acquired art that benefits both reflection and leadership.  We need to specifically train ourselves in stillness of body.  We need to sit still, do nothing and completely relax.  For people of religious faith, any of the present techniques for relaxation which help in the acquiring of stillness in the presence of God can be used.  This first simple stage should not be passed over.  In our present speed-prone age, it can be a real effort.  In the long run, it pays high dividends.  Linked to this outward relaxed position should be deep and regular breathing.  The stillness that reflection and prayer requires is also a fine attitude in daily life and leadership.  People who are always rushing here and hurrying there are not noted for the quality of their presence to others, whether colleagues, family, or friends.  No one can be consistently still in times of reflection, unless he or she can be still in the presence of others, giving them attention and interest. Stillness is not something that we can turn on for moments of reflection.  Rather, it must be very gradually acquired through self- training and sacrifice. This effort to train oneself in stillness and to place oneself in the presence of God is a “prayer of the body.”

INSPIRATION. To facilitate the second step in reflection one needs, throughout daily life, to train oneself in openness to the varied and continual inspirations of the day from wherever they come. To help the development of the genuine spirit of inspiration  we need to know ourselves as we are, with the good and weak sides, and express ourselves as we truly feel.  If we hide or close ourselves to the unacceptable about ourselves this just becomes a block to our reflection and prayer.  We also need to be open to being inspired by others and by the world; and here one need only apply the general principles of dialogue in openness to others and in the signs of the times.

If in times of reflection and prayer and decision-making in leadership we are able to show openness to inspiration, then it will be because we have developed in life this attitude of total attentiveness to the varied inspirations that come personally to us in our hearts, in others, in the world with its history and in daily events.  If we have not a listening heart and not trained ourselves in the art of listening, then when a critical time of change and challenge comes it is humanly impossible for us just to switch on to becoming inspired or inspirational.

CONCENTRATION. Thirdly, we must train ourselves to concentrate, then in dealing with others or in discerning institutional direction we will be able to concentrate individually and  with others in the challenging moments of life.  Here again, we have an act of reflection and prayer which is an art and we can develop it by the way we approach other aspects of our daily leadership life.  Therefore, as a remote preparation for reflection and prayer, try to develop concentration.

The ability to concentrate, which is also a common necessity in human growth, is something to be acquired by daily effort.  Only short moments are needed, a few minutes while traveling, a view in the city, a scene in the country, a person’s face, a picture, a child—all can be objects of a moment’s concentration.  On the other hand, listening intensely for a short while to a piece of music, or just one sound, or a bird, or a person’s voice, or the rustling of leaves—all can open us to concentrate on something we did not perceive before.  This is the self training and remote preparation we need for reflection and prayer and a preparation to discover the best in others.

SILENCE IN GOD. The kernel of genuine reflection is silence, and of genuine prayer silence in God.  There are several attitudes of daily life which can undoubtedly help and prepare the way for this recollected silence.  Awareness to the quality of one’s presence to others and recollection are fundamental.  Effort given to this reflective silence is generally more profitable for growth in reflection than is anything else.  To these ought to be added a cultivated sense of wonder and astonishment.  These qualities are often missing in life today, but if reflective leadership must also include an attitude of openness to the ever newness of others and of organizational growth, we will need a genuine sense of mystery and wonder to appreciate what is always ahead of us, always new, and our growing efforts at concentration will be an aid here. In this connection we need a healthy sense of aloneness, an awareness of our own unfulfillment except through others and in God—in other
words, the attitude of one who is a real searcher.

Above all, one needs patience and a willingness to wait.  Sometimes in the reflective moments of a day we try to push ourselves—disliking emptiness, we return to the normal actions of each day at the first sign of “nothing happening.”  Those who do wait are generally the ones who can come up with a new insight, can see links with vision and mission, and can see how every member of the group “fits in.”   All these above attitudes are also aspects of daily life, and

living through them in daily life can be a preparation for reflection and an enrichment of our leadership skills. Nancy Eggert suggests four means to enter into contemplative experience: 1. Through appreciation of the material world (appreciation). 2. By letting go and letting be (detachment). 3. Through creative breakthroughs (creativity). 4. By means of social justice and compassion (compassion).



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.

5. Suggestions:

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.




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.


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).

Several Suggested Practices for a Spiritual Leader (Fourth)


Leadership deals with establishing the vision of hope in our contemporary human communities. This means going beyond what leaders have done in the past. It means struggling with more fundamental questions, living in a state of sustained dissatisfaction with what has been achieved, looking to the future in hope, and being willing to live with the tensions of human frailty in its search for the best human values and for God. All this will mean new ways of looking at the world, new experiments in community interaction, and new percolating structures. Leadership questions today are philosophical and theological. How does what I do affect the human community? How do my decisions reflect God’s plan for humanity? Am I maturing as a human being through my leadership? Am I aware of my covenant with the organization I serve and of the organization’s covenant with its customers, shareholders, and so on? Do I serve the common good? Do my colleagues and I reflect the best of humanity? Does my leadership image the past or explore the future?

When a leader of hope makes decisions, he or she should ask why am I doing this, not only in the short term but in the long term too. In later life will I be proud of what I do today?

What are the alternatives that we can use to achieve our goals equally well but which do more good?

The leader of hope constantly asks self, is what I do in keeping with the best of who we are as human beings?

5. Suggestions:

1. Question yourself on the reasons for your decisions.

2. Do not offer answers until you have exhausted the questions.

3. See yourself and encourage others to see you as a person who asks questions not as someone who gives answers.

4. Ask questions about the future not the past.

5. Ask beyond and beneath what others ask.