A NEW BOOK ON SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP  

Spiritual Leadership Cover

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

Spiritual Leaders Coach Their Followers Carefully 2

I’d like to continue some reflections on this theme of coaching followers, a topic I dealt with before the summer vacations. Coaching followers is an important quality of spiritual leaders. Coaching others requires that leaders be reflective, have political savvy, and maintain spiritual depth.  Reflection is needed to receive creativity, political savvy is needed to deal with and direct the resulting changes, and spiritual depth is needed to preserve balance and perspective amidst the change.  Coaching others presumes intensity of conviction in the leader who is striving to manage, then empower, and finally liberate the performance of others.  Intensity of conviction is very subjective, self-confident, and can be influential, and it must be managed by a genuine respect for others and their views, an attitude of benevolence toward others and their as-yet-unknown responses, and an openness to be changed by others’ input.

Coaching others means helping followers see the excitement that comes with change and crisis and training them to invest in innovative skills that gives the ability to provide alternative solutions that others do not. Coaching others means challenging others to exceed their potential and in doing so exceed one’s own. All this is part of serving others in new circumstances, even relishing change because it gives opportunities to serve perennially in different situations. Approaching change in this way requires humility, passion, boldness, and courage. Coaching for times of change means helping followers retain high levels of self esteem, intensity of conviction, and self-confidence linked to humility. It also insists that simple aspects of life should not be neglected—appearance, verbal skills, body language, patience,  politeness and civility.

Managers quickly become obsolete, whereas leaders know their tasks are ongoing. They continue to form, support, and coach the new leaders to whom they delegate responsibility.  The goals of leadership outlive the leader in his or her followers.  However the leader does not withdraw after delegation but continues to be supportive by fostering personal growth and deeper understanding, offering feedback, and building new skills in followers. Leadership means giving of your best and getting others to give their best too.

Dedicated leaders live in a state of continued dissatisfaction with things as they are and are always striving for something more from themselves and their followers. To be satisfied would mean losing the vision.  Thus, leaders continue to model the vision, to proclaim the ideals of the organization by building-up its image, to transmit a shared vision with persuasiveness and inspiration, to demand high expectations of followers, to support followers with high levels of confidence, and to motivate others to the best of which they are capable. A leader helps followers grow in their own leadership style, stressing the ongoing quality of their work, their organizational and societal contributions, and their quality life. A leader will always need to show flexibility, seeking each follower’s way of leading. The only part of vision in which the leader shows no flexibility is the continuing need for commitment to values.

 

 

Spiritual Leaders Coach Their Followers Carefully

 

One of the key qualities of spiritual leaders is the ability to coach their followers.  Change-leaders encourage their followers to look at things in a different way.  This means understanding followers, the way they think, and the way they do things.  It implies training them to go away from present views at least long enough to be influenced by something different.  But coaching must be done skillfully, and it generally implies giving people important work to do, discretion and autonomy over this work, visibility and recognition for what they do, and the know-how to establish connections with people of power and position.  Coaching followers requires strategic skills–modeling a form of leadership based on vision and values, establishing trust among a group of followers, training in team performance, collaborative learning and partnership building.  A leader needs to allow followers to improvise and then to learn from their success and failures.  There is no risk-taking without error, but no newly created future without risk-taking. Above all, a leader who wishes to coach others to be visionaries must let others have control over their own lives, for it is this sense of freedom that capitalizes on an individual=s energy, creativity, and enthusiasm.  When a leader can encourage a sense of risk and improvisation in others and link these approaches to humility, then provided there is a solid foundation of competence and genuine perseverance in dedication to values, a leader can unleash profound power, passion, boldness, and courage in the organization. McLean and Weitzel (Leadership: Magic, Myth, or Method, 186) suggest six steps to unleash leadership potential in oneself or others: 1. Practice influencing others, 2. See similarities between self and others, 3. Recognize and meet others= expectations, 4. Accept and let go of leadership roles, 5. Provide support for each other, 6. Always know your own worth and accept your own stature.

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.

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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

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.

Spiritual leadership and inner self-mastery

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.

A FEW GREAT LEADERS AND LOTS OF MEDIOCRE ONES

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.

Transformational leadership–quote for reflection

So ,many writers talk about transformational leadership, I think the following description catches both the visionary and practical sides of this quality.

” Superior leadership performance–transformational leadership–occurs when leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group, and when they stir their employees to look beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group.”

Bernard Bass, “From Trasactional to Transformational Leadership: Learning to Share the Vision,” Organizational Dynamics 18 (1990): 21.

Spiritual leadership and inspiring visions

“Inspiring visions should be optimistic, express confidence, highlight the intrinsic needs that can be met, connect to the core values of the organization, and place emphasis on positive future challenges and opportunities.”

Yair Berson, Boas Shamir, Bruce J. Avolio, and Micha Popper, “The Relationship between Vision and Strength, Leadership Style, and Context,” Leadership Quarterly 12 )2001): 56.