Leadership is given to people of integrity by their followers who can just as easily withdraw it. Some pseudo-leaders can try to achieve credibility by simply acting the part. Followers soon notice this. In fact, when a leader gives merely lip service to something, he or she gets lip service back from followers. Quality leadership is exercised within a trusting environment. Trust is the emotional glue that binds followers and leaders together. When a trusting environment exists followers confidently rely on the authenticity of their leaders. However, a trusting environment also becomes the foundation for mutual respect, confident risk taking, partnership, and collaboration. In a trusting environment both leaders and followers know that each respects the competence of the other, grants them freedom to act and even to make mistakes, indentifies the blind spots throughout the organization, and will always highlight the positive wherever it is to be found. Failed organizations that lack trust still exist all over the world, riddled with control, rigidity, guilt, fear, intimidation, political infighting, suppression of dissent, and so on. These organizations are spiritually impoverished. Creating an environment of trust means eliminating fear of others’ failures or competence, being able to live with ambiguity, always being ready to show flexibility, and appreciating the individuality of each one in the pursuit of a common goal. Creating a trusting environment requires a new set of virtues from leader and follower alike, as they will need to establish clear and practical institutional goals to maintain this working environment in which alone integrity can flourish.
When a leader witnesses to a firm sense of inner and outer reality, opens up all lines of communication, and integrates all into the pursuit of the organization’s goals, he or she binds the organization closer together. Followers recognize the leader’s integrity and feel more intimately part of the organization, are increasingly proud of their organization, and manifest a greater sense of ownership of the organization and its shared vision.
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.
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.
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.
5. TEACH A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF COMMITMENT
Spiritual leaders propose a new understanding of commitment. Every good leader challenges self and followers to wholehearted commitment. The leader of hope links professional commitment to the integral human, spiritual maturing of self and each follower. Professional commitment becomes part of one’s spirituality and thus draws out discretionary dedication from everyone. In this context outstanding performance is a matter of personal growth, integrity, character development, and simply being who one feels called to be. Leaders must fire followers’ hearts to see professional dedication and spirituality as two facets of the same life.
Leaders enthuse followers to be dedicated to a shared vision of hope. Commitment relates to the future and so includes imagination, contemplation, and hope. This implies networking to discover other people’s hopes and constantly urging and encouraging others to be open to the unexpected. Commitment is essentially making the vision of hope real in the present.
This commitment to hope implies transformative action as part of one’s dedication. ommitment becomes part of one’s spirituality and thus draws out discretionary dedication from everyone.
Leaders enthuse followers to be dedicated to a shared vision of hope. Commitment relates to the future and so includes imagination, contemplation, and hope.
This commitment to hope implies transformative action as part of one’s dedication. Leaders of hope not only have a deep capacity for hope but a life long dedication to realizing the future we long for.
Commitment is relational. Others are included in our commitment as we are in theirs.
Commitment is to each other to work synergetically. Synergy refers to people who are different creating desirable results greater than the independent parts can do. It is a form of fusion that implies joining, coming together, creating connections and partnerships. It is about reducing barriers by encouraging conversations, information sharing, and joint responsibility across boundaries.
Commitment means encouraging each other to be leaders.
This loving service will also manifest quality commitment in collaboration in culturally and gender diverse situations. For a leader of hope commitment is not merely to a job well done, but to a vision of community.
1. Think about ways you can make an ideal future alive today.
2. Ask yourself why are you committed at work and what is the quality of your commitment.
3. Check how you contribute to the development of your colleagues.
4. If you contribute more on your own than with others, ask why.
5. Identify the links between your professional dedication and personal spirituality.
One of the major developments in the last couple of decades has been an extraordinary interest in integrating faith and professional activity. Spirituality permeates one’s commitment to every aspect of life. This results from people realizing that all life including their family and working lives with their new focuses of call are always a reliving of the baptismal challenge to belong to Christ, to live and love for him. The service of others in professional life is a particularly splendid way of realizing this.
Spirituality includes a sense of humility, the humble awareness that Christians are not born as such, but struggle daily to become what they hear the Lord calling them to be. Always aware of their own human frailty, Christians will value a sense of humility, knowing that leadership brings its own brands of pride, arrogance, and abuse of the power that was given to‑serve others.
Spirituality is rooted in the life of Christ and can frequently be accessed through the formulations of belief and religion, so a leader who wishes to emphasize those core values of Christ must include ongoing knowledge of the message and skills to interpret it in professional life. It includes leadership training, communication skills, religious education methods, a knowledge of group processes, and ability to direct other disciples in their pursuit of encounter with God.
A spiritual leader’s spirituality stresses an appreciation of institutions with their awkwardness and graciousness. Sometimes the spiritual leader will have to denounce the negative in institutions, even in religious ones. In fact, an objective acceptance of the reality of religion is a sign of the maturity of the professional’s life and dedication.
Love for the values of faith manifests itself in one’s attitudes toward individuals, not only those who are like‑minded to ourselves but also toward those whose views differ from our own. Many contemporary leaders who suffered from former leaders who imposed their own will on their followers will be aware of the need to guard against the arrogance that imposes one’s own will as if it were God’s.
Contemporary Christians must be people who can collaborate with those with whom they work, whether team members, central leaders, or colleagues at all levels of the organization. Collaboration is an integral part of spirituality, since it is the administrative model that best portrays the nature of shared faith. Collaboration touches the core of a leader’s life, since it is not merely a way of doing things more efficiently but a way of being a faith-filled person more authentically.
The Christian is dedicated to proclaiming the truth and needs always to be open to search for that truth without ever absolutizing any channel or stage in the quest, but remaining ever open to the newness of God’s loving presence and vital revelation. The believer’s task is a prophetic one, to be a focus for honesty without counting the pain and persecution that this commitment now brings to anyone who challenges the increasing insecurity of the self‑assured.
Spirituality for a spiritual leader means being a listener to the world—its political and social events, the signs of the times, people’s hopes and joys, anguish and pain. All religious growth takes place in interaction with the world around us, amidst the trends and transitoriness of history.
For contemporary leaders spirituality is a balance between selflessness and self‑care—both go together and safeguard each other from unhealthy exaggerations. Each spiritual leader needs to know what is negotiable in the hardships and tensions of service of others. Any vocation or career can soon become a routine job, but nourishing self‑care can insure it does not degenerate into approaches spiritual leaders never thought would occur in them.
Along the lines of self‑care, spiritual leaders’ dedication can grow when strengthened by deep friendships, and for those who are married, by a deep relationship with their spouse—both relationships providing levels of intimacy needed for integral growth and a mature development of one’s sexuality. Contemporary spirituality of public life needs to be complemented by a spirituality of intimacy. Deep, intimate relationships enrich one’s ministry by providing a core experience that not only nourishes, but also models love, community building, concern and service of a significant other which is the basic attitude of a spiritual leader.
A dedicated believer’s spirituality includes an openness to the future and a readiness to move on. Like Paul each one can say “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil 3:12).
Christian spirituality for leaders includes acceptance of his or her responsibility to correct institutional failures of the past or present, especially structured injustice such as the negative attitude toward women, unhealthy working environments, unjust salary scales, pollution, and all forms of social irresponsibility.
Spirituality for a Christian involved in leadership includes rejoicing in oneself—celebrating one’s gifts and accepting one’s weaknesses. Christian tradition has always valued self‑knowledge, and the spiritual leader’s realistic view of self clarifies what goals or tasks are possible for the minister and what are unreal expectations. Leaders need to be men and women of peace, joy and enthusiasm, for they are among the community as models of hope.
Some Short Term Goals for Spiritual Leaders (Things one can do immediately)
Dedicating oneself to leadership may well be the work of a lifetime, but there are plenty of strategies anyone can implement immediately. These are strategies that get things done but also get an individual thinking in different ways about leadership.
1. Learn more about leadership
Study leadership and do not presume you are a leader. Leadership does not just happen. It is the result of studied commitment. You study how to do the job like a physician learns surgery.
2. Behave in ways that are consistent with your stated values of your leadership.
Audit your own reactions. Religious traditions have always taught followers to examine their consciences on the failures of the day. Make sure that you examine yourselves on your leadership. That is where you spend most of your day, every day.
3. Give credit to others whenever possible.
Good leadership is nearly always invisible, someone else gets the credit.
4. Listen to followers.
Listening creates a different atmosphere and builds strength in others. This means making a deliberate decision to talk less in meetings and listen more, identifying at the end of each meeting what you have learned from followers. Learn what bugs your people and react to problems by listening first. Genuine listening includes openness to the needs, motives, and hopes of followers.
5. Establish ownership for everything you do.
This means excelling in communication and collaborative discussion. If institutional priorities are only the priorities of a few, they can neither expect nor do they deserve significant support.
6. Learn to be an executive.
Be executive not only to your boards but particularly to the ideas and visions of those you serve. Authentic leadership percolates up from the grassroots, it does not filter down from high up in the structure.
7. Stop making decisions.
Invite everyone to assume responsibility. So, strengthen people by sharing information and power and increasing their discretion and visibility.
8. Get out of the way.
Examine your organization to get rid of unnecessary rules and regulations that put controls on others initiative. Belasco suggests, ARestrain yourself from helping people out of their responsibilities.
9. Insist on serving, even in the face of power.
If your boss continues to be autocratic, you must still live as a faith-filled leader, dedicated to servant leadership. You may have to tolerate autocratic behavior no matter how benevolent it may be, but you neither have to endorse it nor imitate it. If you work with autocrats do not participate it will only encourage them.
10. Improve participation in decision-making.
Establish pilot programs within the system or organization. You can not be a spiritual leader whose leadership includes a vision of service while preserving an autocratic environment.
11. Make hope a priority.
Affirm people, give them high but attainable goals, challenge and reward especially with natural personal rewards of appreciation. The most significant rewards in working life today do not cost anything. A good leader can maintain a strong sense of urgency to attain the group=s goal. This inspires hope in others
12. Celebrate your people’s successes.
Be a cheerleader, scheduling celebrations at all levels of your organization and encourage others to do so.42 Honor people’s key achievements with public recognition. Not only celebrate when someone reaches a goal, but also when someone reaches their potential. Celebration should not become routine and at times even meaningless, rather find opportunities to surprise people with a celebration of their successes.
13. Deepen reflection in life.
A spiritual leader is nourished by reflection and knows that vision, creativity and imaginative resolve come from prayerful reflection. The leap of imagination, the ability to find alternatives that no one else sees, the skill to identify common ground in disparate data—these skills are related to reflection and prayer.
All leadership development is ultimately self-development and little else will help our growth as human beings and as Christians as much as a commitment to leadership. Spiritual leadership is not just another management style. It is the result of a conversion and it begins with a renewal of attitudes. While spiritual leadership is an attractive vision it is clear that not many individuals are willing to become this kind of leaders. It is the result of a deliberate personal choice, it requires a commitment in love, and it includes significant sacrifice. Spiritual leadership is very costly. It is neither a technique, nor a strategy in a long range plan. It is way of life, results from conversion, changes the whole focus of one’s way of dealing with others. It is also the most significant vision of leadership for the generation ahead.
The Need of 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.
So, leadership needs to be an expression of a well developed and defined sense of vocational integrity. 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.