- Take courage in your pursuit of spiritual leadership.
I want to encourage the fainthearted in their pursuit of spiritual leadership. I am convinced that the road to leadership greatness passes through spiritual renewal. I urge each of you readers to become the leader you are called to be. Only a small percentage will be interested because of the addictions to power, status, and money that attract and hinder so many in their pursuit of leadership greatness. But there are others, and I would like to tap the potential of these leaders to be great. What we need to acknowledge from the outset is great leaders always pass through the challenging experience of conversion. My hope is to help you develop a process that leads to personal transformation and thus enables you to become a great leader. Great leaders are not born, they gradually grow and mature into who they are capable of being for the benefit of others. Ordinary people can become great leaders; we must let the best rise to the top of leadership.
Leadership is a work of the heart, a courageous heart. In this book’s approach, a leader is motivated by a vision of hope. Since leadership is a vocation, the leader is not struggling to move forward, but he or she is being drawn forward by something or someone greater than himself of herself. So, even the fainthearted can take courage and move with confidence, for leadership is not what you do but what God is doing in and through you. The best leaders are not always the most knowledgeable or talented, but those who are open-hearted, open-minded, and receptive to the call and challenge of God; those who let themselves be guided and directed for the good of others. These leaders can influence others as far as is needed, can motivate others to leadership, are happy to disappear from the scene and give credit to others, and can then reappear in a new venture to lead in a new way.
So often today, leaders are unknown and unsung heroes, simple people with big hearts. They begin their work locally and gradually have an impact on large sections of society. Many are fainthearted and prefer the hidden life. Sometimes they stay there and effect local change, sometimes they are recognized and brought into public view and appreciation. Even television channels celebrate these gifts to community service. So to each of you, reading this book, even if at times you feel lost, I say you can become a better leader, you can become the leader you long to be. May this book challenge you to evaluate all aspects of your leadership and courageously move in the direction of growth and maturity.
I want to help those of good will who want to become great leaders. We seem at times to be in an irreversible stall when it comes to leadership development. Many people are given authority and power way beyond their competence, and followers must often protect themselves from the irredeemable incompetence of their bosses. We have to acknowledge, with great sadness, that we are surrounded with failures in leadership. However, there are many men and women of good will who could become great leaders to the benefit of society, but at times they just do not make it. Sometimes they cannot bring themselves to make the first demanding steps that could lead to quality leadership, possibly they feel unworthy, or sometimes they have initial fear of the demands that lie ahead. Although endowed with lots of good will, some have been misguided, trained with wrong priorities, led to believe they do not have what it takes to become a great leader, or have been encouraged to model themselves on other leaders who lack the genuine focus of authentic leadership. Clearly, we do not want more of what we have had to tolerate. Some programs and courses on leadership are a hindrance to the kind of leadership that is needed today; thus, some become very competent in skills that harm rather than help organizations and their members. It is sad to see many continue in their immature approaches to leadership because they do not know how to break away from the inappropriate methods and training that have been suggested in the past, or because they lack the guidance they need, or because they lack the strength of will to accept the sacrifices that contemporary leadership implies. Some even resist the call they hear in the depths of their hearts to serve others in a transformed leadership.
I am not undertaking this particular project because I think I see things no one else does. We have benefitted so much from the insights on leadership presented by many scholars and practitioners. I have detailed references to the great contemporary experts in leadership in my previous two books on leadership. However, I have worked all over the world with wonderful people, many great leaders from all walks of life, and have learned so much from them, both in appreciating what led to their successes and in identifying the unfulfilled yearnings of others. At the same time I have seen so many men and women who long to give themselves to the service of others, but just cannot get things moving. They work tirelessly, read and study all the latest insights into leadership development, and attend conferences and workshops that they believe will help. There comes a moment when one needs to pause and ask “Is what I am doing helping me become a great leader?” Often the answer is no; neither the system, nor the leadership model, nor the means suggested are working. Then it is time to stop and acknowledge that we must move in a different direction if we want to foster great leadership, and I offer the reflections in this book to challenge you to do that. If you are a person of good will and long to serve others by your leadership, there is every chance you can become a great leader, provided you focus on the appropriate preparation and consciously participate in the stages of growth indicated in the chapters ahead. This is a menu of floating ideas that can enrich your commitment.
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.
“Excellence begins with an exacting inner commitment to possibility; possibility sits very close to discipline.”
Mary Anne Rademacher-Hershey.
One of the key components of spiritual leadership is dedicated service. The spiritual leader draws on the inner values of his or her life and later makes the choice to serve others by a commitment to leadership. Spiritual leadership begins with an attitude, it is a form of service rather than service being an effective way to lead. It is easier to be a servant and to learn how to lead than it is to lead and then to learn how to serve.
From the very start of leadership one must be ready to live with an honest vulnerability. The leader recognizes that leadership is a gift and is always aware of his or her own weak and lonely experience of self. He or she knows there is strength in discipline but also in honest vulnerability. Leadership is not a way to power over others but a call to nurture the gifts of others. It means letting go of the desire to be always right, or to always have the answers. Successful leaders who admit their mistakes clearly earn more respect from their followers than do those who unsuccessfully try to hide them.
One quality that followers expect to see in their leaders before all others is inner integrity. Credibility is the foundation for leadership. Followers understand that how a person does something says a lot about his or her values. Leaders must continually ask themselves what grade on trust and credibility other colleagues on an administrative team or followers would give them.
Commitment to example can have a powerfully pervasive influence on an organization, even though it is generally haphazard and unsystematic. Modeling leadership is now viewed as one of the prime responsibilities of anyone in authority. So, acknowledge mistakes, avoid criticizing others, work hard and smart, refrain from office politics, stand up for principles you believe in, be open minded, diplomatic, positive in your attitudes, energetic in your work, a team player, and be enthusiastic, respectful of workers, and never become comfortable in your job.
An important complement to example is coaching and guiding participation. This kind of leader can identify the strengths of others and let go of his or her own position in favor of someone else’s. Such a leader can rejoice in other people’s growth in leadership rather than be threatened by it? Such a leader has the patience to wait for others to learn from example.
A further key component of quality leadership is the ability to create a climate of mutual trust. Without this an organization is filled with suspicion and vision is lost. A leader needs to treat everyone graciously and maintain trust with those above him or her and those below; at one time a leader and at another a follower, he or she enriches the organization with increased trust levels.
Influencing others to be visionaries is a part of the selfless dedication of a spiritual leader. This requires of the leader that he or she be present to others, giving time and effort to facilitating the surfacing of their vision, and also that he or she has the ability to clearly articulate a credible vision for the future, and to enthusiastically motivate others to join in that shared goal.