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.
Integrity is directly linked to the pursuit of excellence. Persons who are really in touch with themselves make the best leaders. They evidence dignity in their service of others and appear to others as having healthy self esteem, socially satisfied, and fulfilled. They are known for their abiding sense of excellence, inner directedness, integrity, and commitment. These moral leaders are creators and stewards of core values; while always sensitive to the needs of followers, they above all stand tall for the values of the organization. They affirm, regenerate and renew institutions. They freely choose their own identity, and it includes to be known for integrity. They constantly foster trust, maintain open communication, and can let go of their own control to others. They are aware that their leadership has lasting value on their own lives, the quality of their work, the development of their community, and society in general. Such leaders gain stature among their peers, respect from superiors, even when they do not agree, admiration from people who do not share their views, and personal vocational fulfillment. Leaders who have integrity can handle conflict well for they are always willing to learn and always ready to treat others with understanding and compassion. They can relieve anger in a group by allowing discussion of the “undiscussible,” in fact, they can do the same with their opposition. Having worked hard for something and even been committed to it, they can also conclude with inner freedom and a non-defensive approach “this reality is no longer acceptable.”
Motivated by authenticity, ethical sensibility, and genuine spirituality, leaders of integrity are people of inner serenity and peace, resist being controlled, learn to skillfully neglect the petty or inauthentic values of their own organizations, find common ground with all kinds of groups, and can give comfort or create disturbance as appropriate. They love the institutions they lead and at the same time maintain a healthy skepticism toward them. Their authenticity and integrity lift the spirits of everyone and give hope to followers and community around them.
Followers give power and authority to people of integrity (referent power), they are proud of their organization, feel a genuine sense of ownership of it, and experience team spirit with the leader. Perhaps the greatest result in the lives of leaders of integrity is that they transform their institutions through ongoing conversion. Facilitating institutional conversion is a leader’s primary task and is impossible without individual integrity. It needs to be clear to followers what the leader stands for and that he or she will be firmly dedicated to the mission and vision.
Integrity is not a word we frequently use for today’s leaders. Many leaders today lack integrity and transparency, and we hear denunciations of corruption too often for comfort. integrity requires courage to speak the truth, to accept one’s own independence and autonomy, to honestly present the implications of a vision, and to faithfully persevere in the demands of a vision even when it means standing alone. Integrity includes accepting one’s own blind spots and failures. Integrity is primarily an inner self-knowledge but also refers to followers’ perception that leaders’ values and actions match their words. It is a form of holistic living. Leading holistically also means living one’s life motivated by a set of core values that place a high priority on integrity, service, and spirituality. Integrity includes being absolutely candid and evidencing intellectual honesty in the things one says, consistency in dealing with others, honesty in handling conflict. It implies accepting what we have been and imagining what we can be. It is the spiritual discipline of always speaking the truth, of making sure we do what we claim we will do, and of being ready to hold on to the course of action. When a person has integrity he or she gains trust. However, the integrity must involve every aspect of one’s life—personal, relational, organizational, and societal.
This basic leadership ingredient is an added value to competence. It is beyond expertise and motivation, it is the honesty that one’s core beliefs guide one’s decision-making in leadership. It requires self-acceptance, truthfulness, fortitude, and inner peace. It establishes congruence between one’s inner and outer reality. Individuals earn the right to be called leaders when people find authentic unity between their organizational and professional commitment and their spiritual lives. In fact, a person is not free to lead unless he or she understands humanity, its nature, feelings, processes, and inner yearnings for self-actualization.
Leaders of integrity bring quality presence to all they do. Aware of their own stature as leaders, sensitive to their obligations to others in society, they can peacefully face the falsity and dark side of themselves, of their communities, and of society. Because of their integrity they can attain the characteristics of a successful leader, namely one who can challenge the process, inspire a shared vision, enable others to act, model the way, and encourage the heart of the followers. Let us hope for more leaders of integrity.
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.
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.
THE TRANSITION AND CONVERSION TO SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP
Leaders today must be willing to go through a conversion and become different leaders than they have ever been before. This is a crisis of confidence in what the leader has so far been doing; it is a sense of loss that former successes no longer mean anything; it is the death of past values and the willingness to let them die for they are based on a vision that is too small. The leader who goes through this spiritual experience of passage from a set of old values to a set of new values feels the ground beneath him or her is giving way. He or she grasps that there is more to life than meeting goals and objectives, increasing profits, satisfying shareholders, marketing a successful product or service. People, community, justice, others’ fulfillment, love, and changing the values of society are all more important. All good leaders achieve the former, spiritual leaders also achieve the latter. The transition is a painful conversion, but we desperately need people willing to endure it and participate in the transformation. Leadership must change! We cannot continue with the innumerable failures of recent years. The ashes of previous leadership styles are in the grate, and there is no phoenix to emerge.
The transition through which a good leader passes in becoming a spiritual leader is a dark night. This term, “dark night,” comes from the poetry and commentaries of the Spanish, Christian mystic, John of the Cross, who was also a dynamic and multi-talented organizational leader. The dark night is a stage in spiritual life when one begins to see things in a different way than one ever has before. Sometimes a person cannot see because everything around is dark, but on other occasions a person cannot see because of the brightness of illumination—like standing in the headlights of an on-coming car. “Dark night” for John is the latter experience, and so, for a leader this night can be an illumination of the direction of authentic leadership. The transition to a new level of leadership is an experience of darkness that enables the leader to stop seeing in one way and to start seeing things in a new way. We discover that leadership is not what we thought it was; that leaders do not act in the way we thought they should; that good followers do not react in the ways we thought they would.
These experiences at first shock us, leave us discouraged, and give us a sense of failure in having spent life dedicated to the wrong values. A leader must savor the pain of this loss for he or she must become convinced in the depths of soul that former values are inadequate. For a Christian believer it is God who draws us to a new way of life, fills us with the new values of the vision of promise, and sets us on a new direction in
Spirituality refers to the human effort to become a person in the fullest sense of the word, to develop one’s authentic self. This effort filled experience has been referred to as climbing a ladder to higher levels, following a river as it winds towards its own mature union with the ocean, or as the climbing of a mountain, but most of all as a journey filled with ups and downs but satisfying at the end. Spirituality is the ordering of our lives so that we continually grow in positive ways. It embraces all of life, leaving nothing out, and makes of us all well-balanced, well-rounded, well-integrated human beings, personally, socially, and cosmically. So, spirituality embraces all of life, making sure that every facet of life responds to the inner call to live fully at any given moment. This implies that spirituality is all about relationships, with oneself, with other people, with communities, with the world around us, and with God. It is the ordering of our lives so that the values of the inner self shine forth in all we do. Spirituality is not some non-descript emotional feeling of piety and religious devotion, but it takes as its starting point the concrete circumstances of our daily lives; our lived experience in the world we know. It is a journey in which the best values of humanity help give direction to life and help one advance towards achieving the enrichment of an adult personality. It refers to one’s entire life based upon decisions that show fidelity to the inner motivation of life, and so it is integral to leadership.