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REDISCOVER GREAT LEADRSHIP: Reflection 9

Emphasize the Christian dimensions of your leadership.

I want to emphasize the specifically Christian contribution to leadership. Jesus Christ is a model of what leadership can be. His action of washing the disciples’ feet epitomized his approach to servant leadership. He described himself as a good shepherd who was always willing to lay down his life for his followers. He insisted that all his followers must, like him, be ready to serve others and never seek to be served by others. Jesus’ life and ministry offer us the major components of a model of leadership that is still valid today. Jesus’ leadership was based on a spiritual experience and before each period in Jesus’ ministry we find him immersed in a close relationship with God, a specific experience that prepared for the period ahead. Jesus led by calling people together in loving solidarity; he never focused just on those with whom he worked, but influenced everyone with whom he came in contact. The vision Jesus pursued implied change at all levels of society, in fact he offered a new comprehensive way of looking at life, as he sought not only personal transformation but societal transformation too. One of the characteristics of Jesus’ leadership was that he rarely dealt with the powerful people of his day—except to denounce their corruption, rather he empowered others, especially the fainthearted, poor, and uneducated. He gave no priority to status, power, wealth, or privilege, but gave voice to everyone. He broke stereotypes, rejected social boundaries, and accepted diversity. In fact, his leadership went well beyond religious renewal to include a comprehensive reform of political, economic, and social systems.

In a Christian vision of leadership, people are first, not products or processes. This means trust, vision, hope, and spirit are a leader’s primary qualities. It requires that leaders need energy, enthusiasm, creativity, combined with humility if they are to serve the common good. These leaders will be trusted and trusting, inspired and inspiring, transformed and transforming, healed and healing, influenced by a vision and influencing others to be visionaries, and motivated by hope while bringing hope to others.

In a Christian vision of leadership the intangibles of leadership are more important than the tangibles. The former are constitutive components of leadership, the latter are means, techniques, skills, and strategies. Leadership training has generally focused on the latter, seeing those components as the real, hard issues of leadership development. This has been an incorrect emphasis and has led us down the wrong path. The intangibles, often considered the vague, soft issues of leadership, are very important. They create a new environment, a new sense of purpose, a new spirit of community, a new commitment to shared vision and values, and all these components are important in contemporary leadership. They are not secondary but integral to leadership success and moreover they significantly affect the bottom line in any company.

Insights of the Christian tradition must permeate all we do, as we immerse ourselves in developmental stages in spiritual leadership. This approach ca be enlightening, challenging, and irresistible for those who sense a vocation to leadership. When all is said and done, leaders are disciples, followers of the Servant Leader

REDISCOVER GREAT LEADERSHIP: Reflection 2: Desire to become a great leader.

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.

Leaders who know when it is time to retire

A great leader knows when it is time to retire. However, we all know lots of leaders who don’t know when to go, leave space for others, and move into a healthy retirement. So, I wrote this book for a new kind of retiree–including the baby-boomer generation–leaders who seeks to deal with retirement years not as an end of usefulness but as a major period in life with its own challenges that need practical responses and depth of understanding. Christian spirituality refers to the way we life our daily lives in the challenge of faith. Clearly, the years of retirement offer the most important occasion for each of us to respond to the challenge of making a new beginning.

This book is a practical guide for those retirees who are about to retire, or who have recently retired. Filled with the experiences of retirees, it offers anecdotes, thoughtful reflections, helpful insights, and ways to live this important and what-should-be-enjoyable stage of life. Leaders must discover how to approach this period in life–now as much as a third of life for many–with enthusiasm, anticipation, creativity, and enjoyment as the best and blessed time of our lives.

The new outlook that retirees need to have willinlcude the following components.

1. Live in peace and not with the worries of former times.

2. Focus on new attitudes beyond those of the employment years.

3. Look at the enriching opportunities of relaxation and leisure.

4. Keep and eye on creative self-development.

5. Look at life as an opportunity to sharfe wisdom and experience with others.

6. Get the best out of life, not more.

7. Follow the sirection of the Spirit.

8. Maintain wellness, and let the quality of life determine these important years.

Some Key Qualities of Spiritual Leadership (Part II)

SPIRITUALITY AND SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP

The leader must develop strategies to foster self-leadership in followers. It will require that a leader have trust in self and be peaceful about his or her own leadership; it will require that a leader spend quality time with followers, facilitating others’ leadership. It begins by insisting that followers take responsibility for their own effective performance and avoid common responses of blaming others for failure. A great leader is always ready to step back and welcome the birth of new leadership in former followers.

Every leader will always be confronted with the question of   reliability in moments of truth. Followers will examine how a leader spends time, what questions he or she asks, how he  or she reacts to critical incidents, what he or she rewards, and so on. These are among the critical moments of truth in which a leader manifests or betrays what he or she really thinks. In other words when one’s defenses are down, what are one’s real values?

Inspiring commitment to the shared vision brings together many of the values of a gifted leader. While truthful, competent, and decisive, the leader must also be a source of inspiration to search for a long-term future beyond the restrictions of the present. A vision that is worth effort  can only be attained by people working together. So, a leader has to turn followers loose, give them enough room, and let them build up parts of the vision that the leader never envisioned alone.

Showing love and encouragement is the essential for spiritual leadership, and the spiritual leader’s love shows itself in deep understanding of others, in sharing ideas and information, in giving and receiving emotional support, in giving help to others and also letting them know that they are needed. Loving and encouraging approaches are more effective than are adversarial ones, and give the leader far more ability to influence others and draw the best out of them.

The spiritual leader makes sure that other people’s needs are being served, that followers are growing as people under his or her leadership. A good leader takes care of followers and is not taken care of by them. This caring for followers must be practical too, leaders must make sure that they give followers what they need, rather than constantly cutting budgets and removing resources. Every person in a leadership position must ask if they have looked after others’ needs or their own. When a leader cares for followers he or she will motivate them more easily.

Criticizing constructively, while always reinforcing the self-leadership of followers is a skill that is not easy to develop. The leader who can’t facilitate constructive criticism has problems ahead. A good leader is sensitive to the timing of criticism and can thus bring up the negative at the right time to see its potential for betterment.

In recent years we have seen many leadership failures in top administrators whose greed and total disregard of others became one of business’ greatest scandals. Bearing the pain of an organization’s growth and struggles is also a component of spiritual leadership. A leader will need to name the pain, search for response, and facilitate healing. Great leaders do not emerge from a situation that is without conflict or struggle. Rather great leaders surface in times of adversity.

The leader who is motivated by the thrill of faith can excite others with the shared vision by generating enthusiasm in all they do together. Enthusiasm comes from the Greek words meaning “in God” for the spiritual leader is motivated by a faith that enthuses others, nurtures their optimism and passion. Leaders today are known for their inspiration, heart, inner spirit, and energy — qualities that help maintain momentum in an organization’s pursuit of a vision.

Some Key Qualities of Spiritual Leadership (Part I)

SPIRITUALITY AND LEADERSHIP

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.