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.
KEY QUALITIES OF A SPIRITUAL LEADER
“If you want to reap the rewards that justice dictates must always fall to the victor, you must have the privilege of making a fundamental decision: to expand and empower people, not compress, repress, suppress, or depress them; to build on their strengths, not focus on their weaknesses.” (Joe Batten, “Servant Leadership: A Passion to Serve,” in Insights on leadership, Larry Spears, ed. (New York: Wiley, 1994), 41
The vision of being a contemporary leader is something you need to care about passionately, for while leadership can be exhausting, stressful, and rigorous, it is for the dedicated few a “disciplined passion.” It is an enthusiasm from within, since people always want from you that part of you they do not pay for, your creativity, vision, enthusiasm, and integrity. Spiritual leadership is not a pious Christian reflection, it is the center of contemporary reflections on leadership. We must refocusing our understanding of leadership to stress inner values of the spirit. Peter Koestenbaum wrote that “Leadership is a conversion experience. It is a new alertness. It is a ‘snap’ in the mind to a fresh reality. This is a breakthrough theme. Its models are religion, art, politics, and love” (Leadership the Inner Side of Greatness, p. 50). Once you see leadership as an inner spiritual journey, a personal call and vision of life, rather than a position of authority, or the accumulation of power, influence and wealth, then both the scholar and practitioner must ask different questions, see hiring, training and evaluation in new ways, reinterpret the meaning of success and effectiveness, and look to organizational development in new ways. Leadership is no longer a matter of skills and accomplishments, rather it focuses on the ultimate meaning of life, it deals with destiny and one’s role in the universe. When you become aware of the plethora of books on leadership, most of which have taken a wrong focus, we must challenge ourselves to go beyond questions of technique to ask deeper, more fundamental questions about leadership; those that address philosophy and speak to human core values. Leadership is not simply what we do, but who we are, and what we do because of who we are. Thus, we see that leadership theory has changed focus and much of it is now centers on leadership that emerges from a spiritual commitment. Fairholm captures this change well when he speaks of spiritual leadership as exemplified in servant leadership, “The new spiritual leadership paradigm sees transformation of self, others and the organization as important, even critical. This new leadership model is that of the servant leader. Servant leadership is not an oxymoron, it is a juxtaposition of apparent opposites to startle the seeker of wisdom” (Capturing the Heart of Leadership, p. 26).