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
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.
2. APPRECIATE WHAT LIES BEYOND NORMAL HORIZONS OF LIFE
Some leaders are entrapped in the parameters they have established. They pace around inside their own cage, the stronger eating the weaker, and they call this success. Not only is there a world outside the narrow confines of current failed leaders, but genuine spiritual leadership is only found outside such confines. Other so-called leaders plod ahead like the Budweiser horses with blinders on, less they be distracted by realities around them. The vision pursued by the leader of hope lies beyond normal horizons in the plan of God. Such a leader must have a facility in rising from daily occurrences to make connections to transcendent values. This is one of the most practical things anyone can do, for thinking of the vision of promise gives clear understanding and directives for daily life and leadership.
When you see you are loved by someone, for no particular reason, you find that you are loveable and wonder why. Seeing what lies beyond normal horizons leads us to see and experience a loving God, and that experience changes all understandings of leadership and leads one to servant leadership. Some spiritual leaders and visionary mystics who have appreciated what lies beyond normal horizons of life speak of their vision as one of beauty.
1. When faced with decisions, not only ask how to do something, but also why.
2. Spend a little time each day in quiet reflection, empty of concerns, and ready to receive.
3. Look at things that surprise you in life and ask why.
4. Think about why you are loved and loveable.
5. Ask yourself for answers to puzzling attitudes you meet in leaders you know.
Leaders today must be men and women who can think, reflect, reintegrate, and transform the many aspects of their lives. Leadership is no longer based merely on knowledge, competence, and experience, unless these are linked with reflection that produces alternative ways of thinking and acting. In the past we tended to stress leaders who were doers and achievers not reflective thinkers. Today’s new models of leadership all demand critical reflection, imagination, and an openness to the unknown, the unexpected, and the unexplored. The source of real learning in one’s leadership is within and this implies the importance of reflection. Below are offered four suggestions to help one be more reflective.
STILLNESS: The major preparations for reflective leadership can be viewed as one’s personal contribution in attitudes of stillness, inspiration, concentration, and silence. Each of these is a gift and is also an acquired art that benefits both reflection and leadership. We need to specifically train ourselves in stillness of body. We need to sit still, do nothing and completely relax. For people of religious faith, any of the present techniques for relaxation which help in the acquiring of stillness in the presence of God can be used. This first simple stage should not be passed over. In our present speed-prone age, it can be a real effort. In the long run, it pays high dividends. Linked to this outward relaxed position should be deep and regular breathing. The stillness that reflection and prayer requires is also a fine attitude in daily life and leadership. People who are always rushing here and hurrying there are not noted for the quality of their presence to others, whether colleagues, family, or friends. No one can be consistently still in times of reflection, unless he or she can be still in the presence of others, giving them attention and interest. Stillness is not something that we can turn on for moments of reflection. Rather, it must be very gradually acquired through self- training and sacrifice. This effort to train oneself in stillness and to place oneself in the presence of God is a “prayer of the body.”
INSPIRATION. To facilitate the second step in reflection one needs, throughout daily life, to train oneself in openness to the varied and continual inspirations of the day from wherever they come. To help the development of the genuine spirit of inspiration we need to know ourselves as we are, with the good and weak sides, and express ourselves as we truly feel. If we hide or close ourselves to the unacceptable about ourselves this just becomes a block to our reflection and prayer. We also need to be open to being inspired by others and by the world; and here one need only apply the general principles of dialogue in openness to others and in the signs of the times.
If in times of reflection and prayer and decision-making in leadership we are able to show openness to inspiration, then it will be because we have developed in life this attitude of total attentiveness to the varied inspirations that come personally to us in our hearts, in others, in the world with its history and in daily events. If we have not a listening heart and not trained ourselves in the art of listening, then when a critical time of change and challenge comes it is humanly impossible for us just to switch on to becoming inspired or inspirational.
CONCENTRATION. Thirdly, we must train ourselves to concentrate, then in dealing with others or in discerning institutional direction we will be able to concentrate individually and with others in the challenging moments of life. Here again, we have an act of reflection and prayer which is an art and we can develop it by the way we approach other aspects of our daily leadership life. Therefore, as a remote preparation for reflection and prayer, try to develop concentration.
The ability to concentrate, which is also a common necessity in human growth, is something to be acquired by daily effort. Only short moments are needed, a few minutes while traveling, a view in the city, a scene in the country, a person’s face, a picture, a child—all can be objects of a moment’s concentration. On the other hand, listening intensely for a short while to a piece of music, or just one sound, or a bird, or a person’s voice, or the rustling of leaves—all can open us to concentrate on something we did not perceive before. This is the self training and remote preparation we need for reflection and prayer and a preparation to discover the best in others.
SILENCE IN GOD. The kernel of genuine reflection is silence, and of genuine prayer silence in God. There are several attitudes of daily life which can undoubtedly help and prepare the way for this recollected silence. Awareness to the quality of one’s presence to others and recollection are fundamental. Effort given to this reflective silence is generally more profitable for growth in reflection than is anything else. To these ought to be added a cultivated sense of wonder and astonishment. These qualities are often missing in life today, but if reflective leadership must also include an attitude of openness to the ever newness of others and of organizational growth, we will need a genuine sense of mystery and wonder to appreciate what is always ahead of us, always new, and our growing efforts at concentration will be an aid here. In this connection we need a healthy sense of aloneness, an awareness of our own unfulfillment except through others and in God—in other
words, the attitude of one who is a real searcher.
Above all, one needs patience and a willingness to wait. Sometimes in the reflective moments of a day we try to push ourselves—disliking emptiness, we return to the normal actions of each day at the first sign of “nothing happening.” Those who do wait are generally the ones who can come up with a new insight, can see links with vision and mission, and can see how every member of the group “fits in.” All these above attitudes are also aspects of daily life, and
living through them in daily life can be a preparation for reflection and an enrichment of our leadership skills. Nancy Eggert suggests four means to enter into contemplative experience: 1. Through appreciation of the material world (appreciation). 2. By letting go and letting be (detachment). 3. Through creative breakthroughs (creativity). 4. By means of social justice and compassion (compassion).
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.