Several suggested practices for a spiritual leader
In the next couple of weeks I would like to offer several practices for anyone who wishes to become a spiritual leader. You can call them practices or even attitudes that result from frequently repeating these practices. These set aside an individual as possibly a great leader. The eight suggestions are the following:
1. MOURN LEADERSHIP’S FAILURES.
2. APPRECIATE WHAT LIES BEYOND NORMAL HORIZONS.
3. THINK, MEDITATE, CONTEMPLATE.
4. ASK QUESTIONS NOONE ELSE DOES.
5. TEACH A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF COMMITMENT.
6. UNLOCK THE POTENTIALS OF THE HEART.
7. CREATE INTERRUPTIONS.
8. MOTIVATE PEOPLE TO MOTIVATE THEMSELVES.
Today we consider just the first one:
1. MOURN LEADERSHIP’S FAILURES
It is frequently heartbreaking to follow the daily news. So many problems have lasted for decades, they are well-known, but deliberately left unaddressed because leaders cannot or will not confront them. We live in a culture of greed, clinging to power, and arrogance. Servant leaders see these as the opposite of what they want to embody. We are immersed in malfunctioning and sick leadership, and the sickness is contagious. When we think about mourning we refer to something that pains us to think about it; it is a loss that tears at our hearts; it is a pain that stays with us; you just wish things were different and what happened never occurred. This is how a servant leader responds to today’s failures.
The basic steps in mourning leadership’s failures are: 1. Acknowledge the failures. 2. Think about and even savor the harm bad leadership has done. 3. Disassociate yourself from it. 4. Examine your own life for traces of failures and get rid of them. 5. Express the sorrow of your heart for the harm and injustice done to others. 6. Move on with changed attitudes or move away from the corrupt structure in which you have found yourself.
1. As leaders, never support greedy, selfish, unethical leaders.
2. Beware of the company you keep, and stay away from people whose values you despise and whose leadership you do not wish to imitate.
3. Never accept promotion in your leadership if you must prostitute your values to get it.
4. Every day spend some time thinking about those who suffer because of failed leadership.
5. Remind yourself often of your own failures as leaders and lament and mourn them.
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.
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).