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REDISCOVER GREAT LEADERSHIP: Reflection 5

Focus on who you are as a leader.

We generally presume that leadership is what you do, I am interested in who you are. Leadership makes things happen and works to achieve common goals. There are multiple approaches and no singular formula for success. There are many incarnations of leadership, and we can learn so much from them. However, many who have the skills of leadership have turned out to be total failures as leaders. Even now there are so many “leaders” who are burdens to society, and there are not many honorable resignations from the failed leaders of contemporary organizations. Their addiction to greed in money, power, position, prestige, condemns followers to a limbo, and such people are blocks the emergence of true leaders.

Leadership is not determined by what you do but by who you are. What you then do is a result of the inner values that have transformed your life. Authentic leadership touches every aspect of one’s personality. What a leader does results from the fact that he or she is a reflective and contemplative person, hears a call and responds to it, lives with integrity, works for a shared vision, and makes choices based on spiritual values. The leadership journey is a way of transmitting one’s deepest and most cherished values. Such a leader is competent, motivates followers to values such as justice, service, community, and love. We can all gain so much from contemporary insights into leadership; they are great but inadequate. Today’s leader must go deep within himself or herself to find the authentic self, a purpose in life, and personal destiny, for leadership is who you are and not just what you do.

We need men and women to wish to integrate their leadership with the values they hold dear in the depths of their hearts. It is an invitation to think about oneself and the kind of leader one wishes to become. For such people leadership is a way of living one’s humanity; it is not an add-on, or something one does for a while, in a job; it is the one and only way a man or woman lives. By always living inspired by values of vision and hope he or she will impact those around. Thus, one gives oneself to the service of others as the only way to be authentically present to this world. Leadership is a response to a call felt deep within one’s inner spirit and it requires that a person embody this call in a personal vision of life.

 

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A NEW BOOK ON SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP  

Spiritual Leadership Cover

How to Become a Great Spiritual Leader: Ten Steps and a Hundred Suggestions

This is a book for daily reflection. It has a single focus—how to become a great spiritual leader. It is a book on the spirituality of a leader’s personal life. It presumes that leadership is a vocation, and that it results from an inner transformation. The book proposes ten steps that individuals can take to enable this process of transformation, and a hundred suggestions to make this transformation real and lasting. It is a unique book in the literature on leadership. This book is a challenge to think about leadership in a new way. People who follow these steps will give the world something to think about regarding what leadership ought to be and can be.

1. Rediscover great leadership.

2.  Emphasize remote preparation

3. Set a new direction for your leadership

4. Accept your vocation of leadership

5. Implement your call in a vision

6. Live your vision with courage and perseverance

7.  Establish supports for your spiritual leadership

8.  Evaluate your leadership: an artist’s  challenge

9. Work with your followers-disciples.

10. Accept ten personal reflections

This book is the third in a series on leadership. The first, Spiritual Leadership: The Quest for Integrity gave the foundations of leadership today. The second, Courageous Hope: The Call of Leadership, gave the contemporary characteristics and qualities of leadership. This third book focuses on the spirituality of the leader.

Leonard Doohan’s books on leadership have been described as “highly readable,” “profound and caring,” “clear and challenging,” “a profound guidebook for leaders of the future,” “beyond or better beneath many current volumes,” “elegant, powerful, forthright.”  Commentators have said “I highly recommend,” “He strengthens our resolve,” “Read every word,” “He restores our hope,” “Learn how to this kind of leader.”

This book is available from amazon.com

Spiritual Leaders Coach Their Followers Carefully

 

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.

Several Suggested Practices for a Spiritual Leader (Fourth)

4. A SPIRITUAL LEADER ASKS QUESTIONS NOONE ELSE DOES

Leadership deals with establishing the vision of hope in our contemporary human communities. This means going beyond what leaders have done in the past. It means struggling with more fundamental questions, living in a state of sustained dissatisfaction with what has been achieved, looking to the future in hope, and being willing to live with the tensions of human frailty in its search for the best human values and for God. All this will mean new ways of looking at the world, new experiments in community interaction, and new percolating structures. Leadership questions today are philosophical and theological. How does what I do affect the human community? How do my decisions reflect God’s plan for humanity? Am I maturing as a human being through my leadership? Am I aware of my covenant with the organization I serve and of the organization’s covenant with its customers, shareholders, and so on? Do I serve the common good? Do my colleagues and I reflect the best of humanity? Does my leadership image the past or explore the future?

When a leader of hope makes decisions, he or she should ask why am I doing this, not only in the short term but in the long term too. In later life will I be proud of what I do today?

What are the alternatives that we can use to achieve our goals equally well but which do more good?

The leader of hope constantly asks self, is what I do in keeping with the best of who we are as human beings?

5. Suggestions:

1. Question yourself on the reasons for your decisions.

2. Do not offer answers until you have exhausted the questions.

3. See yourself and encourage others to see you as a person who asks questions not as someone who gives answers.

4. Ask questions about the future not the past.

5. Ask beyond and beneath what others ask.

Several Suggested Practices for a Spiritual Leader (Third)

3. SPIRITUAL LEADERS THINK, MEDITATE, AND CONTEMPLATE

Leaders of hope are men and women of wisdom who make their judgments based on a combination of conceptual thinking, imaginative skills, an artistic sense, intuition, contemplative insight, and the system and community skills of love. These components of decision-making imply new ways of thinking, meditating, and contemplating. Nowadays we no longer value leaders who can make snap judgments, but those who think things through and make correct judgments. We have no use for the so-called leader who makes “those tough decisions,” but one who thinks of every alternative and of everyone involved, and comes up with a decision that is hope-filled in difficult times. We value leaders who have intellectual curiosity.

The spiritual leader of hope is not satisfied only with thinking, but learns to discover and appreciate deeper levels of meaning through meditation. Meditation is discursive thought but gradually becomes a form of prayerful reflection on concrete matters to determine how things ought to be done according to the vision of promise. Gradually, this process becomes simpler until it is a form of centering mind and heart on the issues.

5. Suggestions:

1. As a spiritual leader you should make judgments you can live with and die with.

2. Train yourself to leave aside prejudice in decision-making.

3. Learn a simple method of meditation; if necessary find a teacher.

4. Think of the consequences in others’ lives of what you do.

5. Besides preparing yourself with research and analysis for your work as a leader, also ready your heart and soul.

Something leaders can do immediately

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.

The Dark Night of Leadership

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
leadership.

A New Kind of Leadership

We have gone through a trying decade in leadership. So many leaders today work in situations of ambiguity, tension, and often despair (“despair” comes from Latin and means “no hope”). They see failed leadership all around them, incompetent politicians, irresponsible boards, and greedy CEOs. In the eyes of many, today’s leaders fail to cope with the big issues, have lost people’s confidence, and people dislike them. Our world of leadership is depressing, it lacks accountability, so-called leaders burden their followers with their incompetence and then leave, and fear is made systemic. We are surrounded with wars, economic failures, organizational disasters, immorality, political processes that do not work, and a loss of meaning in many organizations we had formerly cherished—all the result of failed leadership. Many followers just do not believe it can get any worse; people are losing resilience and vitality. No one can lead when surrounded with so much negativity towards leadership, but we must find and cultivate leaders who can move us in a new direction, inspire us and draw us to a worthwhile future, and thereby give meaning to our present and provoke a hope for change. We desperately need a new kind of leader, a spiritual leader to bring us to a new era of leadership.