There are many ways we can remotely prepare ourselves to become good spiritual leaders, and one of these is to concentrate on self-control.
In the last couple of decades, we have witnessed a lot of reckless, wanton uncontrolled greed—whether for money, power, ideological purity, and so on—from many managers who have destroyed financial institutions, healthcare organizations, service industries, religious priorities, and even nations. Some have even pleaded for government regulations or international interventions because they recognize that they cannot regulate themselves. They know they are out of control. As a leader you need to live ethically, with integrity, and this means first of all being able to control your own negative tendencies. This first step implies breaking away from self-centeredness through a regime similar to an exercise program; this self-control is a form of spiritual conditioning for one’s mind, spirit, and heart. Mature leaders generally know their own weaknesses, are aware of their own sinfulness, are sadly conscious of the basic evil in our world, and they know they need to develop self-control.
Self-control is really a re-education of one’s values, focusing on one’s central goodness and moving away from self-centeredness to other-centeredness. This requires reflection, charity towards others, identification of potential addictions, and moderation of one’s passions. All this requires a spirit of sacrifice, a commitment to avoid exaggerations, a monitoring of one’s time, and a willingness to reject comparisons with others for the satisfaction of one’s own presumed betterness. Spiritual leadership does not just happen. It demands a specific preparation that prudent people take to guarantee they will never become like the sick or inadequate leaders we have seen in recent years.
If you wish to become a spiritual leader you must limit negative concepts, attitudes, and behaviors in yourself. This gradual removal of the negative components of one’s life is a preparation to become a leader who serves others without ever evidencing these failures. These preliminary efforts include self-control in the use of food, drink, drugs, sex, or an exaggerated emphasis on one’s own comfort. It will also include the elimination of an acquisitive tendency, a possessive accumulation of things whether one needs them or not. This emphasis on possessiveness in money, goods, and services leads to a false exaggerated notion of one’s own importance. If you do not remove all these forms of self-gratification and self-centeredness, then your leadership is destined to failure.
REDISCOVER GREAT LEADERSHIP: Reflection 7–Let your leadership give the world something to think about
I offer an approach to leadership that will give the world something to think about. I just cannot take failed leadership anymore! I am fed up and disgusted with our “leaders” in all walks of life; angry at the disastrous situations in politics, at the disgusting aspects of business greed, at the pathetic loss of direction from religion. I know leadership development is always within constraints, but we have to stop this roller coaster, initiate a shake-up of leadership that for too long has been immersed in incompetence, corruption, and secrecy, and has done so much harm to all organizations including religion. We must insist that people in charge be leaders; but this might be too much to expect given the culture of arrogance, corruption, greed, and selfishness that we see all around us and the desperate need of pseudo leaders to preserve the status quo. The steady and relentless erosion of values, of service to the common good, of generous dedication, of a vocational response to God’s call, must be replaced by a renewed dedication to spiritual leadership and to these values. This will happen slowly at first, one step and one leader at a time, but it will be contagious, and eventually will reach a critical mass, and then lots of people will think of leadership in a different way.
Our contemporary world evidences both the “kingdom of darkness” and the “kingdom of light,” but the former seems much more powerful than the latter. Good leadership is rare. Current forms of leadership are not working; even small problems become intractable, and we lack people who can break through the barriers that prevent resolution of important issues in politics, social life, and religion. Key people in the world need to think about new visions, priorities, relationships, goals, means, and strategies. We must find leaders who can create interruptions in the way we have been thinking, force us to stop and reflect, and open us to something different. We need leaders who will not prolong the best of the present, but lead us to the future from a vision of hope. We need leaders who will not embody the worst of humanity, but lead with an awareness that there exist two horizons to life—this one and the one beyond. We need leaders who will not pursue their own selfish goals, but lead from love, justice, and mutual appreciation. We need leaders who will not be fixated with getting to the top, but lead through an extensive commitment to service of others.
There is always tension in leadership between the here and now and the there and then, between the already and the not yet. We need leaders with a new understanding of commitment, who work out of simplicity, who seek direction in contemplation, and who can unlock the potentials of the heart; leaders who act deliberately, always making decisions in light of what is the most loving thing to do. Their action is enlightened, they humbly revise all they do, and they are always involved in ongoing self-formation. The “kingdom of darkness” will not like this approach, but it is needed, and it is the focus of this book. Leaders today need always to review what constitutes good leadership and bad leadership.
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.
This book outlines a spirituality of leadership that challenges leaders to present a vision of hope to excite and empower others, to be prophets, mystics, charismatics, and healers to transform society and to effectively respond to the world that is desperate for leaders of hope.
“In Leonard Doohan’s new book Courageous Hope: The Call of Leadership the subtle and profound nature of true living comes to the fore. Elegant, powerful, and forthright, Doohan’s insights are imbued with good will and a robust sense of what is bouyant and ultimate even amidst the chaos and complexity of the current age. He strengthens our resolve. He restores our hope. And in an echo of Robert Frost, he is not only a teacher, but an awakener. May this book find you in a place where your will to grow is matched by an inner radiance to serve and help heal those around you… the reading will meet you there and the end result will be a gift to the world.”
Shann Ray Ferch, PhD, MFA., Professor and Chair, Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies,GonzagaUniversity. Author of the Bakeless Prize winning short story collection American Masculine, as well as The Spirit of Servant Leadership, and Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity
This is a book to sit with for awhile. Try it on. Read every word. Leaders stuck in the past, afraid to face the future, afraid to take a risk because they might be wrong need an infusion of Courageous Hope. People are not looking for a simple, blind-faith hope. They are looking for leaders with a deeper understanding of hope as described in this book. With Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins we see millions of refugees and displaced people around the world who live Dante’s inferno while they await leaders with strength to engage in what Dr. Doohan writes of courageous hope. This book obliges us to ask, “Do I have what it takes to lead with courageous hope? Many are counting on the answer.
Mary McFarland, PhD., International Director – Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins & Professor, Gonzaga University. Former Dean of undergraduate through doctoral program in Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, School of Professional Studies
The Need of Integrity
Recent years evidence a series of shifts in the values people expect to discover in their leaders. Among the shifts we see new emphases on others, on service, on collaboration, and on family values. Some values seem to be perennial, among which we find respect, honesty, and integrity. This shift in values is part of recent theories of leadership that emphasize followers’ attributions to leaders, seeing leader-follower relationships as critical to the understanding of leadership. Nowadays, people want to see that their leaders are genuine, do not need to defend every issue that is questioned, and can maintain their values with humility. Some followers trust a leader based on experience, nowadays followers trust as an act of faith in the sincerity of a leader’s proclaimed values. So, from this perspective, two attitudes are critical to leadership, personal integrity in relation to one’s vision of life, and integrity in relation to the organization’s primary values, issues, and loyalties.
People need to know that their leaders are credible and are true to themselves in what they convey by word and life. Integrity is a constitutive component of leadership. People want to have confidence in their leaders, knowing they will consistently live according to the vision and values they proclaim. Since being an agent of change is essential to leadership, people need to be assured that the individual leading them through change is a person of integrity in terms of the communal vision and values.
So, leadership needs to be an expression of a well developed and defined sense of vocational integrity. Wise transformational leaders who need to constantly deal with ambiguity, with change, and frequently with conflicting solutions need to be people of integrity. Then when they see solutions others do not see, their followers will still trust them. The indispensable quality for leadership that holds everything else together is integrity, the balance between personal and public life.