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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.

Leadership and integrity

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.

Caring passionately about the kind of leader you are

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).

Focus on Inner Values

NEW EMPHASIS ON SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP

The common thread found in the proliferation of leadership studies today is that leadership is not leadership in the way we have typically understood it. . . . Leadership is no longer the result of skills but of inner values, of heart and or spirit. (Spiritual Leadership: The Quest for Integrity (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 35.

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.

Life in Fidelity to Inner Values

Spirituality refers to the human effort to become a person in the fullest sense of the word, to develop one’s authentic self. This effort filled experience has been referred to as climbing a ladder to higher levels,  following a river as it winds towards its own mature union with the ocean, or as the climbing of a mountain, but most of all as a journey filled with ups and downs but satisfying at the end. Spirituality is the ordering of our lives so that we continually grow in positive ways. It embraces all of life, leaving nothing out, and makes of us all well-balanced, well-rounded, well-integrated human beings, personally, socially, and cosmically. So, spirituality embraces all of life, making sure that every facet of life responds to the inner call to live fully at any given moment. This implies that spirituality is all about relationships, with oneself, with other people, with communities, with the world around us, and with God. It is the ordering of our lives so that the values of the inner self shine forth in all we do. Spirituality is not some non-descript emotional feeling of piety and religious devotion, but it takes as its starting point the concrete circumstances of our daily lives; our lived experience in the world we know. It is a journey in which the best values of humanity help give direction to life and help one advance towards achieving the enrichment of an adult personality. It refers to one’s entire life based upon decisions that show fidelity to the inner motivation of life, and so it is integral to leadership.