Leading from Within – Spiritual Leadership
We are part of what we lead and we do not lead independent of ourselves. We cannot stand apart from what we lead. We do not lead then follow as leading and following are closely tied together. This is a derivation from the Heisenberg principle in Quantum Physics, where observers are part of measurement. Leadership, therefore, can and must come from everywhere in the organization.
Leadership failure is not so much a failure of ethics as it is a failure of human wholeness. It is my growing conviction, that after it is all said and done, after all the leadership theory and tools have been studied, leaders ultimately lead according to who they are. Leadership is deeply personal. Let‘s linger, for a moment, on the implications of this assertion. If leaders are unwell, weary, unhappy, or demoralized, their followers will suffer. The consequences of leading without integrity are dreadful, especially for those who follow. The following represents a call to introspection, reflection, and learning to all who are open.
Spiritual Leadership is About…
Whenever you put the adjective “spiritual” in front of anything else, that may signal one of two things, or both. “Spiritual” can mean “pertaining to matters of the human spirit,” or it can mean “pertaining to God, who is Spirit.” There is a horizontal dimension of spiritual leadership, and a vertical. On the horizontal dimension, whenever leaders respect the remarkable dignity of man as created in the image of God–and do so with discernment and wisdom–we witness something far better than leaders being mere influencers. And on the vertical dimension, when leaders believe that the Supreme God of the Universe is the only enduring influence in people’s lives, and the only one who can define what should happen in people’s lives–then something truly distinctive happens.
Because spiritual leadership recognizes the noble intent in the creation of human beings (i.e. “Souls”), and recognizes the Supreme God’s purpose to be the real influencer of human life, it is a form of leadership that ends up addressing all of life.
Spiritual Leadership is about People
Leadership is complicated because people are complicated. You have to decide when to tell people what to do, versus when to teach them principles so that they can figure out what to do. You have to figure out the goal or destiny of what you are aiming at. In an organization, it may be a short term measurable goal.
Spiritual Leadership is about Life
Spiritual leadership is challenging because it is about life itself. All of life. People need help with their relationships, families, sins, addictions, jobs, money. They need to have discipline when things are going well in life, and they need survival techniques when they are in the middle of chaos. People want to know whom they can believe, what they can expect in the future, and whether anyone cares for them–the big three questions of faith, hope, and love. Spiritual leadership, in other words, is an opportunity to help people flourish, to live the good life that God has given us. Grateful people will look back across the years and say to those who were their spiritual leaders: “Thank you, you made a huge difference in my life, what you said was a turning point for me.”
And it is no different for organizations, because they are simply collections of people. Offices that work well are like families that work well. Not that an office is the same thing as a family, but the core human dynamics of trust, communication, understanding, expectations are all the same.
Spiritual leadership is about life, because if you are going to tell people how to live, you have to live that way yourself. LIVE BY EXAMPLE. Leaders motivate people to work hard and well if that is modeled in the leader. People watch how a leader handles criticism, works through crises, handles personal shortcomings, rises to an opportunity, descends to help someone hidden.
Spiritual Leadership is about Values
All of us spend our time and energies on the things we value the most. Spiritual leadership is about helping people shape their basic values according to what God values. We need to value the important people in our lives, and to make time for them. We should value life-transformation in the people we lead. God’s creation should be a value because Scriptures make it clear that God fashioned the universe as a way of displaying his glory and power. Spiritual vitality is to see all of God’s work, the visible and the invisible, as a display of his glorious nature. If our leadership is not based on values and does not impart values, the effects will be short-lived.
Spiritual Leadership is about Priorities
In a world of infinite possibilities, we need spiritual leadership to sort out the good from the bad, or between good, better, and best. Spending habits, media consumption, associations, commitments, entertainment, lifestyle decisions are all spiritual matters. God has something to say about it all. The question is whether leaders will understand how they can best guide people into the best spiritual decisions they can make.
Spiritual Leadership is about Actions
People need help managing their actions. For many of us our standard response when someone asks how we are doing is to say, “I have been so busy…” This is a useless statement. It says nothing about how our actions are achieving our intended goals, it signals that we may be having problems disciplining our lives, and it may even be a small badge of honor we are flashing. Busyness and stress are two problem areas that we turn into merit. We must stop complaining about being too busy and fix what needs fixing. Otherwise how are we going to help people who are looking for leaders who can show them how to manage life?
Spiritual leadership means many people serving all people in issues regarding all of life. Spiritual leadership is all-encompassing. No wonder it is so rewarding, and so challenging at the same time. How much better the world would be if all of us–religious leaders, business leaders, educators, community leaders, medical and legal professionals, parents–used all the tools available to us as we help people, made in the image of God, come under the enduring influence of God. And why would we want to do anything else?
A person’s spirit is the vital principle or animating force traditionally believed to be the intangible, life affirming force in self and all human beings. It is a state of intimate relationship with the inner self of higher values and morality as well as recognition of the truth of the inner nature of people. Spiritual leadership taps into the fundamental needs of both leader and follower for spiritual survival so they become more organizationally committed and productive.
Spiritual leadership is an intrinsically motivating force that enables people to feel alive, energized, and connected with their work. It is this force that translates spiritual survival into feelings of attraction, fascination, fun, and caring for work and people in the work environment into committed and productive organizational behavior.
The ultimate effect of spiritual leadership is to bring together or create a sense of fusion among the four fundamental forces of human existence (body, mind, heart, and spirit) so that people are motivated for high performance, have increased organizational commitment, and personally experience joy, peace, and serenity.
Leaders who neglect the spiritual dimension are likely to make decisions marked by expediency that can jeopardize the business’s mission, betray its values, alienate its stakeholders, and waste the organizational resources that will be needed for its growth. Quick fixes, including blind, across-the-board budget cuts, the sale of property, and staff cuts may offer quick, practical, and temporary relief during a crisis, but when they are made without the benefit of contemplative reflection they may create larger and enduring problems. Spiritually discerning leaders know this and call attention to the spiritual issues at stake, remind their stakeholders of their mission, and insist that the mission shape the decisions made.
Please tune into my weekly radio talk this Saturday December 13, 2014 for an in-depth analysis on the challenges of Spiritual Leadership.