In previous contributions I have addressed ideas relating to spiritual leadership. From the perspective of this approach to leadership, some common ideas and sayings are actually false.
Here are 12…
1) Leaders Empower Others
The idea that leaders empower others is well-intentioned but it is a fallacy. Other people already have tremendous power, leaders simply free them to use the power and skills they already have. So, the leader focuses not on empowerment if that implies giving away power, but liberation.
As John Gardner pointed out:
“Leaders are almost never as much in charge as they are pictured to be, followers almost never as submissive as one might imagine.” That influence and pressure flow both ways is not a recent discovery.
2) Leaders Lead Others
Likewise the frequently stated concept that the task of the leader is to lead others is now simply old fashioned. The leader recognizes that the self-leadership of employees is the organization’s greatest untapped natural resource.
So, he or she does not lead directly but facilitates self-leadership in others. Let people lead themselves, in most cases they do not need you.
3) Not Tolerating Dissent
A frequently heard fallacy is that an organization cannot tolerate dissent. An organization needs the energizing value of dissent. It is silence, passivity and apathy that are bad. We need active teams with critical thinking and collaborative skills.
The leader does not encourage silent support but discussion and disagreement.
4) Management Sustaining Leadership
Some individuals who are inexperienced in organizational development think that management skills will sustain leadership. This is not so! Management obsolescence is now a given.
Managers rapidly become obsolete as their established methods grow old.
What Dr. Demming pointed out a long time ago is still true that management causes 85% of all problems in an organization. The spiritual leader appreciates that management leads to compliance, whereas leadership leads to shared values in a common vision.
5) Learning Collaboration
Many immature leaders mistakenly think that an individual can learn collaboration. It is not that simple. You must first unlearn non-collaboration before collaboration can begin.
This is the pain of conversion.
So, for the spiritual leader there can be no collaborative methods on top of an uncollaborative attitude or structure.
6) Leaders as Separate
In times when people saw leadership as genetic and embodied in the great person theory, they felt that the leader stands apart from the organization. Clearly that is no longer the case.
The leader must be a part of the organization and not apart from it.
Hierarchy is still the dominant model of organizational behavior and structure. Often when people talk about collaboration, they mean a collaborative approach within a hierarchical structure.
The word “hierarchy” means sacred and gives the manager the status of high priest.
This is a dysfunctional form of leadership today.
So, the spiritual leader is not apart from but an integral part of the institution.
7) Top as Leader?
An interesting fallacy is that if you are on top, you are the leader. No! Spiritual leaders surface anywhere in the organization, and it has nothing to do with superior position.
Leadership is not a position, or job, or place in the structure, it is a process and commitment, an attitude to life.
The spiritual leader knows that no position gives leadership, only a single-minded commitment to grow does.
8) Controlling Development
Leaders must control the organization’s development. An astounding fallacy! “Leaders know that the more they control others, the less likely it is that people will excel. Leaders do not control. They enable others to act” (Kounzes and Posner).
Control guarantees the diminishment of excellence.
A great leader is one who senses the future mission and direction in the expressions of followers. So, no control, but yes for guided freedom.
9) Power is Limited
In times of reaction to more participative forms of government it is still heard that power is limited. Power can be shared, it is expandable. Remember that powerlessness corrupts and absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely and produces the loss of commitment and common vision.
The spiritual leader does not limit power but shares it, giving others control and power over their own lives.
10) Leading the Organization
A common fallacy is that top people in a hierarchy lead their organizations. The leader does not lead the organization but its people, making a substantial difference to their lives and they will make a substantial difference to the organization.
The leader does not focus on the organization but on its people.
11) Charismatic Leadership
Now and again we hear that society today needs some charismatic leaders. No! I think not. Charismatic leaders are generally autocratic, presuming they have the vision while their followers are empty and passive.
This is not the approach of a spiritual leader.
Rather, charisma is not found in the lonely individual but in a developing group.
12) Leadership Longevity
Coming out of old notions of leadership is yet another fallacy: once a leader always a leader. No! Many of yesterday’s leaders with all their gifts and virtue intact are simply obstacles in today’s institutions.
The spiritual leader is always a restless learner.
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