In recent blogs, I have offered for consideration a series of qualities that should characterize spiritual leaders—a few of the many.
If spiritual leaders are true to their vision, then they should certainly abide by the following list of commands:
- Do no harm
- Maintain a sense of humility
- Repair the past
- See and look at things in a new way
- Maintain the dream
- Recognize the importance of love in leadership
So who do you think embodies these qualities?
Leaders We Have Known
Last year we celebrated the life and leadership of Nelson Mandela. People from all walks of life all over the world praised his exceptional gifts of mind and heart. It was hard to listen to universal praise without thinking of the dearth of good leaders that we face in our own times, especially in politics, business, healthcare, and religion.
Moreover, there are more writers who readily identify the absence of good spiritual leaders than they who can give us examples of authentic spiritual leaders today.
Here are a few comments to help make the point:
“Whether we think of Congress or the courts, business or industry, the news media or mass entertainment, the church or other voluntary associations, many of us feel deepening despair about the capacity of our dominant institutions to harbor a human agenda, to foster human purposes.”
~Parker Palmer, Foreword in Seeker and Servant: The Private Writings of Robert K. Greeleaf, xi.
“The history of the world is full of such leaders, whose errors of judgment and refusal to listen to the good advice of their followers have left millions of followers as physical, emotional, or economic casualties.”
~Kieth Grint, The Art of Leadership, p. 420
“Leadership requires changing not only the way you think and the way you act, but also the way you will. Leading is taking charge of your will–the innermost core of your humanity.”
~Peter Koesterbaum, Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness, 2
On Serving Others
Let us hope that more men and women will take inspiration from Nelson Mandela and people like him and dedicate themselves to the service of others in leadership.
We need leaders motivated by inner values, and who are selfless, generous, and totally dedicated to others.
These are leaders who are committed to their position for the good it allows them to do and not for the status or money it gives them. However, when we look at our contemporary scene in leadership it looks as if it will take a long time to reach a situation where key leaders are men and women whose lives are motivated by inner values.
We are surrounded by greed for money, for power, for prestige, and for career advancement.
We see failures in leadership on a daily basis. Some pseudo-leaders do a lot of damage to their organizations and people not only by thwarting their growth but by creating unhealthy working environments that either draw the worst out of people or leave them depressed and sick at their own inability to get out of the situation that is stunting their values and growth.
Such an approach produces arrogant autocrats who ignore others, suppress their ideas, and intimidate when challenged. Such leaders have a deep suspicion of liberty. Of course they are suspicious of others’ liberty, but not their own!
Other managers and potential leaders give the impression of welcoming participation, but they are failed facilitators. Empowerment can not be taught by people who have practiced disempowerment for years, and workers quickly see through insincerity.
Unfortunately, the failed facilitator is often a good talker and seems to have the talents necessary for the work at hand. However, it is all show and talk and no substance.
Some administrators make so many mistakes they seemed to have a natural ability for it. Typical indicators of incompetent administration include useless restructuring, a myopic immersion in trivial data, and the constant development of strategic plans that enthuse no one.
These blind visionaries, who surrender to mediocrity in their work and indifference toward their employees, may well occupy important positions but careful observation quickly shows that little actual management is being done.
The narcissist who occupies a leadership role is primarily interested in self-importance and personal fame. At first he or she seems charismatic, offering grandiose plans and a compelling vision; the weakness is seeing their own vision, or their interpretation of events, or their direction and course of action as the only preordained path to follow.
Unfortunately, nothing comes of the hopes that followers place in this pseudo-leader because he or she is so focused on self, cannot work with others, and cannot accept input from others; this pseudo-leader limits others’ energy, contribution, and spirit.
Recent examples in politics, business, and even religion, have confirmed the gut feelings of many regarding greed and lack of ethical commitment or social responsibility in many contemporary organizations and their leaders.
The selfishness reached overwhelming proportions as greedy people squandered enormous amounts of corporation money and perks on themselves while treating workers with meanness and disinterest.
In many organizations, leader pathology is a serious problem.
Although we witness many problems in organizations and frequent failures in administrators, we know many men and women who would like to move to a new leadership style. They are motivated by a selfless service of others, feel a sense of call or vocation to leadership, and are striving to live out some of the challenges presented in the chapters ahead.
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