Articles of Faith: Where Are All the Spiritual Leaders?

Spiritual Leadership

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 GrintThe 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 KoesterbaumLeadership: 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.

Faux Leadership

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.

Arrogant Aristocrats

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!

Failed Facilitators

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.

Blind Visionaries

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.

Narcissist Leader

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.

Today’s Question

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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Dr. Leonard Doohand

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an Author and Workshop Presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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Spiritual Leaders Must Repair the Past

Imperfect Past

In dealing with spiritual leadership it is more common to think about a leader’s impact on an organization’s present and future because of his or her values.

However, it is also critical that leaders take responsibility for the past they have created or inherited.

On Vision and Perspective

Vision relates primarily to the future and then to the present in so far as a spiritual leader makes present decisions in light of future hopes. However, it is not possible to construct a shared vision on defective foundations from the past.

  • Harm has often been done to others by former vision-less leaders, and that needs to be healed.
  • Harm has often been done to the integrity and trustworthiness of an organization, and that needs to be undone.
  • Sometimes the harm ends but the roots of evil are deep and a spiritual leader must dig out the evils of the past before moving forward.

Some organizational evils—such as the greed and the lack of ethics we have seen—take such a hold there is not much one can do but cut out the cancer before moving ahead.

Thus, not only does vision impact the future but it must also heal the past.

Visionary leaders often live in pain, when they confront the decay of an organization’s values, or see how co-workers have surrendered to mediocrity regarding the quality of their commitment. If transformative change is to occur everyone must take responsibility for the reform of structures and of the values of their organization; they must together raise up the shared vision and give birth to a new dawn.

Repairing the Past

A spiritual leader repairs the past in several ways. Before anything else a leader must humbly review his or her own life to identify serious or smaller failures that have done harm and may continue to do so.

Perhaps the first question a person in a leadership position should ask if whether he or she is suitable as a leader.

The best service some can perform for their organizations is to leave them.

In examining one’s own past in need of repair, an honest leader may identify the following:

  • Negative attitudes to people
  • Abusive misuses of the organization for one’s own benefits
  • A lack of direction
  • A failure to build community
  • An awareness of being distrusted, disliked, and disapproved of

Sometimes, a friend or mentor, a peer in another organization, or a spouse, can pinpoint obvious defects that a leader fails to see.

Healing Others’ Harm

A spiritual leader must repair harm done to others either by former leaders or by the organization’s unhealthy structures or policies. Every organization has people in pain for one reason or another, and before a leader can move forward to vision, he or she must restore others to they can give their best.

This means attention to a healthy working environment, just policies, and open communications.

It also calls for the removal of any unethical practices, misuse of power, unjust salary scales, and autocratic administration. Spiritual leaders will build a spirit of reconciliation, mutual appreciation, and a strong sense of community.

Healing Organizational Harm

A spiritual leader will need to give attention to repairing damage done by the organization itself, perhaps because of its lack of shared values, vision, and mission.

They will check the structural components:

  • Value statement
  • Strategic plan
  • Code of ethics
  • Oversight board
  • Hiring procedures
  • Decision-making processes
  • Conflict management procedures

Only when the organization functions to the benefit of workers can the leader move forward to vision.

Vision For the Future

In examining the past in view of a vision for the future, a spiritual leader must work with dedication on a series of convictions.

Mission precedes profits

Values precede strategies

Just wages precede shareholder returns

A leader’s sense of purpose precedes compensation package

The common good precedes personal advancement

Hope precedes stunted motivational techniques

So what type of healing is needed at your organization. Are the pain or dysfunction from the past apparent, or do they lurk underneath the surface? What can you do to quickly step up and address the past to help the present and the future? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Dr. Leonard Doohand

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an author and workshop presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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The Spiritual Leader’s Task to Maintain the Dream

The Sky's the Limit

The task of the spiritual leader is to serve others in the best and worst of times. Such a leader must be a person of integrity whom followers see as a person of credibility.

They expect such a leader to consistently maintain a climate of mutual trust and call the organization to an ongoing conversion to its vision.

A Grander Vision

But, vision is not something possessed by a minority in the organization, nor is it the exclusive responsibility of central administration. Rather, it belongs to everyone within an organization and all have something to contribute.  If the vision is to be relevant to changing times, it will mean skillfully and responsibly interpreting the vision.

At times, organizations have managers who live in arrogant isolation, failing to see the need for change in themselves and in their organizations. Such managers lack long-term commitment and become obstacles to organizational change and transformation.

Their days as leaders are numbered, since it is the essential task of leadership to produce change, whether it be personal, community, or organizational.

But to see things that others do not see, and then facilitate the required change, is an eventual component of leadership.

For leadership is the restless pursuit of what lies ahead.

Being Proactive

Reacting to changes that afflict an organization is not enough. Introducing change wherever needed, he or she carefully selects the direction that change needs to take. Effective leaders do more than react to what hits them, rather they proactively introduce changes some of which become the breakthroughs that lead to great organizations.

Part of a spiritual leader’s calling is to present vision so that it becomes the source of a dream that attracts others.

One’s scope as a leader has widened, giving one a new freedom to be what one has always dreamed of being and at the same time, little by little, to also help others to dream. When we seem to live with global burnout and people are depressed with their leaders, institutions, and hopes for the future, maintaining a dream is more important than ever.

The Power of The Dream

Great leaders use the power of the dream. The dream a spiritual leader promotes is that people can achieve personal fulfillment and can build community together. Working together in dialogue, collaboration, and dynamic relationships, we can enrich each other and in synergy achieve more together than as separate parts.

We can dream of uniting work and spirituality, believing we can do good while working well, and thus that we can contribute to the common good. In contemporary organizations with their tensions and pressures, a leader can still foster high morale.

The dream reminds us that all people are important for who they are and not for the kind of work they do.

A leader can create an environment that is conducive to human growth and spiritual maturity.

Drawing Others to the Dream

It is the leader’s task to draw others to the dream. This includes building positive attitudes from inside the organization and not being put off by inevitable criticisms. It starts by challenging old ways and showing the benefits of change and transformation.

A leader does this by sharing information and insights, and by raising issues no one else does.

It means sharing your thinking even if it unsettles and disturbs others.

Sharing the Love

At the same time a leader shares knowledge, he or she must share on an affective level, empathizing with others, and letting them know they are loved. The leader must evidence enthusiasm and excitement for the dream and inspire confidence that together people can attain it.

They needs to be optimistic, constantly joyful, and always ready to celebrate intermediate achievements on the journey to the dream.

Maintaining a dream is a sign of leadership maturity and calls the leader to set high attainable goals, to teach all the time, and to share and learn from others. A spiritual leader is a dreamer who offers refreshing and creative ideas and longs to communicate his or her dream, ideas, vision, and intuition with others.

There is a magical property about leadership, as the leader enables others to dream.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Dr. Leonard Doohand

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an author and workshop presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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Articles of Faith: On Spiritual Leaders and Their Call to Love


Spiritual leaders insist that people and relationships precede structures and tasks. This implies leaders need to think positively of others, try to understand them, forgive when necessary, and always show compassion.

After all, the journey to spiritual leadership begins with an awareness of being loved, not with the leader’s love for others.

Being Loved or Showing Love

The latter follows on the former and is a response to the call to leadership. It is a journey in which the leader daily makes decisions based on love. Thus, the leader changes their attitudes to life; rejecting selfishness, greed, self-satisfaction, and consequently moves away from self-centeredness onto a life of service to others.

Appreciating that one can transform leadership with love is a rigorous self-training.

When a leader is motivated by a conviction of the transforming value of love, he or she treats others with a natural benevolence, wishes them well before any encounter, appreciates the good in others, and presumes that they will do good. This positive, optimistic approach to others has a healing effect on relationships and opens up the development of a different kind of leadership.

Love Always Wins

Loving and encouraging approaches are more effective than adversarial ones and give the leader far more ability to influence others and draw the best out of them. In such an environment followers sense they are loved and grow as people and then contribute more to the common vision and mission.

When a leader focuses on the love of others in daily life, they emphasize simple human qualities that are also a noble part of being human—attitudes that are humanizing, caring, trusting, and supportive.

Focusing On Others

Focusing on others requires tolerance of their differences, dialogue, forgiveness, and reconciliation.It means mutual respect, appreciation of each other’s gifts and genuine solidarity.

A leader can do so much good to others by allowing them to be themselves, living in interdependence and mutual esteem. For such a leader the welfare of others is as important as one’s own.

This includes concern for others’ health and well-being, both material and spiritual.

Engaging in the welfare of others calls the leader to delight in others’ growth and advancement, furthering their rights, protecting their justice, and celebrating their achievements and progress.

Called to Love

A spiritual leader who recognizes that they are called to love makes a positive difference to other people’s lives by respecting their dignity, empowering them in whatever ways possible, thus releasing their human energy, talent, and dedication.

A spiritual leader can look into others’ hearts.

Such a leader does not impose views, vision, or priorities, but influences others to be the best they are capable of being. Part of that response will be to help others appreciate their own basic values, enduring purpose, and mission in life. The leader can also train others to be visionaries; helping them to see what others do not, but also challenging them to look at things in a different way.

This requires:

  • Understanding
  • Building connections
  • Giving visibility and significant responsibilities to others
  • Collaborating
  • Challenging constructively
  • Working toward shared values and mission

Recognizing that one is called to love has serious consequences, for love is very practical and demanding on a leader at every moment of each day.


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Dr. Leonard Doohand

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an author and workshop presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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On Leadership, Humility and Authentic Spiritual Leadership

 Humility and Honor

Corruption, greed, and addiction to power and control over others ooze from the pseudo-leadership of so many contemporary leaders.

Adding insult to injury is that most of these people actually think they are virtuous. But everyone else around knows differently.

Authentic Spiritual Leadership

And yet, it is clear to anyone who studies authentic spiritual leadership that it is not based on power but on humility. This is a new model, a totally different way of thinking about leadership. This is the leadership of those who are aware of their vocation—they know they have not earned their leadership; it has been given to them.

Unfortunately, so many go through life today convinced that leadership is power.

Such superficial people fail to grasp the ultimate meaning of life or their own true destiny within the context of human development. There is no role in leadership today for arrogant, narcissistic people who emphasize their own self-importance, status, prestige, and power. One great mistake is at the root of all failed leadership—pride, and its constant focusing on self.

Leading With Honor

It is frequently the case that a leader has a place of honor in community, and he or she usually exceeds followers in many areas of organizational life with its interpersonal and task oriented skills. ‘

But such leaders should not exaggerate their own importance but rather insist on the importance of others and their gifts.

Leadership ultimately implies self-surrender, interpreting one’s meaning in life in the broader context of human development. Being able to appreciate the mystery of life and leadership as gifts helps one to be humble, to be one’s authentic self, to honestly know one’s strengths and weaknesses, and to engender genuine respect for others and their gifts.

Humility in Leadership

Humility in leadership is a recognition of one’s humanity and place in community. We are not in this world for our personal enhancement but to live and grow in solidarity with others. We are all struggling and striving to grow, and equally share in a spirituality of failure just as much as in one of mutual enrichment.

Even in our personal journey of spiritual leadership we can give ourselves permission to be less than perfect, as we experience insecurity, failure, and poverty.

Humility gives us the ability to bounce back, try again, experiment with fresh ideas, and stand up to resistance.

Humility helps us have faith, hope, and love in others, and especially in ourselves. Often there is more wisdom and courage in dealing humbly with failure than in expecting success all the time. Moreover, we learn so much in our humility that can help us in dealing with others. This is the paradox of leadership that our failures become successes, our weaknesses become strengths, and our own pain can teach us how to heal others.

Really Appreciating Others

Humility will teach us to appreciate others, to be more accountable, to keep a just perspective on efforts and results. It teaches us never to judge others without first judging ourselves. Humility reminds us not to belittle others, or criticize them, or to fail to give others our undivided attention. It insists we should not be pre-occupied with ourselves, to play favorites with others, to make distinctions based on status, or to embarrass people around us.

Above all humility teaches us to trust others, to practice integrity, to be open to improvement, and to be sincere in everything we do.

From the very start of one’s leadership of others one must be ready to live with an honest vulnerability.  The leader recognizes that leadership is a gift and is always aware of his or her own weak and lonely experience of self. He or she knows there is strength in discipline but also in honest vulnerability.

Not About Power

Leadership is not a way to power over others but a call to nurture the gifts of others. It means letting go of the desire to be always right, or to always have the answers. Successful leaders who admit their mistakes clearly earn more respect from their followers than do those who unsuccessfully try to hide them.

Some mistakes cause pain to others, but a good leader can acknowledge wrongdoing and genuinely apologize.

However, the leader also experiences the pain of failure without becoming insecure, and he or she can bounce back from suffering with an appreciation of how other people feel in times of hardship. Each one must ask if he or she is comfortable or afraid to let others see his or her leadership weaknesses. Of course, if a leader cannot accept his or her own limitations, he or she will probably have more difficulty accepting the limitations of others.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Dr. Leonard Doohand

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an author and workshop presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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On Leadership, Stress and Maintaining Vision

Maintaining Vision

The profound and rapid changes in modern life challenge leaders to constantly change and be creative in responding to the complexities of life. Leaders often find that followers’ unwillingness to change or the fact that they have a different value system can be stressful.

If leaders are tempted to set unrealistic goals for themselves or develop a perfectionist tendency stress results.

Leadership challenges are often intensified by constant need to meet deadlines, by lack of financial resources, and by changes that demand new skills from the leader. And this can cause major stress!

From Stress to Distress

When the stresses of life become so great that a leader can no longer cope with them, they lead to distress. When the stresses result from pressures of interaction with people, they can lead to the possible development of burnout.

This phenomenon does not necessarily result from overwork.

In fact, the workaholic is not a candidate for burnout, since he or she uses work as an escape from people. It is when people in certain professions, like spiritual leaders, find themselves immersed in people-problems that burnout begins.

3 Stages of Burnout

Burnout develops in three stages.


Leaders become dissatisfied at work, feel a lack of appreciation from others, and begin to isolate themselves.

This stage does not affect the quality of work and leadership, and others often do not even notice it, since the symptoms are no different than other temporary stressful situations.


A time of self-questioning leads to feelings of helplessness and frustration. This can become so great that job performance and leadership begin to suffer.


Terminal burnout is present when leaders begin to mechanically perform their tasks without any real interest or quality involvement. At this stage, leaders feel intense loneliness, can become sour on life, and often manifest an open rebellion that completely disrupts their leadership.

This last stage ends with individuals hating the very situation that they believe causes the stress, their own vocation in leadership.

Symptoms of Burnout

The symptoms of burnout are similar to those of general stress:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pains
  • Lack of energy

A leader with burnout loses desire to go to his or her place of work or to associate with followers.

Such a potential burnout victim becomes constantly discouraged, angry, and overly sensitive to other people’s remarks.

At first, the natural tendency is to increase one’s commitment at work to prove to oneself and others that there is really no problem. Once the burnout cycle begins it is very difficult to stop it, so prevention is critical, so that quality leaders do not suffer in this way.

Develop Strategies Against Excessive Stress

Among the practices that a leader can develop to insure a lifestyle that avoids burnout are the following. Leaders should admit the seriousness of stress in leadership, then give adequate time to reflection, friendship, leisure, and broad interests outside of one’s working environment.

A leader should provide himself or herself with suitable educational opportunities to keep one’s mind alert and appreciate the depths and limits of leadership as a call to be, more than to do.

Also, make sure you have a support system that constantly gives you encouragement and feedback.

Improve the quality of your working environment. Redefine success in leadership so as to benefit from job satisfaction. Maintain deep relationships that provide intimacy and love.

Also extremely important is to take care of yourself physically with proper nutrition, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep.

Visioneering: Seeing The Road Ahead

It is important that leaders take care to prevent burnout.

After all, burnout only affects the very best.

Burnout is not associated with workaholics whose work is an escapism from people. Burnout results only in those people who give themselves in service to others and take others’ burdens upon themselves.

It is often found in those who spend their lives in the helping professions. Since spiritual leaders give themselves in service to others they can readily become candidates for burnout. It is a hazard of spiritual leaders and they must be prudent enough to take steps to prevent it.

So, do you or someone you know show signs of burnout? What are the symptoms you are seeing? How can you take steps to yourself or another move beyond their present stressful circumstances and on to a better, healthier path toward the future? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Dr. Leonard Doohand

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an author and workshop presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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Spiritual Leadership: Do No Harm

Do No Harm

Do no harm as a leader.

We have seen many positive components of leadership and spiritual leadership in blogs posted on this L2L blog.

But there is more to leadership than just the positive we can do and grow in as leaders. There is also the darker side that needs to be understood and minimized. It is something to NOT do: Harm.

Removing the Problem

Before all efforts at growth and development in leadership, dedicated leaders ought to consider removing any harm they might be inflicting on organizations. We have all met pseudo-leaders and have thought that the best thing they could do for their organization would be to leave it.

After witnessing the failures and mess of “leaders” in the last decade, it is more important than ever that good leaders aspire to do no harm.

Beginnings of Leadership—Do No Harm

Do No HarmWe all know that physicians take an oath to do no harm, and this precedes all their efforts to bring healing to their patients. As we have seen the recent disastrous harm done by people in leadership positions, we can only wish that leaders, too, would take the oath to do no harm.

Unfortunately, we have seen so many bad leadership decisions that it has been common to consider that many people in leadership positions in our generation have done more harm than good. Only people with the vision and dedication of spiritual leaders can reverse this trend and stop this decay.

As a spiritual leader, it is a critical component of call that you DO NOT:

  • Cause Harm
  • Let others responsible to you do harm
  • Allow your organization do harm
  • Allow your products and services do no harm

Leadership is an attitude of service, and it begins by pledging to do no harm.

Remove Personal Defects that Harm Others

On a personal level, a spiritual leader must remove from his or her life all negative influences, the slow erosion of values, and the corrupting influence of power that do harm to others.

He or she must remove arrogance, deceit, and any harmful trait.

A leader avoids hiding in creative ignorance, checks his or her addictions, and makes conscious those areas of personal life that need healing. All these personal defects can harm others.

Healing Relationships with Others

Great leaders have system skills, the ability to see how every person fits into an organization and has an important role to play. They can provide healing relationships with others.

So, a spiritual leader never belittles others and their contributions, ends destructive and confrontational positions, as well as neglect of workers, turf wars, coercion of followers, harassment, and using people.

He or she stops the harmful effects of a whole list of leadership parasites like:

  • Disharmony
  • Confusing Expectations
  • Excessive Internal Competition
  • Infighting
  • Unhealthy Comparisons
  • Petty Jealousies
  • Mutual Blame
  • Compromising Integrity
  • Unethical Practices
  • Lack of Mutual Love

He or she makes sure there is no stunting of others’ development and no one is enslaved to any aspect of organizational life. When a leader removes harm from other people’s lives he or she achieves a lot.

Removing Harm Done by Organizations

A spiritual leader checks any controlling and harmful influences within the organization. He or she removes the dysfunctional aspects of the organization like:

  • Restricting Communication
  • Misusing Power
  • Unjust Salary Scales
  • Careerism

A spiritual leader will be on the lookout for those controlling influences in organizations, large or small, that do harm whether one wants it or not. Often memories harm when individuals remember how they were badly treated.

These unhealed hurts delete a sense of hope among workers.

Sometimes a spiritual leader sees harm and cannot respond when it comes from others. However, in such cases a spiritual leader will not participate so as not to encourage such behavior.

Removing Harm Proactively

Doing no harm is a first step for a leader who must remove harm while appreciating potential harm is best dealt with proactively by creating a healthy atmosphere between leaders and workers—listening, maintaining high values, respect, admiration, total acceptance of others with their strengths and weaknesses.

Many challenges lie ahead for you as a spiritual leader but quality leadership begins with a serious dedication to do no harm.

As we look back over the last few years we do not immediately think of great leadership. Rather, we just wish many of our so-called leaders had not done so much harm.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Dr. Leonard Doohand

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an author and workshop presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog

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