When I think of a spiritual leader I think of a person with tremendous energy, who knows what life is about and is living it well, who is comfortable with chosen values and lives them with integrity, who knows the value of other people and cherishes their lives and input.
“A spiritual leader is motivated by an experience that has touched him or her profoundly.”
Leadership as a Transforming Experience
Above all, a spiritual leader has influenced the way he or she now lives. This kind of person shows no embarrassment in talking about the experience, and makes decisions based on the values of this experience.
This motivated commitment is desperately needed today, especially when we see so many organizations full of leaders with the wrong mindset.
So, spiritual leadership is a leadership that is motivated by everything that one holds dear in the depths of his or her own heart as the result of a personal experience that has changed one’s life and way of living it in the future.
This is not the fruits of a workshop, nor of the acquisition of new skills, nor even of a new experience. Rather it is a call felt deep within one’s heart.
The Best Leaders are Grounded In Values
Spiritual leadership is a form of leadership that results from integrity.
“Living every aspect of leadership based on the core motivating values.
Spiritual leadership is not something you add on to an already existing leadership style, rather it permeates everything that one does, whether at home, in social life, or at work.
The best leaders are the ones who are grounded in motivating values, and they live differently as a result of it. They believe in themselves for sure, but also in values beyond themselves.
You cannot pick and choose values or virtues; either they motivate you from within in all you do, or they do not.
Sprinkling your leadership with assorted virtues from a variety of sources is simply a leadership technique to make one’s management style more palatable—to others or to oneself.
Even the components of transformational leadership can be implemented as technique.
Convergence of Interests in Leadership
In recent decades there has been an increasing appreciation of spiritual leadership as the leadership that will assure honesty, integrity, the common good, and both individual and communal growth.
A variety of authors have focused their call for spiritual leadership on one dimension or another that seems to serve as the focal point for their contribution to spiritual leadership and which also became in each case the title of a book.
Robert Greenleaf (1977)
Stephen Covey (1991)
J.M Kouzes and B.Z. Posner (1993)
LaRue Hosmer (1994)
Nancy Eggert (1998)
Donna Markham (1999)
Barbara Maskoff and Gary Wenet (2000)
“The Inner Work of Leaders”
Robert Spitzer (2000)
“The Spirit of Leadership”
Russ Moxley (2000)
“Leadership and Spirit”
Genie Laborde (1987)
“Influencing with Integrity”
Joseph Badaracco (1989)
“A Quest for Integrity”
Jay Conger (1994)
“Discovering Spirituality in Leadership”
Jack Hawley (1993)
“Reawakening the Spirit”
Terrence Deal and Lee Bolman
“Leading with Soul”
Dorothy Marcic (1997)
“Managing With the Wisdom of Love”
Gilbert Fairholm (2001)
“Mastering Inner Leadership”
All these authors speak about spiritual leadership, each one focusing their insights on a critical facet of spiritual leadership.
Nowadays so many individuals want to integrate their leadership with the values of their lives as part of the effectiveness of leadership. Given the failure of so much leadership in recent years we all need to pause and to examine if our leadership is the best it can be, whether our leadership qualities in work enhance our personal life.
Ten Core Values of Spiritual Leadership
I suggest 10 core values of the spiritual leader that help foster and maintain the leader’s balanced life between leadership effectiveness and transcendence of self.
- A sense of call and inner integrity.
- Faith in a shared vision.
- Nourishing the shared vision and inspiring commitment to it.
- Relentless pursuit of a common mission.
- Profound sense of community and human interdependence.
- Humility towards one’s own views.
- Making a difference to others’ lives.
- Having courage to say what needs to be said.
- Challenging others to their best.
- Ability to maintain distance from task and people.
Leadership as a Lifelong Task
To be a spiritual leader is a lifelong task; not a burden, it is the personally enriching call each one of us has received.
How one lives one’s leadership will teach more than the content of any speeches to others. It will give meaning and direction to our lives, a quality of presence to other people.
One writer says…
“Spiritual leadership is born through the struggle of leaders to balance the complex tradeoffs of people and systems. Spirituality is evident in the creation of human meaning while satisfying our need for production. It is precisely in the midst of these experiences of adversity and leadership that leaders find their spiritual home.”
Bolman and Deal express this challenge powerfully: “Heart, hope, and faith, rooted in soul and spirit, are necessary for today’s managers to become tomorrow’s leaders, for today’s sterile bureaucracies to become tomorrow’s communities of meaning, and for our society to rediscover its ethical and spiritual center.”
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