Articles of Faith: The Calling of a Spiritual Leader

Business Man Pondering

The Calling of a Spiritual Leader

This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.”
We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible.
See the whole series here. Published only on Sundays.

Realizing Leadership

Rediscovering the importance of a sense of call

It is important for anyone working in a position with potential leadership that he or she needs to pause to reflect and to rediscover the importance of a personal calling to leadership.

How you lead is important.

Many potential leaders are doomed to a service at the margins of organizational life; a cosmetic role that fails to capitalize on both the opportunity and essential vocation to leadership that their position entails.

Many organizational professionals today are envisioning their leadership responsibilities as a spiritual and holistic dimension of their lives.

Clarity to Serve

Now and again we see an opportunity so clear and significant that we must confront it with all our energy to capitalize on its challenge, and there has rarely been a moment in history when a comprehensive rethinking of spiritual leadership was needed.

For leaders whose inner values motivate their leadership, Jesus Christ in the Christian scriptures is their model.

(Please see Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 10:15 –1813:1 –5; Phil 2:7)

There, Jesus appears as a person of holiness, compassion, and inclusiveness as he fulfils the role given him by God.

(Please see Isaiah 61:1 –3a)

Many hold on to this courageous leadership style as a developmental process that they can imitate today. When many suggest that the leadership needed today is followership, they imply that the leader who is inspired by Christian values also appreciates that leadership is a form of followership.

It’s Not About You

Spiritual Leadership focuses on the service of others

Authentic leadership values focus on the service of others, demand that we shed self-interest and give priority to other-centered leadership. Many leadership writings today are influenced by Christian values, others are sprinkled with them, like salt and pepper, once the basic ideas are already established.

Others today feel convinced of a new challenge to leadership that not only enthuses them but conquers them. It seems to be an answer to a search they have consciously or subconsciously been making.

It may well mean letting go of present emphases and following a deeper call.

Authentic leadership is not something we do but something we are; it is a passionate response to the yearnings of our hearts. It means we have to unite the major dimensions of our personal, community and organizational sides of life into an integrated whole, where deep convictions and inner values permeate everything we do.

People are not free to lead unless they have discovered deep within themselves the values that give them an enduring purpose, a clear personal mission, and, yes, a sense of destiny.

The Perfect Model of Leadership

For Christians, Jesus is a model of leadership

Jesus is the model of leadership—his  prophetic action of washing the disciples’ feet epitomizes servant leadership (John 13:1 –5); and his self-description as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep shows the depth of his commitment to his followers (John 10:15).

Several times he claimed that he had come among us to serve and not to be served (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 18:27), a conviction so clear in the early Church that St. Paul can insist that Jesus emptied himself to assume the condition of a servant (Phil 2:7).

We see Jesus’ leadership in his teaching ministry which consisted not in a collection of laws to be obeyed, but rather in a way of life to be imitated.  We see his leadership in his ministry of prophetical denunciation of societal injustice and of inauthentic expressions of religion.

We see Jesus’ leadership in his constant pursuit of a holistic life, not based on rules and regulations but on compassion.

Leadership Where It Matters

We see his leadership in his daily fights against discrimination, in being a voice for the voiceless, in constantly identifying with the marginalized.

We see Jesus’ leadership not in empty claims to authority, but in his ministry of healing miracles.

Jesus, our model, is a person of holiness and compassion, of sharing and inclusiveness, of passionate concern for the oppressed, and of courageous challenge to the injustices of institutions.  His behavior violates the social norms of his day, defies the parameters of prudence, and confronts the established visions of the social and religious elite.

He calls for change, gives a new vision of people’s relationship with God and with each other, and challenges institutions, both civic and religious.

Drifting in the Wind

Some individuals who think they are leaders approach their leadership like going through a line in a cafeteria, one day choosing to emphasize one thing and the next day another.

How can a person create a vision of spiritual leadership if he or she is not convinced of the importance of a spirit of authenticity and integrity in all that he or she does?

Some executives have other people waiting on them hand and foot, and it is impossible for them to become great leaders.

Spiritual leaders are critical transformational leaders who constantly reflect on their own motivating vision and daily analyze their own use of power. Their charisma, individualized consideration, and intellectual stimulation are each modified by a life of service to the common good and common vision.


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Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an author and workshop presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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4 responses to “Articles of Faith: The Calling of a Spiritual Leader

  1. If leaders want to lead successfully they must recognize the responsibility to ensure that subordinates have the tools for them to succeed.
    Could Jack Kilby create the integrated chip without providing the advanced education for staff, labs, etc? Could John, Peter, Mathew, Luke and Mark lead Christians to “The Way” (of course if God had ordained) without Jesus confirm the Truth, provide the instruction, show them the understanding and demonstrate how to live godly lives?
    We must have more servant leaders not focused on money, personal success or power. Certainly not Christian leaders!


  2. This is a very nice model of Leadership (Big L). I agree with your comments about Leadership as a calling and that Leadership is about being and not doing. I think when we talk about spiritual leadership we do not always acknowledge the integral nature of the growth and development process. Whether religious or spiritual, leaders must start with “self” and go deep. Also, detaching from the ego and engaging their unconscious shadow elements seems to be a necessary part of the consciousness growth process. I also agree that Leadership is a spiritual calling and focusing on behaviors before doing self and shadow work seems to be a major misstep and stumbling block for many leaders. Thank you for the thoughtful learnings. – Doug

    “Don’t follow in my footsteps walk beside me” – Jesus


    • Dear Doug

      Many thanks for your comments. It looks like we have similar approaches to these issues. Best wishes



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