Spiritual Leadership is a topic which feels so important to me lately. I'm not only referring to leadership within the Church... Spiritual Leadership is crucial for our entire culture. We need it in our city as much as we do in our church, but only if it is true leadership, and that brings me back to the definition of "Spiritual Leadership." It's gone off-course. We have to redefine it.
What it's not
Spiritually-oriented product marketing and promotion — creating a product or brand or culture, promoting it to "outsiders" in exchange for their support in expanding its development and reach, and gauging "success" based on customer satisfaction (do people like it? are more people buying in?)... This is not Spiritual Leadership.
Spiritual Leadership cannot be mass-produced. It cannot be easily documented and reproduced. This is not Spiritual Leadership. It's production, promotion, marketing, focus groups... it’s business. There's nothing wrong with business, but it's not a great way to lead a community or a culture.
What is Spiritual Leadership?
Spiritual Leadership is where someone who is part of a community or a culture accepts the responsibility to look around and ask two questions: (1) Who is here? (2) What can I do to support who is here in becoming even more of who they are? That's it.
Who is here?
This is the antithesis of telling people who they are. Telling people who they are is easier, but not helpful. There is only one place someone's true identity can be uncovered, and that is at their Center. The only human equipped to travel to this place is the individual. The only way to support someone in traveling to this place is to help them discover who they are. This is a lifelong process and is a picture of the spiritual life — to emerge more and more fully, wholly me. To be who and what I am. What could be more spiritual than that?
If we are telling others who they are, not only are we not leading them spiritually, but we are blocking or slowing them on their journey.
Asking who is here? is difficult, but it takes pressure off of us as leaders. It's not our work to show someone else who they are. We can only do that for our Self.
What can I do to support?
This is the question then. How does it look to support someone spiritually?
I recently had a conversation with someone about this, and after the above point (asking who is here?) he pointed out how impossible it would be to lead a thousand people in a thousand different directions. I totally disagree. Not only is it possible, but it is the only way to call what we are doing "Spiritual Leadership."
Spiritual Leadership is leading a thousand people — or a million — in that many different directions at the same time. And the reason this is not impossible is because the responsibility to do the work is on the shoulders of each individual. In our fear of losing control or losing a way to measure our success, we can settle for leading a thousand people in only a single direction. But if trust and confidence (faith) are the basis of our relationship with others, and the basis for our posture as leaders, we are free to lead individuals to their own Center... by showing them how, and trusting them to do it.
By definition, a leader goes first.
Spiritual Leadership is someone being the first to walk their own spiritual path, sharing what they find with their community, and having confidence in their community to do the same when they are ready.
But what if I do this and no one follows? RIGHT. That's the thing about being a leader. If we're not constantly plagued by this question, we're probably not leading.
Going first doesn't guarantee anyone will follow, but not going first ensures no one will. Someone always has to go first. Not everyone will follow, but chances are that some will — the ones who are ready — and even if no one does, you did your part. That's leadership.
Leader or manager?
Confusion between leadership and management is hurting us as a culture. We must clarify which is which, valuing each for what it is. MUCH of what we call "leadership" is really management. Many organizations and communities don't actually have a single leader — only managers, managing things.
I believe many people in our culture today are waiting for someone to lead them on their spiritual path. They're ready to do the work, but they need support — they need someone to at least get the path started for them. If this is you, please clarify whether you’re following a leader or a manager. If you’re following someone who is telling you who you are, asking you to spend your best energy promoting their product, or is not actively modeling what it looks like to personally walk their own path, you are following a manager, and you are going nowhere. It may be painful, but it’s time to take the responsibility for being who you are back onto your own shoulders. If a leader exists who can help you to do that — not offer to take the load off your shoulders but remind you that you have the strength to carry it — partner with them.
To the leaders
I believe some of us are cut out to lead like this: to go first, to have confidence in others, to have confidence in ourselves, to trust the process, to be lonely at times but also hopeful, to make a path where there is no path (but should be). I am one of these, and some of you know that you are too. It’s time for us to go first.