How is it with your soul?
It’s a question Wesleyan Christ-followers frequently asked when they gathered for prayer and mutual support. Transformational leadership requires us to tend to our soul as much as we tend to other facets of life and ministry.
Leading from your soul is as important as leading from your head. Consider ways to find God in the context of everyday leadership, recognizing that there is a tension between being and doing, community and cause, truth-telling and putting the right spin on things. For a soulful leader will will always be a tension between taking time to love and serve people and with completing tasks in a timely manner.
Leadership that functions creatively and spiritually is not for the faint of heart. It requires significant emotional energy to manage polarities and stay in this creative tension. Embracing deep spiritual values in the face of the pressure to perform is one of the many challenges of spiritual leadership.
- Do you set aside time for solitude and silence to experience a place of authenticity within?
- Do you acknowledge the myth of being in control and allow God to be God in your life, not just in your head or your conversations with others?
- Do you strive to hear the still, small voice of God that tells us who and whose we are, and what is real from a spiritual point of view?
Who models soulful leadership for you?
Moses modeled a style of leadership began with seeking God in solitude and then carrying out what God revealed to him there. The journey toward transformational leadership begins with having as much clarity about who God is and where God is leading us as it does about having clarity around the use of our gifts, passions and strengths. Who has modeled soulful leadership for you in the past? Who models it now? In what ways do you model it for others?
What does leading well look like for you?
In addition to tending to our souls, the essence of how understand leadership is profoundly shaped by the assumptions we hold and the attitudes we choose.
- Do you believe that leadership is a choice?
- Do you believe that everyone has something to teach you?
- Do you view faith formation and leadership development as a lifelong process?
Listed below are principles that guide Vibrant Faith’s understanding of what leadership is and it’s exercised. Make note of which principles align with your understanding of leadership as you discover your leadership soul.
THE CENTRAL QUESTION IS, ARE THE LEADERS OF THE FUTURE TRULY MEN AND WOMEN OF GOD, PEOPLE WITH AN ARDENT DESIRE TO DWELL IN GOD’S PRESENCE, TO LISTEN TO GOD’S VOICE, TO LOOK AT GOD’S BEAUTY, TO TOUCH GOD’S INCARNATE WORD AND TO TASTE FULLY GOD’S INFINITE GOODNESS?
HENRI NOUWEN, IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
WHICH LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES DO YOU EMBRACE?
Leadership begins when you believe you can make a difference and you choose to be a person of influence. You realize that leadership is less about your position or your title and more about choosing words and actions that influence other people’s assumptions, attitudes and actions.
- In what ways do your words, attitudes and actions create a hopeful, positive atmosphere?
- Do you come prepared to meetings, ready to address the topics to be discussed?
- Do you find ways to bring out the best in others and contribute to their successes?
- Do you frame issues in ways that get at the heart of the issue and focus on what matters most?
- Do you propose new ideas and approaches that stretch other people’s imaginations?
- Do you imagine how God might use you TODAY to bless and build up others?
- In what ways is your staff culture better because of you?
- Are you helping people move from mediocrity to ministry excellence?
You have to believe in yourself and others must believe in you, too – that you will do what you say, say what you mean and do what’s in the best interest of the organization. People want to know where you are headed, that you have a vision about God’s preferred future. Keep in mind that people may agree that what you are saying needs to be done, but they just won’t have the faith and confidence that you are the one to lead them. If people don’t believe in the messenger, they won’t believe the message. If they’re going to follow you then you must be able to follow through and deliver on people’s expectations.
- Do you people trust your motivations?
- Do they believe that you’re committed to the goal and people’s wellbeing?
- Do they believe you’re leading them in the right direction?
- Have you earned the right to expect that people would willingly follow?
- Do you exhibit a dogged determination that inspires others to give their very best?
- Do you know the hopes, dreams and passions of your colleagues?
- Do you honor your commitments and follow through on your promises?
- Do you under promise and over deliver?
- Is there anything you say or do that undermines people’s trust in you?
Transformational leaders must have the capacity to imagine and articulate future possibilities that are aligned with God’s intentions. As stewards of the vision and custodians of the future, leaders must constantly ask, “What’s new? What’s next? What’s going to happen after the current project is completed?” Leaders peer into the distance and imagine what’s over the horizon as they move toward a new and compelling future. Looking forward is a defining quality that differentiates leaders from individual contributors.
Getting yourself and others focused on the exciting possibilities that the future holds is your special role on the team. Developing the capacity to envision the future requires you to spend more time in the future— meaning more time reflecting on the future, more time reading about the future, and more time talking to others about the future. It’s not an easy assignment, but it is an absolutely necessary one. It also requires you to reflect back on your past to discover the themes that really engage you and excite you. And it means thinking about the kind of legacy you want to leave and the contributions you want to make.
- How much time do you spend in a given week thinking about the future?
- How much time do you spend during staff and leadership meetings peering into the future?
- Is the time you spend sufficient for casting a compelling vision for the future of your organization?
- How do stay abreast of the changes taking place in society – related to lifestyles, family structures, religiosity, communication and technology, and what gives meaning and purpose in people’s lives?
- In what ways are your leadership approaches and practices changing due to changes in societal norms, communications and technology?
- How far into the future do you spend time dreaming?
- Do you create meeting agendas that ensure future-oriented conversations?
- Do you help people imagine what they need to do next to live into their dreams?
Leaders do what is best for others, not what is best for themselves. Leadership is a shared responsibility. To build and sustain that sense of oneness, exemplary leaders are sensitive to the needs of others. They ask questions. They listen. They provide support. They develop skills. They ask for help. They align people in a common cause. They make people feel like anything is possible. They enable others to be even better than they already are, finding ways to bring out God’s best in others everyday.
- Do you create goals and make decisions as a leader based on what’s in the best interest of the organization?
- How often do you ask, “What does each team member bring to the table and how might I fully utilize these gifts?”
- What are the one or two things that I do exceedingly well, and how might I share these gifts with the team?
- What gaps and/or blindspots do I have as a leader and who else might fill these?
- Do I consistently inspire a shared vision for all to aspire to?
- Do I regularly celebrate the gifts and contributions each team member makes on behalf of the organization?
Transformational initiatives always change the status quo. Transformational leaders call forth possibilities that move people beyond their comfort zones, challenge people’s assumptions and lead to great achievements. These leaders are willing to test themselves and others, exuding a dogged determination to achieve a preferred future for themselves and their organization. They guide people through uncertainty, hardship, disruption, transformation and transition.
They inspire ordinary people to do extraordinary things as they deal with adversity, difficulty, change, and challenge. They assist teams with embracing challenges, controlling what they can, and taking charge of change. They help leaders learn from their failures so that they can succeed sooner in the future.
- On a scale of 1-10 (10=Very), how much of a risk-taker are you?
- When is the last time you challenged the status quo? What did you say or do?
- In what ways does your organization need to think bigger and bolder?
- In what ways are you increasing the confidence and competencies of your leaders?
- In what situations do you or your leaders give up too soon?
People want to know what you stand for and believe in. They want to know what your organization values and why. To discover who you are and what you care about, you need to spend some time on the inner work of a leader—in reflection on finding your voice. And keep in mind that it’s not just your values that matter. What is true for you is true for others: they too must find a fit with who they are and what they value. Credible leaders listen, not just to their own aspirations, but also to the needs and desires of others. Leadership is a relationship, and relationships are built on mutual understanding.
- What do you consistently do as a leader that allows people to know who you are and what you care about?
- Can you name the core values that drive who you are and what you do?
- Do your personal values align well with the organization your serve?
- Do you have a plan, for you and your organization, for continuously refining and aligning your core values with your words and actions?
- Can you readily answer why you do what you do?
Transformational leaders are in love with their work, the mission and vision of their organization, their colleagues in ministry as well as their constituents, customers and clients. Leaders realize that there’s no commitment and conviction without heart. There’s no hope and faith without heart. There’s no trust and support without heart. Leaders put their hearts in their organizations and their organizations in their hearts. They love what they’re doing and they stay in love with leading, with the people who do the work, and with what their organizations produce. They show they care by paying attention to people, sharing success stories, and making people feel important and special. Transformational leaders use their servant mindset to remain positive and proactive, generating the emotional energy that enables others to flourish.
- Do you have a plan for staying focuses on ways that you can support and serve your team members? Your clients and colleagues?
- How might you create a WOW experience for each person you encounter today?
- Who might most appreciate your attention and support this week?
- How might you acknowledge more frequently the contributions of your team members?
- What do others need from you to thrive personally, professionally and spiritually?
Leaders keep their promises and serve as role models for the values and actions they espouse. They don’t ask others to do something they aren’t willing to do themselves. They admit their mistakes, learn from their failures and keep their promises and have discovered the importance of “walking the talk.”
- When is the last time you admitted to you team that you “blew it?”
- Are you the kind of leader that your organization wishes they could clone?
- How might you use words more powerfully to model the change you’re seeking for your organization?
- How might you act more powerfully to model the way for others?
Leaders find ways to be better tomorrow than they are today. They develop systems to learn from past successes and failures. They develop systems for building on their strengths, increasing their knowledge and skills related to core competencies, and are fanatics about constantly improving.
Learning takes time, energy and attention along with practice, feedback, experimentation and coaching. It also takes a willingness try new approaches and risk failure. Leadership can be enhanced by refining practices and behaviors and through developing specific skills and abilities. Transformational leaders are naturally curious, have a strong desire to excel, and are willing to invest the necessary time, energy and resources to grow. No matter how good they are, they always find ways to get better.
- In what ways have your assumptions or attitudes changed this past year that made you a better leader?
- What have you learned about yourself, your ministry setting or ways to lead that have made you a better leader?
- In the past year, what is it that you’ve started doing that has made you a better leader?
- In the past year, what have you stopped doing that’s made you a better leader? What have you started doing?
- What are you naturally curious about?
- Do you find ways to learn something new from every person or experience you encounter?
Trust is the social glue that holds individuals and groups together and is essential for getting things done. The level of trust others have in you will determine the amount of influence you have. You have to earn people’s trust before they’ll be willing to trust you. You have to give trust before you can get trust. How can you facilitate trust? Research has shown that the following behaviors contribute to whether or not others perceive you as trustworthy. Here are five actions to keep in mind:
- They behave predictably and consistently.
- They communicate clearly and deliver on their promises.
- They are transparent and candid.
- They are intentional about deepening one’s understanding of each other.
Getting people to work together begins with building mutual trust. Before asking for trust from others, you must demonstrate your own trust in them. That means taking the risk of disclosing what you stand for, value, want, hope for, and are willing and unwilling to do. You also have to be predictable and consistent in your actions: forthright, candid, and clear in your communication; and serious about your promises. And, as we’ve learned so many times, leaders are far better served when they’re forthcoming with information. There’s nothing more destructive to trust than deceit, and nothing more constructive than candor.
- Are you willing to invest the necessary time to cultivate authentic relationships?
- Are you willing to model openness and transparency so that others may do the same?
- Do you spend more time seeking to understand people and seeking to be understood?
- Are you known for doing what you say you will do? Can people count on you?
- Who is it that you need to invest more time with to deepen your level of trust?
RECENT OBSERVATIONS ABOUT HOW TODAY’S CONTEXT IS REDEFINING LEADERSHIP
The world we see in front of us is nothing like what we see in our rear view mirror. The mental maps of the past will no longer be useful moving into the future. Continued use of old maps will hinder our capacity to rethink and reimagine new ways to move forward.
The change that’s required to move into the future begins with you. Everyone will be changed in the process, particularly you. If you don’t change your mindset, assumptions and actions, will may become the anchor that’s holding your organization back. Leadership is always about personal and corporate transformation.
People won’t follow you unless they trust you your commitment, character and competence. People want to know that your committed to their wellbeing and to what’s best for fulfilling the mission. They must trust your character – who shows up as being honest, authentic and lives with integrity. Lastly, they must trust that you are competent – that you have the knowledge, skills and determination to deliver what you promise. Only when a leader is deeply trusted can he or she take people further than they imagined into the mission of God.
Transformational changes always involve pain and person sacrifice. Don’t avoid the pain nor discount it. Suck it up and make the necessary sacrifices that lead to a better tomorrow. Leadership is not about maintaining the status quo but rather being willing to call forth new possibilities beyond what what we previously imagined. The leaders of today and tomorrow take personal responsibility for living into a new future in a transformative way.
Leadership is expressed in behaviors. Leaders act. They MODEL the way for others and INSPIRE a shared vision. They CHALLENGE the process and ENABLE others to act. They ENCOURAGE the heart and READ their ministry context.
Leaders must stay connected to the people and systems they seek to transform. Edwin Friedman said, “The leader in the system is the one who is not blaming anyone. Understanding that one cannot lead from outside the system, They consciously stay in relationship with those they are called to lead, serving as a non-anxious presence.