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 Doohan is an author and workshop presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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Great article. Thanks for linking my posting. Many blessings to you!
Dear Shim: Many thanks for your comment. I appreciate both your reservation and your supportive comments. Personally I feel that to be genuinely dedicated to the “ethical leadership manifesto” requires the spiritual commitment to which I refer. At the same time I understand your position. Thankyou . Leonard
Hi Leonard… Who is Shim??
I think your article is well written. More “spiritual leaders” need to examine their hearts whether in homes, churches, or other organizations. We need spiritual leaders who will truly seek God’s guidance into our futures…
secretangel, not sure who Shim is but what I can say, with certainty, is that dismissiveness is NOT a quality sought after in leadership. And, if you are really interested to find more about me you are welcome to search me up on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Hi Shim. I had gotten that message on my comment notifications and did not know if he was calling me Shim or not. Please forgive me for anything that I did to offend you. I have been called many names and did not know if that was for me or not. Please forgive me. Now I see that you are Shim Marom. Nice to meet you. I will look up your blog and your information on Linkedlin and twitter. I did not mean to offend you and just quickly commented back for clarification. I was not trying to dismiss you. I thought it was me that he was talking to. Sorry for the confusion in my haste today.
While I don’t subscribe to the spiritual element of this post I think the list of desired convictions you outlined at the end of your post is fantastic and should form the basis for a ‘ethical leadership manifesto’.
I am a firm believer that history is a tool on whose shoulder we can stand taller to see more clearly. However, if history is tainted, those who aspire to pioneer must first confront and rectify that which was corrupt to qualify to stand firm on those shoulders so that their eyes and heart can be crystal in navigating the path at hand and peer into the future. Great writing Dr. Leonard, Well said!