We often speak about service and leadership and even servant leadership, but the original word to serve in Greek, the language of the New Testament, was the word “therapy,” that expressed the idea of leading, serving, taking care of, and healing.
In the New Testament, leadership had two components or facets: teaching and healing. If teaching was the content vision, it was authenticated in healing.
Leadership That Serves and Saves
But, to heal in Greek means to protect from harm, to benefit, to preserve inner integrity, to rescue from harm; these are all aspects of leadership that serves and saves. Leading and healing are two aspects of the same reality that focuses on integrated, holistic approaches to people and their organizations.
Leadership that heals restores harmony within individuals, between people, and within structures, and frees people from unhealthy living.
Health and wholeness are basic, primary values for all human beings, and people see sickness and dysfunctional responses as undesirable obstacles to happiness and fulfillment in life. When health and wholeness are absent people seek explanations and remedies, and when these are not forthcoming they suspect that there are forces beyond themselves, working against them.
Whatever the explanation of sickness, people long for healing. A leader of hope who is attentive to organizational dysfunctioning should feel called to heal. He or she must be sensitive to others’ needs, be a voice for the voiceless, and stress that successful organizations require holistic living.
A leader of hope who wants to have a healing effect on an organization must listen to workers’ stories and anger, call them to community health and wellness, and teach how wellness, leisure, health, personal or organizational growth, and business effectiveness are closely related to each other.
Striving For Wellness
In dealing with others and organizations, leaders strive for wellness, a concept that means the best one can be at any given time. Individuals and organizations come with the baggage of their history, and a good leader cannot expect from followers immediate exemplary responses to his or her challenges.
The first stage in healing is to stop negative influences, the slow erosion of values, and the corrupt influences of power.
Then, healing also includes efforts to end destructive practices such as confrontational positions, neglect of workers, coercion of followers, harassment, paying for support, outright fraud, controlling management teams with salaries or threats regarding job security, dividing to conquer, and using people rather than collaborating with them.
A leader who heals confronts any crisis of quality, changes in standards, neglect of traditional values, and does so because he or she recognizes we are all capable of evil, we often know our flaws and do nothing about them, we live with false values or reduced ideals, and we need illumination and healing.
Wellness is more than the absence of dysfunctions in individuals and organizations. It is a holistic concept that includes physical, social, and spiritual components. People can work at wellness through self-motivation and healthy practices.
Components of wellness include a positive outlook on life, basic personal and organizational skills, a sense of purpose, respect and love for each other, being in tune with one’s environment, and having a plan for balanced living.
Like other aspects of organizational life, a leader can manage wellness.
A leader who heals gives special attention to emotions, whether job or people related, identifying causes and potential reactions, and making sure he or she channels positive emotions and controls negative ones. Among the former are acceptance, joy, trust, surprise, satisfaction, and among the latter are fear, anger, hatred, rage, pride, jealousy, sadness, and loss. Each of these has many manifestations.
For example, people can have fear of failure, of embarrassment, of disappointing others, of resentment of leaders, of lack of respect, and of losing self-confidence.
- Leadership is almost impossible for those who lack the ability to react to these emotions.
- Leaders of hope partner with followers, understand their emotions, and raise them up to their potential.
- They have faith in their followers, see they attain their own hopes and contribute to the organization’s, and love them enough to seek what is best for them.
A Leader of Hope
A leader of hope constantly asks what individuals and the organization would be like if all were functioning well. The organization’s product or service, its workers, management, and structure should all perform well. This does not mean there are not irritants in the group who do not think or act the way others do.
They, too, receive healing acceptance and affirmation, for the group needs energy that comes from differences.
Wellness within an organization will include trust, ethics, protection within the working environment, truth-telling, financial integrity, mutual respect, mutual pride, patience with each other, and a sense of responsibility for each other and for the organization. A spiritual leader can achieve much when he or she concentrates on on healing when dealing with others and organizations.
So, how are you doing at leading hope, fostering wellness, and insuring healing with the people in your organization? What can you do to strengthen your “empathy muscles” so that you can be that healing leader that keeps your organization healthy? 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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