We live in a crucial season where our choices will have impact for generations to come. Like tectonic platesmoving beneath the earth’s surface, we are encountering seismic shifts in our understanding not only of ourworld, but also of our very selves. For many, the result is a state of exile experienced on a physical, mental,emotional and spiritual level:
– Physical born of a deep sense of displacement;
– Emotional resulting in exhaustion and utter depletion;
– Mental as creativity is lost in the attempt to sustain the unsustainable; and
– Spiritual as core identity is challenged by the seduction of an easy fix, a quick way out of our presentstate of displacement.
Exile involves both pain and loss. It calls us to let go of one way of being that we might live forward into afuture discontinuous with our past. Given this, it is easy to understand the resistance to change.
Yet exile can also be a gift. It can provide a liminal space in which to forge new ways of being that becomes ameans of transformation and renewal. The flourishing of community is not immediately a responsibility thatmost leaders understand as inherent to their work. Yet an increasing number of visionary leaders areexploring new forms of social action, resulting in the healing of both community and individual.
Flourishing can best be described as wholeness of body, mind, emotions, and spirit for not only the individual,but for the community. This is not merely an ethereal state of peace, but the economic realization ofcommunity-wide prosperity. Taken in this context, flourishing is a social, political and economic reality thatseeks the welfare of the whole, not just a few. Indeed, our inter-dependence, be it on a local or global level, reflects the reality that individual flourishing is not possible apart from communal flourishing. The painfulreality is that most leaders are not equipped to lead in the context of exile. Such is the pace and demandupon leaders today that few are given opportunity to acknowledge the reality of exile, short of crisis.
Conger in his seminal work, Spirit at Work: Discovering Spirituality in Leadership (1994) challenges leaders to remember that:
We share responsibility for creating the external world by projecting either a spirit of light or a spirit of shadow on that which is other than us. We project either a spirit of hope or a spirit of despair…We have a choice about what we are going to project, and in that choice, we help create the world that is… A leader must take special responsibility for what’s going on inside his/her own self, inside his/her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good (p. 24-25).
The leader’s power to choose what spirit is projected cannot be fully grasped apart from the spiritual journey. Our present zeitgeist presses the nurture of spiritual maturity in leaders, while also addressing 21st century leadership challenge of leading intentional change toward the flourishing of community. Four observations from coaching leaders across disciplines:
- Spirituality is central to the shaping of core identity, character and call of leaders;
- Spiritual maturity involves leaders’ coming to claim the whole of their narratives—both light and shadow—as interpreted through their spiritual narratives;
- Connecting soul with Source empowers leaders to cycle between stress and renewal in the release of creativity and vision;
- The nurture of the poet and prophet in leaders empowers them to lead intentional change for the flourishing of community.
Historically, care of soul has been relegated to the faith community, while preparation of the leader has been the responsibility of the academy and business community. Yet, the challenges faced in this threshold time press for a new understanding of leader formation.
Our human tendency to create dualities—body and soul, local and global, sacred and secular—have resulted in bifurcated lives. But, what if we committed to the spiritual formation of leader toward addressing 21stcentury challenges? What if we developed the capacity of poet and prophet in individuals, teams, organizations and communities toward a more equal, fair and sustainable planet? Understanding that the nurture of the poet would help to articulate the holism of the human journey as it speaks to the past and present context, just as the prophet helps both individuals and collective cross over to the new, with intentionality and commitment for the flourishing of the community. What is spiritual maturity was found in the cross-disciplinary engagement of spiritual formation, social justice, and organizational development… for the sake of people and planet? The leader as poet and prophet invites the community into a place where deepchange can take place, not for the sake of change, but toward the flourishing of community.