Discussion Board – Spiritual Formation.
Discussion Board 3
Spiritual Formation and Your Call to Ministry
Topic: Pettit, chs. 8-9
How would you connect leadership and calling to spiritual formation?
Spiritual Formation and Your Call to Ministry
Topic: Pettit, chs. 8-9 Thread Prompt: How would you connect leadership and calling to spiritual formation?
Leadership and Spiritual Formation
Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.
—-James MacGregor Burns, Leadership, 158
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Leadership and spiritual formation have a symbiotic relationship. Both, by their very nature, require the production and experience of continuous change. From one perspective, spiritual formation involves individual change while leadership involves group or organizational change, which also requires individual change. Certainly spiritual transformation in a group or ministry setting requires effective spiritual leadership. But the most critical element of the symbiotic relationship is that effective transformational leadership1 in any environment, religious or secular, requires the spiritual transformation of the leader. As leadership studies have progressed over the last few years, the role of the inner life of the leader is becoming more commonly recognized.
Even with the avalanche of new books on leadership, there is still no common agreement on the meaning of leadership. A surprising number of these new books claim to provide the “secret” to effective leadership, as though there is some previously undiscovered simple key to leadership success. Definitions of leadership seem to multiply at an alarming rate, with each mutation focusing on the particular writer’s own perspective or reflecting the values of the current culture. The frustration with so much detail but so little definition is expressed by one of the leading researchers in the area of leadership: “Four decades of research on leadership have produced a bewildering mass of findings. … It is difficult to know what, if anything, has been convincingly demonstrated by replicated research. The endless accumulation of empirical data has not produced an integrated understanding of leadership.”2
While the lack of resolution is frustrating, what is encouraging is the fact that more and more writers in the area of leadership are recognizing the importance of the inner life of the leader. Leading “from the inside out” has become a recurring theme, even in the secular arena. The inner motivations of the leader are not hermetically sealed in a secure place within the leader. Rather, they stretch far beyond the leader and have a powerful impact on the followers as well as on the organization as a whole.
Jim Collins, in his excellent book, Good to Great, notes that one of the key factors that enable good companies to make the transition to become great companies is the presence of what he calls “Level 5 Leadership.” His researchers noted a striking similarity in the great companies studied: all the CEOs of these companies possessed two traits in common. They were not charismatic personalities; none were favorites of the media, and their names were not commonly recognized. But they were characterized by the two qualities of “extreme personal humility and intense professional will.”3 Together, these qualities describe the inner motivation of a leader who focuses his strong passion on the good of the company he leads, not on his own personal ego needs. In contrast, for self-centered leaders “work will always be first and foremost about what they get—fame, fortune, adulation, power, whatever—not about what they build, create, and contribute.”4
Collins might have called this type of leadership “servant leadership”; in fact, some of his researchers suggested that he do so. But the title was rejected because of the current common use of the term. In fact, “servant leadership” has enjoyed a resurgence in the secular leadership literature. Robert Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership, published in 1977, began the current interest in the connection between leadership and servanthood. Writers, both secular and Christian, now focus on servant leadership. The connection between leadership and servanthood moves the leadership discussion into the inner life of the leader. No longer can the leader’s inner life be crowded out by the pragmatic emphasis on the skills of leadership.
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