Thursday, August 31, 2006

GLE Organizational Values

I am teaching a course in Organizational Ethics and Values this semester in the Doctor of Strategic Leadership Degree here at Regent University. I have been reflecting today on our own organizational values in the newly formed School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship (GLE) and how this intersects/reflects with the values of Biblical Christianity. The Dean of our school, Dr. Bruce Winston asked me and others to help in framing our values. We came up with the following:

In the School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship (GLE), we value:

  • Devotion. We worship God, our Creator, through Jesus Christ, and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to offer our work and interaction with everyone as our reasonable service to Him through the biblical values of love, service, mutuality, humility and obedience.

  • Excellence. We strive to be professionals of excellence in the quality of our work as we offer innovative solutions and insight to our organizations and entrepreneurial enterprises.
  • Innovation. We embrace the new and test the old in order to find the best for both today and tomorrow as we seek to develop new and creative tools and methods to achieve our mission. We are committed to examining how we do what we do, why we do it and what we should be doing.
  • Efficiency. We choose to be servants to those whom we encounter, providing consistent, efficient and accurate assistance. This requires that we be stewards of resources and seek the greater good of the greater whole.
  • Integrity. We strive to always exhibit Christ-like character in our actions, words and deeds. We seek to be who we say we are and to have our deeds measured against our words as we "walk our talk."
  • Respect. We are a family of brothers and sisters in Christ as we demonstrate healthy respect for, and build eternal relationships with, one another. This requires that we embrace diversity of faith traditions, cultures and history as we operate in unity toward the fulfillment of the greater mission.
  • Peace. We strive to be ambassadors of peace in the midst of diverse beliefs and interpretations of faith and love as we stand firm in our convictions and provide insight and encouragement, so we may edify and refine one another in the pursuit of truth and the advancement of the mission.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Leadership free from confusion

I have been wondering if it is possible to seek God in a position of leadership, when most of the contemporary pursuit of leadership is burdened by desperate illusions and inordinate desires for power, prestige and status. The example and message of Jesus and his early followers propose that is very possible to see leadership as a determined relinquishment of our carnal desire for fame and fortune, and to use the call to lead as an oppertunity to emulate Christ, who desired to be made of "no reputation" (Philippians 2:7). I have been rereading Merton for the last few weeks in my devotional time and came upon this section, earlier this morning:

“This then is what it means to seek God perfectly: to withdraw from illusion and pleasure, from worldly anxieties and desires, from the works that God does not want, from a glory that is only human display; to keep my mind free from confusion in order that my liberty may be always at the disposal of His will; to entertain silence in my heart and listen for the voice of God; to cultivate an intellectual freedom from the images of created things in order to receive the secret contact of God in obscure love; to love all men as myself...”

This, for me, is an erudite description of the process of value/s formation in Christian leadership.

From New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1972. Pages 45-46.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Paper on Mimetic Christological Model of Leadership available

The paper I read at this year's Servant Leadership Research Roundtable entitled, "The Philippians Hymn (2:5-11) as an early mimetic Christological model of Christian Leadership in Roman Philippi", is now available at: under publications and proceedings.

The abstract reads as follows:

This paper proposes an early mimetic Christological model of Christian Leadership in Roman Philippi by exploring the judicial, rhetorical structure and the social function of the Philippians hymn (2:5-11) as a cursus pudorum (course of ignominies) that stands in contrast to a cursus honorum, the formalized sequence of public offices in first-century Roman cities. The Philippians hymn challenged the notions and principles of the prevalent shame/honor social matrix of Roman societies by offering an alternative set of behaviors and values that stood in stark contrast with those of the dominant culture. The hymn makes use of a cursus pudorum in which the voluntary abasement, humility and obedience of Christ becomes an exemplum that offers a critique of the tyrannies of the timocratic leadership style of Roman Philippi and offers an alternative vision of service oriented leadership rooted in humility and mutuality.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Merton's Insights on the False Self

I have been rereading James Finley’s monumental book on Merton’s theology of spiritual identity, this week: “Merton’s Palace of Nowhere”. The section dealing with the False Self continues to shape my thinking and writing on authentic Christian identity and in turn our quest for true Christian leadership, free from selfish ambition and inordinate competitiveness.

Here follows three of Finley’s probing insights on Merton’s understanding of the false self:
  • The False Self is a whole syndrome of lies and illusions that spring from a radical rejection of God in Whom alone we find our own truth and ultimate identity.
  • Merton equates sin with the identity-giving structures of the False Self – thus the focus of sin is shifted from the realm of morality to that of ontology.
  • Sin, and therefore the False Self, is a fundamental stance of wanting to be what we are not. Sin is thus an orientation to falsity, a basic lie concerning our own deepest reality.

For Merton, our deep and truest identity is found in our rediscovery of God through the revelation of His Son, Jesus of Nazareth:

“The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God….Ultimately the only way that I can be myself is to become identified with Him in whom is hidden the reason and fulfillment of my existence. Therefore, there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.”

Finley, J. 2003. Merton’s Palace of Nowhere. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press.
Merton, T. 1961. New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Building with/out God

I was deeply struct by a reading from Thomas Merton this morning. Merton in his usual erudite manner show the danger of thinking that leadership is primarily about power and dominance:

“Those who seek to build a better world without God are those who, trusting in money, power, technology and organization, deride the spiritual strength of faith and love and fix all their hopes on a huge monolithic society, having a monopoly over all power, all production, and even over the minds of its members. But to alienate the spirit of man by subjecting him to such monstrous indignity is to make injustice and violence inevitable. By such means we may indeed increase economic production but in doing so we will onlymake the world worse.”

I could not help but to think of the words of Psalm 127 (verse 1): "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. "

May our quest for moral leadership be focused on the "power" of love and faith, rooted in our desire to imitate He who is all truth.

From Disputed Questions by Thomas Merton (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, Inc. 1960), page 129.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Spiritual Formation and Leader/Follower Development

The quest for Spiritual Formation falls in the academic field of spirituality. The Oxford Dictionary defines “spirituality” as the quality or condition of being spiritual. In turn it defines “spiritual” as devout, holy, pious, morally good. Kenneth Leech defined Christian Spirituality in the 1980's as being about a process of formation. We are thus formed by, and in, Christ. For Leech – it (Spiritual Formation) is a form of Christ-[ening] – being clothed with Christ, and so being transformed into the same image. This simple description seems to conform Paul’s understanding of this in Romans (8:29) when he links destiny, vocation and spiritual formation:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that they might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
In simple language to be formed as a Christian – in this instance, formed as a leader – is to be formed into the image of Jesus. It is interesting to note that Paul consistently makes use of the Greek word “icon” to the describe the image we are suppose to be transformed into – thus this image is not an end in itself – but rather a window of a larger reality. Thus we become an image/window of a larger reality – in this case, an image of Christ – not a representation but rather a window.

The major question would then be how this happens – the process of formation. A preliminary reading of the Pauline writings suggests that there might be a very clear model of spiritual/leadership formation in his thoughts/theology. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (3:18):
“And we all (literally in the Greek – in the midst of us all – or, all of us together), with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord as within a mirror are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Three elements/steps seem to emerge from an inner texture analysis of this text that might be useful to describe a Pauline understanding of spiritual/leadership formation:
  • Accept our environment (…and we all…) – this might describe the value/act of giving consent to where God puts us – a sensitivity to our context – Situational Leadership. This might further refer to accept the calling/vocation that our situations bring to us.
  • Have voluntary honesty (…with unveiled face…) – a socio-cultural reading of this links Paul’s use of this reference with both Old Testament thoughts as well as the Greek use of masks in their comedy and tragic plays. This might describe the values/acts of integrity/authentic approaches in leadership.
  • Have a determined (devotional) focus on our deepest inner truth (…beholding as within a mirror the glory of the Lord…) – this might refer to the willingness to be gathered and formed by our inherent “spiritual” truths within us – in a Christian sense to surrender to the Truth of the Spirit within us. In a nutshell the willingness to be formed by the image/ethos/attitude of Christ.

It seems to me that when these three elements work together that Christian spiritual and leadership formation takes place within the follower/leader.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Poverty of Spirit

Dr. Bruce Winston, the Dean of our school (School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship) here at Regent University, proposes that the first beatitude in Matthew's Sermon on the Mount (5:3); "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven", is the foundational and primary value for Christian Leadership. Judith Hougan proposes that poverty is central to our experience as humans: "...poverty is part of our story, our reality, part of who we are in this fallen world. This poverty is not specifically our sin nature, but in our weakness, we certainly fall prey to sin." Hougan continues on and describes how the "myth of competence" hinders our acceptance of our "poverty of spirit" and thus keeps us from accepting and receiving the kingdom of heaven: "The myth of competence is founded in a competitive framework for living, the idea that life is about 'bigger and better'."

When leaders accept our own poverty of spirit, we are free to be honest and true - free to speak about our brokenness, sin and wrong motives within the larger community and thus we are ushered into the arena of the possibility of growth and Gospel transformation that the kingdom of heaven offers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer comments: "He who is alone in his sin is utterly alone....The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners."

Christian leaders take the first step in leading, by accepting their own personal brokenness and poverty and so come to the end of themselves - ready to accept that Christ shall be all and that He is the only hope for moral and transformative leadership.

Bonhoeffer, D. 1954. Life Together. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, page 110.
Hougen, J. 2005. The Community of the Broken. Conversations, Volume 3:2, 55-60.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Pride as Madness

Baruch Spinoza, a 17th century Jewish/Dutch philosopher (1632-1677 CE) described pride as a form of madness: "Thus we see that it may readily happen, that a man may easily think too highly of himself, or a loved object, and, contrariwise, too meanly of a hated object. This feeling is called 'pride,' in reference to the man who thinks too highly of himself, and it is a species of madness." C. S. Lewis described pride as the "complete anti-God state of mind...the great sin."

The problem of pride in leadership is that it provides leaders with a completely false sense of themselves. They find their identity in their talents, expertise, accomplishments and possessions. The only cure for this kind of prevalent leadership madness is a clearer vision of God in which we find our own true self, created and sustained in Him. John Calvin made this connection, " is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God's face...For, because all of us are inclined by nature to hypocrisy, a kind of empty image...". I am persuaded that authentic Christian leadership starts withthe quest for a clearer vision of God in which the false images of pride are stripped away to provide, in the words of John Michael Talbot, "an empty canvas" ready to bear the image of our Lord.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Leadership as Spiritual Practice

Anthony Robinson (2005) defines leadership as a spiritual practice that in the words of Dorothy Bass is part of "those shared activities that address fundamental human needs and that, woven together, form a way of life." I have been challenged recently by one of my mentors as we shared a meal, Eric Watt (our local pastor and one of the humblest and accessible men I have ever met) to think of Jesus as my friend that desires to spend time with me and share in my life. This challenge has led to several new avenues of personal exploration on the nature of leadership as a shared activity: shared with God and the people we serve.

Robinson (2005, 28), influenced by this idea of leadership as a shared spiritual activity/practice, writes about the misconceptions about leadership, vision and expertise:

"True leadership does not simply influence the community to follow the leader's vision, but also enables the community to face its most critical challenge and to be what God calls and enables it to be. There is too much stress today on the leader as the person of vision. A vision is not imported from somewhere else, and it is not the idiosyncratic vision of one charismatic woman or man. A vision arises from a careful reading of the context and the work required by God of a particular people with a particular identity....Leadership is not the same as expertise, although the two are often confused. Experts come equipped with a variety of technical fixes, new tools. These are fine as far as they go, but they don't engage people in loss, risk and trust. In fact, people may try to avoid the challenge of the more difficult work of preoccupying themselves with the latest tools and techniques. Experts do things for us; leaders go with us."

Robinson, A. B. 2005. Give and Take: Leadership as a Spiritual Practice. Christian Century 122.20, No. 20: 28-32.