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.