This last week I was interviewed by a M Div student for her class on leadership. I told her that for me leadership was not a position of privilege or of prestige but rather one of discernment and encouragement. I said that to me the prime function of a Christian leader is to enable others to become all that God intends them to be. I talked to her about our use of the Quaker discernment process and the group decision making structure we have set up to encourage cooperation and mutual support within our team. She was excited by this concept and commented – This is leadership as spiritual direction.
I have thought a lot about this since we talked. What is leadership meant to look like? What was it that made Jesus leadership special? Our modern concept of leadership, even of Christian leadership is a very hierarchical and very much based on position and prestige. The concept of leadership as spiritual direction turns this on its head just as Jesus does when he talks about the servanthood nature of leadership. It places the advancement of our team members ahead of our own “be thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3) and it makes us as leaders responsible for nurturing our team members in ways that nourishes their spiritual development as well as their physical accomplishments. Jesus rarely told his followers how to do something he asked questions that enabled his disciples to find the answers that God had already placed within their hearts.
I talked some about this in a previous post “Planning with Spiritual Formation at the Centre” but I am realizing that this is a concept that it key to the way that we help followers of Jesus move into the future. It is also a key to our being witnesses of mutuality and love to those around us. I have already been told that I need to write a book on this but I suspect that is some way off in the future.
However I do have several questions for all of us out of this.
- How do we rethink our leadership models so that they are more like spiritual direction than hierarchical power structures
- How do we encourage community building and spiritual formation as part of our leadership models so that we see the transformation of all we work with
- Where are the resources to help this happen – I would love to hear from you on this and am looking for books and online resources that can help me further develop my thinking