Leading Spiritually – What I learned from the Business World

by Christine Sine
Starfish at Esperanza Canada

The art of leading spiritually

This is the final post in the series on Leading Spiritually. Thank you for joining with me in this journey. I particularly appreciate your thoughts and comments which have helped me grapple with these issues.

Check out the other posts:

The Art of Leading Spiritually – An Invitation to a Journey

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Why Are We Leading?

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Where Are We Heading?

The Art of Leading Spiritually – How Do We Do It?

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Discerning Together

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Discerning on Your Own

Leading Spiritually: What I Learned from the Business World 

Not everything about leadership in the business world is counter to what good spiritual leadership should look like. However, for me personally the insights I have gained from the business world are more likely to affirm or flesh out what God has already been saying to our discernment group rather than give new or fresh ideas.

Sometimes they have helped us name the processes we are using. When we started using a more organic approach to strategic planning, it was very encouraging to find information on organic strategic planning which is a recognized model in the business world. It bears a lot of resemblance to the group discernment process we use, but has helped us refine what we do and walk with confidence in our new approach.

When we were looking for networking models The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations  was an excellent resource to help us think strategically about what we wanted to accomplish and how best to achieve it.

I love articles like Productivity Lagging: Take A Nap  that remind me that taking a siesta increases productivity and creativity affirming my belief in the importance of balance and rhythm to our lives.  The business world even affirms the importance of contemplative practices in the creation of good leaders as in this article: Mindful Leadership: Compassion, Contemplation and Meditation Develop Effective Leaders  

Unfortunately most of the best messages I have learned from the business world are about how not to lead. The grasping after position, power and wealth, the centrality of self ambition and the use of others to gain these ends is widespread. It is also devastating to those they supposedly lead and is often destructive for society. Surely this was one of the lessons of the recent recession. Spiritual power looks very different from this.

What I am strongly convinced of is that there is no substitute for the wisdom of God when we want to discern how we should operate as leaders and the ways of God are often foolishness to the world. God does indeed delight in using the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. As Richard Rohr says:

The bottom, the edge, the outsider… is the privileged spiritual position. In a word, that is why the biblical revelation is revolutionary and even subversive…. Stop trying. Stop forcing reality. Learn the mystery of surrender and trust, and then it will be done unto you, through you, with you and very often, in spite of you. You could say that God’s forever pattern is creatio ex nihilo; Yahweb is always creating something out of nothing…. God “brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist” (Romans 4:17) You could call it God’s primary job description. (Things Hidden p 90)

So let me end with a prayer from the apostle Paul who I suspect is speaking here to all aspiring spiritual leader.

We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. (Colossians 1:9-14 NLT)

May you grow in wisdom and become the leader and the follower that God intends you to be

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Coe Hutchison January 20, 2012 - 10:11 am

Needless to say, your title of what you learned from the business world about leading spiritually really grabbed me. I spent 30 years in the business world trying to learn how to lead well, which I understood as including leading spiritually. When I retired, it was you and Tom that suggested I check out Regent College’s Marketplace Ministry program, which I defined as learning how to be a Christian in the business world. It was, and is, a wonderful program.

I spent probably two-thirds of my 30 years in business as a supervisor/manager with people reporting to me and working with many peers. I believe that leadership is important in all those relationships, perhaps especially with our peers. When I first became a supervisor, I had a high level boss who confided in me, “Don’t get too close to your employees or you won’t be able to fire them when you need to.” I never did think much of that advice and never followed it. It almost seems like saying, “Don’t get too close to your spouse or you won’t be able to go through with the divorce when you want to.” Yuck!

I have always believed that the best leadership stems from relationship. I think Jesus is a great example of that. Why was Peter so crushed when he denied Christ for the third time? Not just because he had lied, or broken a rule, but because he had deeply hurt the person that loved him unconditionally. He had damaged a precious relationship. We read evidence of Jesus touching people, Jesus “seeing” (deeply) into people, and Jesus knowing people. I take these as Jesus in relationship with those he led.

In the business world, if I ever had to resort to simply using the power of my position, I knew that I had failed in leadership. And I did fail more than once. The best leadership occurred when there was relationship and understanding with all of those with whom I worked. We were the most creative and the most productive when there was trust and even a good bit of unconditional love.

And to bring that all that back to Mustard Seed Associates, that is what we have practiced as our primary form of leadership on the Board of Directors. We believe that our best leadership occurs when we are first and foremost in relationship with each other, caring for each other and as you blogged about earlier, listening to each other. We take the beginning of each of our meetings to build those relationships. With that foundation all the business goes much more smoothly. Thank you, Christine for this excellent blog series. It has reminded me of the importance of relationships in spiritual leadership.

Christine Sine January 20, 2012 - 10:17 am

Thanks Coe, so appreciate your insights. I think that how Christians lead spiritually in the business world & what difference it makes would make a great addition to this series. I know of some Christian leaders who operate from a totally different model of business because of their faith. Will look for some examples and might do some additional posts next week

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