Academic,Leadership Development,Spiritual

Spiritual Leadership and the Philippian Hymn – Part 2, Personal Transformation17 Mar

Transformation If we say that ecclesial leadership is an art, as Friedman tells us, and if we accept there is some form of kenotic element involved – that is we must empty ourselves of ourselves and become as much like God as we can, then implied in this are significant character changes. These changes will move us from being egocentric to being humble, from being self-centered to being centered around Christ and others, and to use whatever power and privilege we have to the benefit of the kingdom of God. There is also the issue of emotional maturity that is a thread that must be integrated into the transformation process. Spiritual leaders cannot be dragged down into the emotionality of the people they lead. They must be able to stand above it if they are to be able to resolve it, without being muddied or infected by the darkness of it. As we have heard from Friedmann, leadership is not about technique. He argues that the yard-long shelves of unopened or half-read books on leadership are eloquent testimony to that. There are certainly skills that can be learned. But ecclesial leaders need much more than skills, they are called to be shining examples of Christ, to live by His way, and to devote themselves to serving the needs of others. In other words, any leadership development program for clerical leaders, needs to support this kind of spiritual growth and transformation. As I reflect on this kenotic transformation, this transcendence of self and ego, and on my search for a leadership model embedded in theology, the work of the German Transcendental Theologian Karl Rahner comes to mind. The notion of transcendence within the thinking of Rahner’s model has notable synergies with personal growth. Rather aptly, in Rahner’s theological and spiritual context, this growth would have a divine thread, a transcendence from our human limitedness, by being open to God and to the word and to the power of the sacred mystery. Fiorenza argues that we transcend ourselves and become ‘exemplary’ (Fiorenza, 30). As developing Christian leaders we should be convicted of the omnipotence of God, to transcend our human boundaries and to allow us to evolve as something infinitely ‘special’; something beyond what we could ever imagine. Our Christian journey in fact is a reflection on and a striving towards our ultimate selves as the Imago Dei. Bernard Lonergan, (1904-1984), a Canadian Jesuit Priest also emphasizes the centrality of this kenotic self-transcendence in human development. He argues that self-transcendence is a process of cognitive, moral and affective development. He goes on further to say that spiritual conversion goes beyond moral and intellectual self-transcendence in that it requires a shift to ‘ultimate meaning and value’. It is a ‘total reorientation of one’s life’, where spiriitual and moral value is placed above personal satisfaction. For me this says that we lose our preoccupation with self, and the good of others becomes paramount. This IS the personal transformation that we must strive for in the development of our clerical leaders. It is reflected in the Philippian Hymn through the example of Jesus, whose kenotic journey of self-emptying and God filling, elevates him to the 'highest place' : 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The leadership journey, and particularly the spiritual leadership journey, requires such an understanding, such a commitment and such a transcendence and transformation in order to ‘perfect the art’ so to speak. I think therefore that some reflection on Rahner and Lonergan’s thinking is essential for the development of a ‘theology of leadership’. Full referencing details are available on request
Academic,Leadership Development,Spiritual

Spiritual Leadership and the Philippian Hymn – Part 1, The use of power16 Mar

I am going to share here, in three parts, a paper I researched and presented to a Conference of Bishops in Durban in November last year. It is a paper that explores a model of leadership suitable for clergy. I refer to it also as Ecclesial Leadership. In my search for a model of leadership for the Ecclesia (Church leaders) I have discovered that many theologians believe the Philippian Hymn to be a central source of guidance for church leadership. Here Paul is giving guidance to the elders in the church at Philippia on how they should relate with their congregation. The Philippian Hymn – Philippians 2:5-11 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The first of three elements which are central to the notion of an Ecclesial Leadership Model is the use of power. Strawbridge rightly argues that a theological understanding of power is critical to a theology of leadership. An Ecclesial leader has no power. He or she must acknowledge that their power comes from God and can only be accessed through spiritual discipline – a consistent submission to God through things such as reflection, prayer, studying the word and all things we have come to acknowledge as part of a spiritual life. God works through a spiritual leader, the leader cannot act alone. A disciplined spiritual practice is the foundation that is needed in order for God to work through us. God needs a fertile soil, an open mind, a free flowing channel. Pope Gregory argues that this includes prayer, proclamation, admonition, scriptural knowledge and holiness of life based on the leader’s relationship with God (Strawbridge, p.72). So what I am saying is that for an ecclesial leader to use power appropriately, that is, for the good of others, they should be suffused in spiritual discipline so that the power of God can flow freely through them. This spiritual discipline must be firmly entrenched in all spiritual leaders during their training….it must become second nature. You seldom see humility in business leadership, in fact the whole focus is on power structures and hierarchies. The latter are not appropriate in the church, it is not appropriate for a theology of Ecclesial Leadership. Sadly though, this abuse of power appears to exist and it emerges as a recurring problem in church society, here and across the world. It is clearly evident in the various research exercises undertaken on this topic. It would appear that the abuse of power in clerical leadership, is regrettably not uncommon. If we are to develop church leaders who are different from business leaders, who reflect the idea of power inherent in the Philippian Hymn (used not to our own advantage) then we must help these leaders to embrace this humility, they must also embrace unity with their people, servanthood and ethical leadership Edwin Friedman’s words find great resonance with my own thoughts when he said that "well-differentiated" leadership is an art, not a science. By this I understand that he means that it is not something we teach in the same way we teach some-one how to bake a cake – by a system of actions. It is something that evolves over time – it is crafted and perfected; mediated through experience and the application of analysis, judgement and readjustment of thoughts and actions. Let me say something about Friedman’s notion of being well-ifferentiated. It is the art of being ‘different’, perhaps one can say ‘set aside’ while remaining in relationship with others in ways that are healthy and life-giving for the community as a whole. So ecclesial leaders should be different – and I believe this difference is reflected in their calling, in their humility and in the maturity of their spirituality. Although they are set aside by God through their calling - they are still in a relationship of love with all that surrounds them, and they still put the needs of others above their own. This brings to mind the idea of perichoresis -the Eastern Orthodox church’s concept for the essence that binds the Trinity into one. A relationship of unity and Godly love. Precisely the type of relationship clerical leaders should aspire to. Full referencing details are available on request.
Leadership Development

When Leadership and Power Go Awry18 Aug

Many of you have probably heard of the notion of Toxic Leadership. Authors on this topic describe toxic leadership as being way beyond the ordinary, out-of control, demagogue. The toxic leader is a seriously dysfunctional individual who acts out his or her personal and psychological malfunctioning on the hapless people that they lead. The result is that people who are objects of envy, who seek to disagree; in essence those who do not feed the rampant ego of a toxic leader, find themselves on a hit list where they are persecuted and tormented by relentless harassment and intimidation. The toxic leader does not usually let up until their object of persecution is destroyed and removed from their environment. This is because their behaviour is based in an obsessive preoccupation with their own perceptions of worthlessness. A toxic leader is akin to an insatiable monster whose lust for power is never satisfied but who must continuously feed to maintain some sense of short term satisfaction. Sadly this destructive behaviour never addresses the real problem, this is because there is no connection between the behaviour and the source of the problem. People who are obssessed with a desire to accumulate ultimate power often have, in their history, some experience of serious emotional deprivation. Their need to accumulate power at all cost, reminds us of the drug addict continuously searching for the next fix that they hope, in vain, will fill the emotional void they feel within themselves. Drug addiction and the power addiction of the toxic leader are maladies of the same ilk. The prognosis for recovery is poor and the medium to long term outcome is seldom positive....they eventually destroy themselves. If you find yourself in the pathway of a toxic leader, don't try and make it work......get out of their way as soon as possible, before they destroy you. Toxic leaders, when placed in a position of power, can wreak enormous destruction on people and organizations. They are hard to stop because they are manipulative and devious, and they play the 'game'; making friends in the 'right' places. Morality and ethics don't feature high on their agenda, especially if they get in the way of what they want. They are people who often do not have a strong moral conscience. Because of this you cannot expect them to behave morally, nor it is ever very easy to predict their behaviour. Unless you understand their pathology, which is what motivates them, you will never know what's coming next. Toxic leaders will do everything necessary to conceal their pathology and their destructive motives, they are usually people that are difficult to read, because, in essence they have a lot to hide. When you encounter these people, don't be tempted to are in the wrong place, go elsewhere.
Leadership Development

Leadership Development: Holes in the fabric of traditional learning methodology01 Apr

Emerging leaders today emerge from leadership development programmes with skills in the various modules they have completed, but without the advanced capability of seeing the big picture of how business works as an interdependent system. In fact in today’s world, even system’s theory is no longer a set of interdependent elements that can be sustained by a mathematical formula that maintains a sustainable relationship between the system and its environment. The notion of chaos has created a turbulence that threatens to continuously destabilise organisational systems. How then do emerging leaders, equipped with this constrained skills set based on traditional, linear thinking in business science, deal with a world that laughs in the face of linearity and predictability? What we don’t teach our students is firstly how to resolve problems in community. Today’s problems are way too complex to be resolved by one person. Interdisciplinary community involvement provides a platform for multiple inputs and the generation of new knowledge necessary to provide new solutions to new challenges. It exploits enriching Gestalt theory where what emerges from the interaction is greater than the sum of its parts. We don’t teach our emerging leaders to think critically, to argue and to dialogue at the deepest levels, which will provide a platform for the emergence of innovative solutions. We definitely do not introduce the notion of context and transience into problem solving that is characteristic of the 21st century. Where you have constant change and transformation, solutions to problems often only have a short life span. We teach students to rely on precedent way too much rather than being comfortable with a transient solution that is integrated into the specific context of a specific problem. Old fashioned management teaching says ‘fix a problem once’ but we need to teach our students to have tolerance to deal with recurring issues that may not necessary ‘stay fixed’ because of the continuous transformation in our environment. Our leaders emerging from development programmes have no idea of how to enter into deep discourse in the resolution of problems. They do not know how to talk to people in a way that draws out their best creative thinking. The art of reflection is seldom brought into play, yet most of the dialogue models that have integrity in solving complex problems, emphasise this reflective space as crucial in the process. We are generating leaders that have fixed, linear mindsets, who rely on outdated methodologies to apply to complex problem solving situations. We teach them skills, but leadership in the chaotic postmodern context is about so much more than the simple application of learned skills. It is little wonder that our emerging leaders are ill-equipped to grapple effectively with the leadership challenges of the postmodern world. We need a change in learning paradigm, one that matches and supports the complexity of the world in which our emerging leaders must live, work, and make a difference.


Dr. Elaine Saunders – Industrial Psychologist

Phd in Leadership Development Author of Assessing Human Competence Specialising in online competency-based assessment tools, leadership development and performance counselling Based in Sandton, Johannesburg My key areas of intervention revolve around helping individuals to achieve their potential in the work context. To this end, my consulting practice comprises of three key applications which are related. These are the application of competency-based assessment in recruitment and leadership development, counselling as it pertains to performance, wellness and the recovery from trauma, and leadership development coaching.

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