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Thought Leaders Unpacked -> The Soul of a Leader #1: Following the Heart

thought-leaders“What possible good can result from venturing into the unknown?”

Margaret Benefiel thus thrusts us into the crux of the leader’s conundrum. We do not all traverse paths paved and mapped by others. Increasingly in today’s ever-changing world, we find ourselves in new territory, exploring not yet imagined possibilities.

If knowing or controlling the outcome is a prerequisite for leadership, then we are trapped before even beginning. How does anything new ever break in? If the end has to be determined and proven before we begin, there is no means for experimenting with the new, strange or different.

Benefiel’s bold assertion is that the heart can be trusted as a leader’s compass in charting strange territory, discerning the need for change, and trying entirely new approaches.

Anyone reading here probably already believes that leadership is not a mechanical catalogue of techniques that one masters and implements with precise and reliable effect.

What if leadership derives its very nature, form and power from the particular individual who enacts it? What if leadership were an embodied dynamic?

Suddenly the importance of what sort of person this leader is becomes significant. The quality of one’s character limits or enhances one’s capacity to think, discern and choose from the well-spring of possibilities the unimagined and unformed future holds. Creativity, courage and influence do not derive from textbooks.

What are the practices that train a person’s heart over time so that one can rely on its leading when the needful time arises?

I’m dwelling on this underlying assumption about the trusting the heart, because I am hearing certain voices in my head arguing that the human heart is “exceeding wicked”, broken beyond recognition by corruption and sin, and not to be trusted under any circumstances. These voices, (with whom I do not agree but they are shouting in my ear nonetheless), insist that in order to increase God’s rule and role in my decisions I must necessarily reduce mine.

I don’t want to get into a discussion about the fallacious and dangerous nature of this line of thinking as much as I want to point out that it exists. And into this frame of reference Benefiel’s confident assertion that God’s particular and unique design of you and I are in fact a needed and requisite feature of what the world needs from our involvement. We need to show up more not less.

Benefiel does not contend that we are correct, accurate, or authoritative because we follow our hearts, but that we are responsible and free. So she calls us to courage. Courage to pay attention, step out, and stumble.

Human leadership might look more like eager tourists exploring a strange city without maps. An adventure full of false starts, dead ends and retraced steps, but ultimately a journey of discovery, fulfillment and meaningful contributions.

What was your main take away from this chapter? Did one issue stand out more for you than the others as it did for me? What does following your heart look like for you?

Each week I post my reflections from one chapter of The Soul of a Leader by Margaret Benefiel. My reflections are my own and are intended to generate conversation, catalyze additional thinking and encourage mutual learning.
If you are just joining the discussion now, welcome! Catch up on the entire series here.


Here's My Thought...


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