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Thought Leaders Unpacked -> The Soul of a Leader #9: Finding Spiritual Guidance

thought-leadersIt’s always difficult to conclude a series. Especially a series as rich as this one. Margaret Benefiel has given us a great gift with her book, The Soul of a Leader.

She concludes by addressing one of the primary dysfunctions of leadership in America. I call it the myth of the strong, competent, and isolated leader.

Unlike athletes, for example, leaders seem to believe that their work must be done alone in order to qualify as legitimate leadership. An athlete surrounds her or himself with coaches, doctors, advice, and support of all sorts. Athletes know they cannot learn, succeed or even survive on their own.

Leaders, on the other hand, seem possessed by a demon that is ever threatening to expose them for the frauds they are afraid they might be. Consequently they direct all their energies to proving that they are completely competent, sufficiently strong and absolutely independent in their role.

When Benefiel asserts that spiritual guidance is a crucial form of support for leaders in today’s business world I have to cheer.

We need another set of eyes and ears in our life. We cannot remain focused, keep things in perspective, plan for the future, address emergencies, build enterprising teams, and sustain the energy, enthusiasm and spirit required to lead an business on an on-going basis. And that’s only a partial list of a leader’s role!

The key in considering spiritual direction is believing that having someone else watching and listening with you will be of value. The spiritual dimension of life in particular is susceptible to various misunderstandings due to its somewhat subjective and extra-sensorial nature. It is not uncommon to read into our circumstances, feelings and interactions messages from God that may or may not be there.

For example, when circumstances work out smoothly, it sometimes gets identified as God “opening a door,” with the opposite difficulties interpreted as God “closing a door.” We read into the circumstance what we want to see. Unless, that is, someone else is at our side, reflecting along with us.

Benefiel explains, “Spiritual direction helps re-center the directee and reminds him or her of how to notice the Spirit’s movement in everyday life.” (p. 169)

Do you have a way to get “re-centered”? Life gets busy. Priorities compete across a spectrum of needs, goals and personalities. How do you get back to center? Who is at your side helping you listen and reflect?

What was your main take-away from this chapter? What is your main take-away from reading this book?

A special thank-you to Margaret Benefiel for reminding us that work and spirituality cannot be compartmentalized into separate categories. Our only chance to succeed and find fulfillment as leaders is to bring our entire selves to the task. Even our spiritual selves. Especially our spiritual selves.

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.

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