One of the great needs in the market place and in the spheres of ministries is for the leaders of both businesses and organizations to have leaders that live an examined life. An examined life is a life where the heart is probed not only for giftedness and abilities but, also for the stuff within that is deeper and mostly unexamined in today’s MBA programs and many divinity schools.
As I've said else where "shine and show" are not fruits of the Spirit and they are not what makes leadership healthy. We sub-comb to "shine and show" when we do not look deeper; when we do not examine the quadrants of the heart of a leader. Looking deeper requires wisdom. Looking deeper requires sage like probing and listening more to what is not said, than what is said explicitly.An examined life is a life that Socrates told us that is a life truly worth living. He said, "An unexamined life is not worth living." And his words apply to leadership. An unexamined leader is dangerous.
An examined life is a life that is explored--where the rocks of one's story and experience are lifted up and the Rollie-pollies of one's story and history are exposed--hopefully in a loving and grace-filled way. We have made the huge mistake of pushing and shoving emerging leaders into places far too soon before they are ready to lead. What happens is that leaders fall when their is no depth within them; no examination of their inner life and inner world. It's excused too soon and over looked too often. For far too long in this decade of life, we have seen leaders implode. They lead too quickly and lead with unbridled passion that has not be examined or tested. They ignore their shadow side—the darker side of the personality where the inner demons lie. By the way, in my work with leaders who have some exposure to teachings and readings about the Devil, they are far too quick to lay blame on that Devil, when it is their inner demons that have been at work to bring them down.
To care for something—especially something as profound as our one and only soul, we are on the hunt for the cure for that is what the English word “care” is linked to. To care is to cure and every leader I know and have ever worked with is in need of some form of cure. Those that say they don’t need to be cured are lying. Because we are “wonderfully and fearfully made” as the Psalmist explained-- health, cure and vitality are found by examining our darker motives as well as our insights. For the heart is a deep well and able hold immense darkness that is shrouded with fine clothes through the decades of life. Now, in my mid-60’s I am more clearly seeing the immense dungeon that can trap me in my thoughts of jealousy, envy and ego-centric leadership.
No MBA program is worth its salt if in all of their leadership classes, the students are not given permission to explore the dark side of leadership. This is even more true in Seminary and Bible schools. I am always a fan of John Calvin, the reformer of the church in the 16th century when he so profoundly said, "the greatest way to know God is to know one's self."
It's always good to help point to wonderful ways people can grow in their learning. I'm hoping that you might be so kind as to leave a comment of schools, seminaries and programs where you have been the recipient of good learning about your self and other ways of leading in healthy ways. It will help so many, if you'd please do that!
The Enneagram is all the rage today isn’t it? But healthy leadership is much more than knowing your number. Every number has a dark side—a side that is crying out for redemption. It’s the same with the Myers-Briggs. Knowing whether you are an extrovert or introvert is helpful but how does an extrovert grow to own their wake in leadership as their big, heavy barge plows down the river? It was not until I was introduced to Beatrix Chesnut's work on the Enneagram (I highly recommend her book) that I was nailed to the wall for all of my dark sides and shadow self.
One of my major and deep concerns about anyone who teaches the Enneagram and wants to learn about the Enneagram is that the teachers be crossed-trained and learned from different perspectives. Otherwise, it remains another bottle of pablum that we will crave but not be nourished by. A brief introduction to the Enneagram may be more dangerous than we know and it can be harmful to project ourselves into knowing more than we actually may know (this is another faux-paux of leaders today).
The greatest mistake that any church can make; the greatest mistake that any organization make is to put an untested, unproven, and unknown leader into the top chair. We do this too quickly in our world today and I believe our urgency and speed comes from a deep seated fear and unredeemed competitive nature to be first and at the top. Seasoned leadership offers us a whole new way of looking at the seasons of someone’s life and skills. Just because a new, green leader may have fresh new leaves of ideas doesn’t mean that those leaves will endure the hard winds of change and a fragile world we live in today.
Martin Laird, one of my favorite, contemporary monks and author, tells the story of a shopping mall which had a multi-story high atrium where huge trees were planted to give the impression of an enclosed city park. But as he looked closer, each tree was chained to the ceiling of the high rise mall. When Laird asked why, he was told that the chains were necessary because inside the mall, there was no air current or wind. It is the wind that causes a tree to sink it’s roots deep down to give stability and steadiness. The wind makes resistance that forces the roots to grow deeper. Leaders, today are often chained to the high ceilings of someone else's book or seminar rather than being encouraged to have their own root system more developed.
Every one these days feels 'called' because they feel they have something to say. But Dallas Willard warns us that our motives are wrong here. Before we have something to say, we must first be people who hold and live the message of what is going to be said. This is the greatest reason, in my opinion of why leaders fail. We speak before we know. And this is dangerous. (See my blog on this here, which is one of the most highly read and circulated blogs I've written to date).
These are times of heavy winds ,my friends, and those that will endure this particular season of leadership in business and church life are those that have deep roots. But it is not enough to say we need deep roots because I'm not even sure many of us know deep roots in our world of Twitter and social media consumption. (Here are some highly recommended books that will help you grow deep roots).
Deep roots are a part of understanding soul care. We can skim, glide, coast and speed through our leadership but until we grow the massive roots that will sustain and the unseen structure that will nourish the tree for decades or even centuries, we need depth. Here’s the truth. Going deep is not quick thing. Remember when you were small and waded into the deep end of the pool? Few race to the depths. We take baby steps.
That is the case for me and most folks I trek with in life. It just takes time and courage. Depth is not bought by a book. Depth is not given by attending a seminar. Depth comes from years of growing through the harsh winters of our lives; the untimely hurricanes that blow through a church when a leader implodes morally; the long, dry deserts of an organizations life when a recession happens or in a church when there is no real leadership at all. I recently spent time with an emerging leader.
I was asked to do an assessment after the emerging leader was released after only a year in the job. On the surface, everything seemed to be in place: degrees from impressive schools, references that all gave glowing reviews; charm out the wazoo. But when I probed the team mates that all have vested interest in the next leader to be tapped, to a person, there was a check inside their hearts—an uneasiness that left them wordless to really state their inner pause. They all tried to be gracious and grace-filled. But after a brief season of leadership, what came to the surface were issues of integrity with the new leader.
The word “integrity” means far more than character. The word “integrity” is based on the word “intact.” Integrity has to do with being integrated—from the inside out to the top then down. Integrity is not about being chained to high places to lead. Integrity is about having the good soil to sink down roots that will allow the leader to lead and live intact—whole and undivided. This all happens in the course of time and time is the commodity that both churches and organizations are reluctant to give. We want it now. We need it yesterday and the ethos and culture we live and lead by is urgency.
To Grow Deep Roots:
While there are ample opportunities to grow deep roots, I am, of course most impressed by the Potter's Inn Soul Care Institute. It is designed for both market place and ministry leaders. It is offered and developed be a tall timbered choir of seasoned men and women, not one tall tree. I just think there is real wisdom in our model of how we designed our two year learning cohort model. Plus, our teachers are rooted as men and women. I do think it takes both the male and female voice to talk about the plethora of issues we are navigating. Take a look! Our philosophy of learning is based in cohorts that are small, intimate and you're able to invest with the teachers and other participants. Apply today! Space is limited and all three cohorts begin soon in North Carolina, Colorado and now in the Great Lakes area! Some scholarships may be available. Go and see:
Potter's Inn Soul Care Institute