Curiosity still leads me – so I started a company to engage it

whySomeone recently asked me why I started Leadership Praxis. I started Leadership Praxis because I am curious about what makes leaders effective. Leadership is a tough job – I know, I have led administrative departments, sales divisions, operations, congregations, international programs, and regional church planting efforts. The challenges are the same for leaders in any field of endeavor.

My curiosity led me back to school and in the process started a company that allowed me to encourage and coach leaders as a trusted advisor.  I get to think about, research, and observe leadership from the front row of life. I get to integrate and synthesize faith, organizational development and leadership development.

This is why the word praxis is part of the name of the company. The word praxis signifies ethical action in a political context, or purposeful human conduct, or behavior guided by purposes, intentions, motives, morals, emotions, and values as well as the facts or science.  Praxis implies a duality in action: (1) of consciousness and reflection and (2) of action and commitment. Praxis is far more than reflexive or mechanical response that so often characterize modern management theory – it is conscious, reflective, intentional action of the kind that characterizes highly effective leaders.

The ideals of the word praxis capture the character of service that is so important to leadership. In my view serving others is the proper domain of leadership and of leadership development.  Servant leaders use power, influence, and authority with awareness that avoids the trap of toxicity.

I am married to Janice. We are celebrating 40 years together. We have raised a family.  Work/life balance? I understand those tensions as well and know that the challenge is not answered in trying to balance life and work (something that is impractical) but in remaining present and attentive.

I have authored some great failures and successes.

I love working with leaders.

I understand the pressures, challenges, opportunities, risks and motivations.

I wanted a coaching company that synthesized all my experience in leadership and life in a way that provided other leaders with a safe place to be transparent and gain clarity and focus.   So, I started a company designed to do just that and so far the adventure has been rewarding, challenging, and enriching. I love what I do.

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Do You Act Like a Leader or a Hamster?


Activities that Characterize Servant Leaders and Amplify Team Potency[1]

John stood at the door of my office, “Ray, how are you doing?”

I let out a sigh that I had not meant to express. “John, I am stressed. I am not sure that I am being effective. I am so busy I’m overwhelmed,” I confessed. I really felt like a hamster running on a wheel going nowhere.

“I see,” said John. “You are working like a jack of all trades.” After an awkwardly long pause he concluded, “And master of none.”

Impotent expressed how I felt that day and John, one of our board members, had observed this in me. John’s real question for me that day was, “I see you working hard, but are you doing the right work?”

I had no way to answer John’s question that day. As we talked it became more clear to me that the act of leading required that I turn insight, moral commitments, and ethical decision-making into measurable action that inspired others to engage planning, execution, and reflection to carry out specific ends and create a healing community in which people experience team potency.

Team potency is the collective belief the team can succeed that influences a team to start action, exert effort to reach goals, and sustain their effort over time. Team potency is the result of authentic leadership like that exhibited by servant leaders.[2] Servant leaders build an environment where people experience self-determination, security, and trust, enabling them to focus their time and abilities on accomplishing goals and on creatively solving problems and responding to opportunities.[3]

Some leaders, like me the day John dropped by, are so absorbed in the stuff that has to get done they fail to do the work that only they can do. So how do leaders amplify the team potency of their people? How do they avoid developing unhealthy leader/follower relationships or unhealthy dependencies that undermine delegation and true team potency? The answer rests on focusing on those activities that contribute to sustained effectiveness and not the flurry of activity many leaders get caught in that look more like a drowning man flailing in the water than a champion swimmer working toward a gold medal.

People rightly expect servant leaders to support the personal and organizational margins needed to sustain effectiveness. Servant leaders recognize that they work in three spheres of activity: (1) actions internal to the leader; (2) actions that involve the follower; and (3) actions engaging the servant leader and the follower.

These activities help leaders rejuvenate, refresh, and review what they are doing in a way that keeps them focused. They define the way a leader spends his or her time.[4] These activities are especially important aspects of the leader’s life when he or she engages the tasks inherent in leading an organization. Without a clear guide to healthy action leaders run a greater risk of task saturation, weariness, and burnout.  So what are these critical leadership tasks?


Withdrawal is the ability to exercise systematic neglect i.e., the ability to differentiate between the important and the less important and the urgent from the important. It is sometimes referred to metaphorically as going to the balcony. The ability to withdrawal is often the best way to “changing the game” in situations where conversation has disintegrated to a war of power or fixed positions.  I start with this activity because without the commitment to withdrawal leaders often find themselves blindsided by political posturing, competitive pressures, and changing customer preferences they would have seen if they had taken the time to reflect. Why is this important?

The first rule of organizational power is that the person with the greatest power wins.  Servant leaders who experience conflict with their boards or an influential stakeholder in the organization must learn to change the game or face the loss inflicted by someone with more power.  Servant leaders in business who experience conflict with their boss or another department must also learn to change the game or face termination because they don’t have the right combination of power.

Changing the game is not a one-time effort but a series of repeated efforts that begins to turn the pattern of behavior away from a win/loose orientation to a joint problem-solving exercise. [5]  It is a necessary skill of leadership and one continuously practiced by Jesus cf., Matthew 14:23 and Mark 1:35-37, where Jesus withdraws from the crowd to pray; Matthew 21: 23-27 where Jesus reframed the question of authority.  In all of Jesus’ interactions with hostile groups a wealth of information exists describing how to change the game. It behooves all servant leaders to sharpen their political skills.


Foresight emerges from the ability of the leader to understand the lessons of the past (both historical lessons and lessons from his/her own experience), the realities of the present and the likely consequences of a decision in the future.  Many leaders do not want to look at the unvarnished present.  However, without a clear view of the current realities, future thinking may dissolve into hubris and a quixotic pursuit of fantasy and not hope. Other leaders remain ignorant of the past or have failed to reflect on the past.  The foresight of a servant leader can have the prophetic insight expressed as intuition. This ability to understand consequences and see opportunity brings courage and confidence to followers and helps them accepts responsibility for their own actions.


Awareness looks two directions; it is self-awareness (the leader’s awareness of their own strengths and needs and potential stress points) and situational awareness.

In situational awareness, it is the leader’s ability to sense, see and analyze what is going on around him or her with different frames. By frame I mean the mental models by which people make sense of the world around them. When the servant leader assesses the organization the use of four different frames helps to limit blind spots in the servant leader’s assessment and perspective. The practice of seeing through each of these four frames is a way to exercise moral reasoning and strategic thinking.[6]  These frames include:

  • Structural: an understanding of how social and organizational structures work as a whole system. What are the hierarchies of power and tasks needed in the organization?
  • Relational: an understanding of how interpersonal relationships often work together, such as in family systems theory.
  • Political: an understanding of how power is used and valued within an organization or social group.
  • Symbolic: an understanding of the meanings assigned inanimate objects that are used to short-hand a groups’ relationship to important values, such as the way buildings are decorated or in symbols of authority like academic regalia or boardroom decor.

In exercising personal awareness the servant leader seeks to know how he or she approaches different aspects of relationship. Everyone has three layers to who they are: their visible and usual behavior, the need that must be met for their usual behavior to be useful, and the stress that results when needs are not met.  Aware leaders use their stress points to recognize when their needs are not being met and then exercise vulnerability to discuss those needs to support their most effective self and to avoid the knee-jerk responses that emanate from stress that end up damaging relationships with others.


The act of listening allows the leader to find the needs of the group and the true barriers the group experiences in the movement toward accomplishing their aims. Listening keeps the leader from seeing situations through their own bias and thus acting prematurely, disproportionately, or erroneously.  The activity of listening is asking questions until one understands the intent of the communicator.  Listening helps clarify values, fears, and needs while uncovering new perspectives.

Listening is also an act of prayer – when used in prayer listening spends deliberate time remaining silent toward God with attentiveness to God’s still small voice that is God’s intimate communication with friends.


Empathy is the ability to share and understand the feelings of another. It is clear in the life of Jesus and precedes many of his miraculous works.  Empathy is visible in the phrase, “…and being moved with compassion.” For example:

Mk 9:22; the demonic father’s request for compassion (sometimes translated “pity”).

Mt 15:32; Jesus announced his compassion for the hungry crowd.

Mt 20:29-34; Jesus had compassion on the blind man.

The list goes on.  The simple fact is that servant leaders act because they love people.  There is a great joy in loving others as well as a significant vulnerability to pain and disappointment. Servant leaders embrace both joy and pain.


Servant leaders have a profound opportunity to heal follower’s hurts, disappointments, and brokenness resulting from being around toxic leaders.  Healing is making people whole and does not happen overnight.

Rita, a manager in one company I worked with, had become trapped in psychologically and spiritually in an affair with one of our department heads. She told me one day in tears that her promotion to manager was a quid pro quo result of an ultimatum to have sex to advance in the company or be terminated for poor performance. As a single mom termination was untenable to her. The warping that occurred in Rita’s life was painful to hear. After reporting the offense and after the proper investigation and response by the company Rita remained in our employment. Rita and I had many long conversations that helped her over time begin to untie the Gordian knot of shame and guilt and to step up to her need for training and development so she could actually succeed as a manager. Part of the challenge for Rita as she became healthier was the need to re-approach authority and leaders with  a new sense of self and not the whipping post her former department had induced fear, shame, and guilt.


Conceptualization is the ability to see the big picture and to act on more than the day-to-day realities that engage people’s energies. The ability to conceptualize sees threats and opportunities in the long-term and uses this orientation to keep short-term decisions moving in the right direction for the health of the organization.  It is the ability to name core principles (values) of operation and structure that allows others to also frame their daily events in the big picture. It is the ability to see the future of the group or organization in terms of an inspiring picture of the future and to invite people to contribute to this preferred future by their actions.  Conceptualization sees a future of promise and possibility and lays hold of that promise to influence and bring change to the present realities.


Persuasion is the ability to convince others of a decision or action or show a previously unseen need so that people accept an idea as their own. It is the opposite of coercion. Questions are a significant tool in persuasion because questions, properly framed, can help others understand that their current views may not be adequate for the future far faster than trying to describe inadequacies. Stories also help. Nathan persuaded David to repent for his sin with Bathsheba with a story (2 Samuel 12:1-7).  Steve Jobs persuaded his early partners at Apple to work like slaves for a vision of the future (he also manipulated and threatened – neither quality is one that can be used with effectiveness over time). While not a paragon of servant leadership Jobs’ ability to inspire by story far outstripped is technical expertise and on his better days out shined his manipulation. Persuasion happens with groups or people. Persuasion is an ability every servant leader must humbly develop.


Execution is the link between vision and results. It is the ability to align actions in such a way that the group achieves what they set out to do. Execution is the ability of defining a course from a series of options (seeing what is, what is not and what could be), leading to a specific goal that maintains a competitive advantage or overcomes specific opposition, to successfully meet an end.  Part of defining a course of options rests in knowing what outcomes should characterize the work of servant leadership. Jesus described what to expect in servant leadership when he said;

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to Preach the Gospel to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”[7]

Characterizing the aims of execution either in the church or in business can start with Jesus’ description and then move toward how to apply this to specific settings. Servant leaders keep three things in mind:

  • Execution is a discipline and integral to strategy
  • Execution is the major job of the servant leader
  • Execution must be a core element of the organization’s culture

If we dare to execute on what we really believe all heaven could break loose. To encourage a culture of execution in my last pastorate, I had small placards made for everyone’s computer monitor that read, “Just do it!” Some people thought I had borrowed the slogan of the Nike Company when in fact I borrowed Nike’s slogan to point the team to the epistle of James who wrote, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”[8]  Every leader understands two things about execution.  First it is far easier to direct and develop people who have hope for the future of the type Jesus aims at in Luke 4. Second, that it is far easier to direct and develop others who already have a bias toward action like that described by James than it is to redirect or develop people who have become accustomed to inaction and blame shifting.

Building Community

A community is a group of people with a common characteristic or interest in living together within a larger society.  The servant leader works to build a sense of community at work or in the congregation.  It is community that characterized the church of Acts and drew people to the church (Acts 4:32-5:6).


Servant leaders show the ability to influence or command thought, opinion, and behavior. They do this from a place legitimized by those who follow them because followers see leadership character and actions that end in clarity, healing, mission and flourishing. This is the essence of authority.

Servant leaders put their values (virtues or ethical decision-making) to work in actions that are internal to themselves, actions that involve followers and actions that engage the leader and the followers. Servant leaders understand that it is the application of values in daily activities that make up work and thus build something great that stands the test of time.

  1. Rate your use of the activities of a servant leader. Are you engaging the right activities in the use of your time and resources? Think about: withdrawal, foresight, awareness, listening, empathy, healing, conceptualization, persuasion, execution and building community.
  2. In what ways have you nurtured authority in your life when exerting power would have been faster or easier?
  3. Think about how people legitimize your leadership. What specific observations about you have they made?
  4. If you cannot answer number 2 ask some of those who follow you to give you feedback on what you are doing well as a leader and what you might improve.
  5. In light of the insights you glean from either question 2 or 3, how to you feel about the affirming words or in what way does affirmation help you develop as a leader?
  6. In light of the feedback you have received what help do you need to ask for from others to continue to grow as a servant leader?

[1] This article adapted from Raymond L Wheeler. “The Servant Leader’s Unique Authority – Focusing on Influence not Power” in An Inconvenient Power: the Practice of Servant Leadership (Claremont, CA: Unpublished Manuscript, 2013), 56-80. Used with Permission.

[2] Arménio Rego, Andreia Vitória, Ana Magalhães, Neuza Riberio, Miguel Pina e Cunha. “Are Authentic Leaders Associated with More Virtuous, Committed and Potent Teams?” The Leadership Quarterly 24 (2013):62

[3] Rego et al, 65.

[4] Greenleaf 2002, 32. Greenleaf identified many of these same behavioral characteristics. I have adapted his work and added my own research to the descriptions of these traits as well as later synthesizing them with the leader’s tasks see Chapter 4.

[5] William Ury. Getting Past No (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1993), 13.

[6] Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership 3rd ed. (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2003), 12-19.

[7] Luke 4: 18-19 (NASB)

[8] James 1:22 (NASB)

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The Practice of Servant Leadership is an Ethical Exercise

It All Started With a New Friend

questionAn attractive young woman, Samantha, started attending Sunday services in my first congregation. I noticed her one Sunday in our second service – she appeared deeply engaged in every aspect of Sunday morning. She asked questions of those around her – exhibiting deep curiosity and deep pain.  She was searching.  She attended for several weeks and then she indicated that she wanted to meet Christ.  Those who had journeyed with her made this introduction and her response to Christ deeply moved the entire group.

Several weeks later I noticed Samantha on my appointment schedule but did not recognize who she was.  “Becky,” I called out from my office into the lobby, “who is Samantha on the appointment scheduled for ten o’clock?”

Becky walked into my office and said, “You know that attractive young woman who started attending several weeks ago and then met Christ?”

“Do you mean the woman with the long brown hair who was so earnest in her search of faith?” I asked.

“Yes,” Becky said, “that is Samantha. She has some questions about what it means now to be a Christian.”

The time came for the appointment and after introductions I asked how I could help. Samantha talked about her search for meaning, how she happened to meet some people in the congregation and arrived on a Sunday to investigate.  She described meeting Christ personally in faith and she seemed to light up with joy in talking about her new sense of purpose, release from the pain of her past, and hope for the future. I was thrilled until she came to her question – then I was dumbfounded.

“So,” she transitioned, “now that I know Christ, do I have surgery again and return to being a man or do I remain a woman?”

I was not ready for Samantha’s question. I found myself floundering in my own biases, ignorance, and convictions without a way to structure and organize a response much less find the root of my struggle.  Was I even asking the right questions in my mind?  I relate this experience in every class on servant leadership when I talk about how leaders grapple with ethical reasoning.  I ask the students what they would say to Samantha.  What would you say?  What kind of ethical reasoning would you use? Is the model you use the most effective for the issues involved?  Does the model you use result in direction for the question Samantha raised?  Does the model you use effectively bring you and Samantha closer to Christ and the image of God?  Or are you unable to even frame a model? Remember that leadership capacity directly correlates to a leader’s awareness of his or her mental/theological models, biases, experiences, and cultural points of view.

Samantha’s question illustrates the impact of the preserving and purifying effect of God’s grace – she entertain new questions about her future as a result of engaging Jesus as savior and Lord. Samantha’s question also pushed me to step up in my ethical reasoning. Leaders cannot ignore moral issues. As Northouse writes:

…leadership is not an amoral phenomenon. Leadership is a process of influencing others; it has a moral dimension that distinguishes it from other types of influence, such as coercion or despotic control.[1]

Ethical reasoning and decision-making address moral issues. Ethical reasoning and decision-making depends on the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior and define right and wrong.  Generally speaking, there are three approaches to ethical reasoning.  These approaches divide into two domains namely guidelines to conduct and guidelines to character.  Ethical models offer a way of talking about the character and conduct of leadership in something other than esoteric terms.

Guidelines to conduct include:

  1. Teleological Theories e., working from consequences or ends
    • Ethical Egoism: an individual should act to create the greatest good in himself or herself i.e., do what’s best for yourself.
    • Utilitarianism: an individual should act to create the greatest number of good for the greatest number of people.
  2. Deontological Theories, working from a sense of duty or moral law. Deontological theories subsume egoism and utilitarianism under the necessity of fulfilling moral law.

Guidelines to character includes:

  1. Virtue-based Theories focus on who the leader is as a person. The leaders strive to live out core virtues such as:
  • Courage
  • Temperance
  • Generosity
  • Self-control
  • Honesty
  • Sociability
  • Modesty
  • Fairness
  • Justice
  • Substitute Galatians 5:22-23 for this list of virtues.

I Just Do What the Bible Says – Really?

Ethical models are attempts to explain in simpler terms the complex dynamic of human behavior and thus aid in decision-making. Often students in my leadership courses reject these ethical models as though they were somehow anti-biblical. Their response to Samantha’s question is, “I simply do what the Bible says.” What becomes clear as I ask questions of what the students mean by, “doing what the Bible says,” is that they are treating complex situations through an ethical lens, but are unable to explain or define the lens they used. The problem with this is twofold.

First, an inability to show and define the basis for an opinion or decision typically results in blind spots stemming from aspects of a decision or situation rooted in the leader’s unconscious frame of reference. Blind spots contribute to poor decisions and it is poor decisions that set up inconsistent and toxic behavior by leaders.  In the Samantha story my students typically want to debate the merits of gender identification and gender surgery.  Typical, they missed Samanatha’s question because they did not hear it. Their inability to show the basis for their convictions results in tirades against moral collapse in the nation.  Such responses are not helpful nor do they give leadership.

Second, the inability to show and define the basis for an opinion or decision makes it non-reproducible. How do new leaders assess the situation to arrive at an outcome consistent to the work of God and the greatest good?  If a leader cannot train others in how to think then they will not develop leaders; they will develop super followers who do what they are told and nothing more. Leaders must have an ability to manage complexity in decision-making and in analysis. The need for ethical reasoning in a story like that of Samantha is clearly evident. But what model?

A deontological model would be like closing the gate after the cows got out. A deontological model asks her to repent for actions already committed – which by the way she had.  But now what? Is it ok to shift one’s physical attributes to match one’s gender identification? Is the way we define gender in the first place ethically and theologically sound? I often have students create a list of male and female attributes. I then have them share their lists.  I teach in a university that is broadly diverse culturally speaking. The discussions become intense at multiple levels as differing cultural views play out. But, what shakes my students up most is that I have them take that same dimorphic list and mark the characteristics that describe Christ. Consistently to their great surprise Jesus demonstrates characteristics they assign as both male and female. What is right in the discussion? Where does your answer start? Perhaps Samantha’s challenge would be completely different had she met Christ before her surgery. But even then, what kind of ethical reasoning would have helped her think about her gender identification?

A virtue model could shed light on how to live going forward. What kind of character should she show as a believer?  But this also does not answer her question about surgery. Is it possible that she could live a spirit-filled life as a woman who has come to know Christ? What is at issue in a virtue model is how she decides to move forward and the degree to which her behaviors reflect the character of Christ.

A teleological model might explain why the future held promise for Samantha. She was not rejected by Christ but grafted into the body of Christ with the gifts and talents that are hers by creation and redemption. Regardless of how she decided to act or not act on surgery she gained a purpose in life and meaning in life in her encounter with Christ. Does her existence as a woman (formerly a man) rob her of the imago Dei that makes us human? No.

Grappling with what being a disciple looked like for Samantha used all three models of ethical reasoning.

Ethical Models in Biblical Case Studies

What if we apply these models of ethical reasoning to biblical case studies? What do we learn?

Character or virtue ethics works off the notion that good people make good decisions.  The strength of this approach is its ability to consider various situational factors in determining what makes for a good decision.  The ambiguity leaders often experience requires an approach to ethical decision-making that takes account of the situation.  For example: while the Jewish Scriptures are very clear about not worshiping other gods, the prophet Elisha faced an interesting cross-cultural ethical question from Naaman after being healed of leprosy and made a confession of faith in the God of Israel. While Naaman committed himself to only worship the God of Israel, he was often required to go with the king in idolatrous state rituals. Elisha apparently recognized the shift in Naaman’s perspective and acknowledged that Naaman’s position could fulfill this role without compromise to his faith.[2]

Elisha used character ethics in sending Naaman off to live a different kind of life and leadership expression than he had prior to his meet with the living God.  Naaman’s healing from leprosy would not be unnoticed. It placed him squarely in a discussion about the reality and efficacy of God’s works. From the stand point of the law of Israel (a deontological view), there was no room for Elisha’s response.  But notice, Naaman had already committed to worship only the God of Israel. Naaman had to deal with the complexities of living in a culture that had no frame of reference to the law of Israel other than Naaman’s own character.

Elisha does not express a use teleological ethics specifically.  However, we can analyze the text from this perspective as well. The ethical end in this situation was the placement of a living witness to the power of the God of Israel in a culture in which God was not yet known as God was in Israel. From a teleological perspective Elisha’s blessing infers a teleological utilitarianism in that a concern for the impact of Naaman’s life changing encounter on the populace around the king’s court was in view.  If Naaman’s question was motivated by mere teleological egoism, Elisha certainly could have counseled against participation in idolatrous rites.

Virtue ethics allow for situational flexibility. Situational flexibility or consideration is helpful in many cases even though it can lead to relativism and subjectivity. How is this weakness avoided?  Virtue ethics requires a guide to decide vice from virtue. Aristotle first evaluated actions or virtue as the mean between excess and deficiency.  Admittedly, this does not escape the problem of subjectivity or moral relativity. Aristotle used the mores of society to anchor his definition of virtue.  Obviously, social standards slide sometimes toward excess and sometimes toward deficiency on earlier positions (just think about how we define vulgarity today versus how it was defined in the 1950s).   However, using Aristotle’s model is still helpful if we allow a relationship to God to be our starting point.  For Aristotle, a virtue expressed excessively or a virtue expressed deficiently, ceases to be a virtue and becomes a vice.  For example, what if a parent refused to discipline a child out of a claim of love?  Would we say that love ceased to be a virtue in this instance and became a vice because it became excessive?  Or we could say that discipline ceased to be a virtue and became a vice because it was deficient?

Second, Aristotle observed a variety of situational impacts by describing voluntary and involuntary acts.  Voluntary actions are those a person chooses to do.  Involuntary actions are something a person is forced to do by some outside coercion. For example; murder is a vice.  But what if an individual was forced to commit some vice to save their friends and family be killed in front of them?  Would the vice then become a virtue because it resulted in a greater good in sight as an involuntary action?

Look again at the case of Naaman – the king coerced his participation in ritual idol sacrifice yet Naaman did not compromise his faith. Contrast the situation of Naaman with that of Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego who faced a furnace for refusing to take part in ritual idol worship.[3]  What are the differences between the situation Naaman faced and that of Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego?  How did their situation impact the decisions they made?  The context of Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego is different. Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego lived within the covenant community of Israel in exile. This exile was the result of a failure to stay in relationship with God. In this situation, the test of covenant integrity summoned a deontological declaration that the core values of covenant with God cannot and would not be violated.

Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego used a deontological foundation for their decisions. The strength of deontological ethical decisions is that they work to simplify right and wrong – deontological perspectives help to clarify complex situations and give a starting point that avoids the slide into subjectivity. The Decalogue (e.g., the Ten Commandments) provides an illustration of a deontological foundation.  Laws and regulations for example offer a deontological starting point for decisions in business.

The law provides some guidance but cannot anticipate every situation so that even in the clarity of the law people must still make moral decisions supplemented by something more than a deontological commitment.

Aristotle noted that involuntary actions must be qualified as meeting some greater good, such as avoiding a worse evil to be considered a virtue not a vice, or if not a virtue a pardonable act and not an unpardonable one.  Before we dismiss Aristotle as being simply an ancient Greek out of touch with good biblical reasoning, we need to consider another well-known event in the Scripture.  Mordecai’s destiny words to Esther are often quoted without regard to the fact that in Esther’s case she was involuntarily placed in the Harem of Ahasuerus. Her presence in the harem and the favor bestowed on her after her courageous confrontation of Haman and his plan for ethnic cleansing is considered a virtuous act of faith and is celebrated in the feast of Purim.[4]

The case of Mordecai and Esther also illustrates a proper use of a teleological ethical egoism (an individual should act to great the greatest good in himself or herself, i.e., do what’s best for yourself). Consider that upon her entry into the harem of Ahasuerus, Mordecai counseled Esther to keep her ethnic identity secret.[5]  Had Esther not done this, it is unlikely that she would have lived to be in the place she was to expose Haman’s plot of ethnic cleansing.  Mordecai understood the banal character of evil.  Discussions of ethical decision-making are often derailed by the inability to acknowledge the reality of evil. Mordecai could have held a firm line and told Esther to reveal everything about herself out of a misguided definition of integrity. Esther never denied her identity – however it turns out that the timing of her admission meant the difference between death and salvation.   When the time came to declare her ethnic identity and act for forestall Haman’s genocidal plot Mordecai used a teleological ethic to encourage Esther’s intervention. Look at how Mordecai framed the situation,

…Do not imaging that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?[6]

Mordecai not only appeals to a teleological ethic but emphasizes the need for Esther to take responsibility as a leader to serve her people. Reviewing stories like that of Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego or Mordecai and Esther illustrates how the use of theological reflection.

Sound Ethical Reasoning Consists of Three Interactive Components

The point is that a model like Aristotle’s is helpful yet limited in that it does not reflect the impact of God’s revelation which serves as an anchor to limit moral decision-making from devolving into an exercise in subjectivity. The exercise of ethical reasoning by servant leaders attentive to God’s self revelation requires a leader’s self awareness in three interactive components: theological reflection, worldview, and personal experience.

Theological reflection is the anchor that continually refocuses and sharpens the moral reasoning of a servant leader so that she or he avoids the trap of subjectivity and the haze of situational overload. Theological reflection assumes that the use of the Scripture requires decisions about the mode of ethical discourse contained in Scripture. In other words, when we read the Scripture it is important to differentiate whether the text has:

  • Rules: direct commands or prohibitions (deontological approach).
  • Principles: general frameworks of moral consideration e.g., Mark 12:28-31(teleological and virtue approach).
  • Paradigms: stories or summary accounts modeling exemplary or reprehensible conduct (blend of approaches).
  • Perceptual categories: symbols by which we interpret reality e.g., nature of human condition or character of God or kingdom reign of God.

These various categories of literature each offer a different kind of biblical warrant that function authoritatively in making moral decisions. A leader’s formation as a servant leader requires utilizing a mode of appeal and sources of authority.  (A warrant is a justification for an action or a belief).

Worldview. Consciously or unconsciously people formulate a grid by which they make particular ethical decisions that blend their cultural perspectives/traditions. A worldview is how a person sees or understands the world in which he or she lives. Servant leaders work to make their worldview assumptions, allegiances, and values explicit. Servant leaders understand that the process of discipleship is a process of transformation and learning and that some of their deeply held cultural values or perceptions may in fact work against the kingdom of God. Assumptions, allegiances, and values of a worldview defined:

  • Assumptions: a fact or statement taken for granted. For example many in the western world, “…assume that the only personal beings in a given room are the ones we can see, we are following a worldview assumption taught us as we learned our culture.”[7]
  • Allegiances: the loyalties that define what is important for example: family, job, friends, country, organization, and etc.
  • Values: something intrinsically valuable or desirable and useful and important for example: freedom, loyalty, high mobility, interpersonal competitiveness or interdependence.

Personal experience generates the practice needed to refine or develop. Personal experience includes: the conceptualization of self, experience of social change, family history, and lessons learned or avoided in the consequences connected to decisions and actions. Personal experience does something with the feedback generated by action. Feedback accepted creates a learning cycle. Feedback rejected creates a gap between behavior and the consequences of behavior as illustrated in Figure 1.

Engaging ethical reasoning with a conscious awareness of the interaction between theological reflection, worldview, and personal experience expands a leader’s capacity to manage complexity. When a leader exercises awareness the possibility of change through learning occurs. The way theological reflection, worldview, and personal experience interact provides a mental model for interpreting situations. A mental model is a unique and personal generalization, mental picture, or image that influences how one understands the world and takes action. The importance of defining one’s mental model rests in the fact that learning does not take place without a conscious awareness. See Figure 1.

In Figure 1 the mental model (the interaction of theological reflection, worldview, and personal experience) results in a moral decision. When the process of ethical reasoning is conscious a person moves from decision to recognizing the outcome of their decision. The outcome allows responsible reflection to decide whether the outcome was desirable or undesirable. It is important to see that regardless of the outcome the feedback loop illustrated by the solid line process results in learning. Learning results in a realignment of theological reflection, worldview, and personal experience to account for new data.

Figure 1: Ethical Decision Making Grid

Wheeler Ethical Decision Model

Conversely if the process of ethical reasoning is unconscious, the chance of working out of bias and blind spots amplifies and the risk of becoming a toxic leader grows. Figure 1 illustrates the risk of blind or unconscious action in dotted line loop titled, “externalized loop.” This process avoids analyzing the outcome of a decision and results in a failure to learn. Instead of accepting responsibility for the outcomes generated by one’s decision or behavior this person fixates on events outside themselves as either the reason for success or failure. A leader in this situation would simply condemn Samantha and leave her with few options to move forward in her life other than existing in some second class state.

A person who lives in a disconnection between their mental model and the outcome of their own behavior and decisions creates a learning gap. This gap contributes to the process of denial and the development of a mental model that effectively insulates the leader from the consequences of his or her behaviors and decisions in their own mind. Notice the gap between the dotted line loop and the mental model in use represented by the three interactive boxes (theological reflection, personal experience, and worldview). This illustrates how a leader can insist on the same ineffective action or perspective repeatedly despite a negative result obvious to those outside that leader’s mental model.

For servant leaders the ethical decision-making process always results in reflection about the outcomes of decisions and behaviors as well as the process that generates the decisions and behaviors in the first place. As is clear in Figure 1 the outcomes of any particular decision or behavior either confirm and/or challenge our mental models. Hence, feedback is extremely important.  Feedback, whether positive or negative, is the essence of a learning process that sees the outcomes of decisions in an exercise of intentional reflection. Reflection considers how the servant leader made a decision in the first place, and the degree to which it is consistent to one’s ethical commitments and the degree to which Scripture forms one’s ethical commitments.

Feedback is also important to recognize because it represents cultural, familial or organizational norms. The summons to live together as resident aliens even within our own cultural setting is a summons to engage the world around us from the perspective of God’s working. This perspective can set up cross-currents with the moral assumptions and value choices of our own culture or of our organizational culture.  But more importantly, the summons to live as resident aliens allows us to use a wider perspective in our ethical reasoning.


Making moral and effective judgments based on a process of ethical decision-making is unavoidable in leadership. But more, ethical decision-making provides a means for early intervention to forestall either personal or organizational disaster.

Ethical decision-making is a process of responsible action based on explicit moral imperatives and values requiring that servant leaders be capable of explicitly defining the basis of their ethical reasoning.

Samantha did not answer the question of whether to have surgery or not in our time together. She did understand that the reconciliation she experienced with God was contagious and provided a basis for her to hope she could be reconciled to her parents. She returned home and began to work through what it meant to be a believer reconciled and transformed by the grace of God. How do you make ethical and moral decisions?

[1]Peter G. Northouse. Leadership Theory and Practice, 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2004), 313.

[2] 2 Kings 5:1-19.

[3] Daniel 3:1-30 relates the incident of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and their refusal to worship a golden statute set up by Nebuchadnezzer.

[4] Esther 4:14.

[5] Esther 2:10.

[6] Esther 4:13-14 (NASB)

[7] Charles H. Kraft. Anthropology for Christian Witness (Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, 2003), 11.

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Start Here: Where Does God Fit into Your Thinking as a Leader?

starting pointI got together with a new friend the other night – we met recently at an event and decided to get together and explore the possibility of friendship (you know that dance that occurs when you meet someone who seems interesting and you decide to spend focused time with them to check your first impressions). In the course of our conversation we talked about how we came to faith in Christ. Both of us came to faith from different directions, he had no family connection to church but stumbled into an encounter with some vibrant Christians who demonstrated God’s love.  I grew up in the church and stumbled into an encounter with Christians who showed me how to know God personally.

In my journey I didn’t really have a quest toward a specific faith – I had questions. I was in the first grade when I asked a question that set a tone of how I approach faith. The teacher described the miracles that occurred in the life of Elijah the prophet. The story intrigued me.  I asked, “Why don’t these things happen today?”

The teacher obviously flustered said, “Raymond, wait here until I get the pastor.” (Adults used my full name as a sign of their elevated agitation level, an insight I learned from my mom who usually followed the use of my full name with a litany of my offenses and in ultra serious violations a promise that she would recite my offenses to my father who would then deal with me accordingly.)

Knowing I had not done anything more than ask a question and not understanding the agitation I saw in the teacher I simply waited for the arrival of the pastor who could apparently answer my question.

The pastor arrived and pulled me aside from the class to the doorway, “Young man,” he said, “What did you say to your teacher?”

I remember being surprised at the intensity of his question.  I repeated the Bible story of the day and my question, “Why don’t these things happen today?”

The pastor got the same flustered look the teacher had and said, “You wait here until I get your father.”

I was really surprised by this response and thought, “my dad knows?” We had never discussed this at home but my dad was a knowledgeable guy – a scientist and engineer so I waited for dad to arrive.

Dad looked agitated, that was not a good sign.  He marched up to where I was standing, now in the hallway, and said, “What did you say to the pastor?”

I repeated the Bible story and my question, “Why don’t these things happen today?”  At that point my dad heeled around toward the pastor and they engaged in a lively discussion the nature of which was over my head as a first grader. The net result was that we left that church never to return and went to another.  On the way home from church that morning my dad attempted to answer my question with an explanation that I didn’t quite follow – but at least he engaged the question.

Why do we as leaders stop engaging the question?  I get it, really I do. Life throws reality at us in a way that feels like a little league player put into the batter’s in front of Clayton Kershaw’s 97 MPH fast ball.[i] It’s not a pitch it’s a missile. As leaders we end up with a litany of barriers, obstacles, and disappointments all of which lead to the conclusion that not much is going to happen – the conclusion itself seems confirmed by our situation.  This kind of confirmation bias leads men and women down a rabbit hole of mediocrity.

Consider a statement the apostle Paul made to the Ephesians:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

So here is the question, do your questions engage the possibility of God’s work or do you limit your questions and hence your actions to a scope you can both generate and manage yourself?

The discussion with my friend reminded me of my childhood question. Paul pushes me to ask it again as an adult with all the depth of my experience and education. What I have observed in working with pastors and Christian leaders over the years is that those who risk beginning their thinking from the starting point of what God does see a depth of engagement and results that others never see.  On the other hand those pastors who begin their thinking on the basis of their situation or experience consistently fail to see what they hope for and begin to talk like they are victims of a circumstantial conspiracy to rob them of success and significance.

Starting one’s thinking from the what God does is not an exercise of denial about obstacles, setbacks, barriers, or disappointments – Abraham, Isaiah, Elijah, David, Nehemiah, Paul, Peter, Ruth, Esther, Naomi, Huldah, Mary, and etcetera illustrate that faith instead sees the circumstance with crystal clarity. However, these same people started their thinking from the perspective of God’s promise.

Do your questions engage the possibility of God’s working or do you limit your questions and hence your actions to the scope of what you can generate and sustain?  Perhaps it is time to renew your relationship to the undomesticated God of the Bible in a fresh way and to begin asking new questions.

[i] 2014 MLB Player Pitching Stats. Source:; accessed 7 August 2014.

1 Clayton Kershaw LAD 18 18 128.1 92 26 26 17 157 13 2 0 0 5.4 0.85
  1. 82


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Do You Live an Integrated Life? Improving Performance by Paying Attention

ABCsI met with a client who is at a transition point in his business.  He is in the midst of defining what the next evolution of his company looks like while the simultaneously he wonders if he has what it takes to lead his company forward.  He told me about his volunteer work and the crisis the congregation he attends faces in a pastoral transition. As he spoke I jotted down several important capabilities that he discovered about himself in working on the board of this congregation.  Then I defined them for him.  My observations surprised and encouraged him – he was developing as a leader in an unexpected way and his development impacts the direction he takes his company.

This led me to think about whether I pay attention to the development of my own skills and capabilities. Often I fall into the same trap as my clients – I don’t see my own development in part because it comes from an unexpected source and in part because I don’t always pay attention to the learning opportunities around me.

Below is the summary I wrote to this client about what the experience he described. My hope is that this reminds every leader that life is a development process if we are paying attention and we take a moment to reflect to integrate life experience and learn across our various social settings and not the more common result of compartmentalized life lessons.  Unfortunately those people who fail to integrate are like some of the people I see at the gym each morning who only exercise part of their muscular skeletal system.  These people not only begin to look a little freakish they also end up minimizing their physical performance level not enhancing it. There is more to healthy living than big biceps just as there is more to effective leadership than the latest trend or personal strengths.

Dear Mike,

You described the development of leadership capabilities in the experience of volunteering at your church. You asked me to send a list of these observations after we met. I added some observations from other client meetings to show the application of these capabilities to business. Take a moment and read through the list then spend some time with the questions at the end.

Discipline – the willingness to discipline misbehavior is always a needed ability as a leader.  Most managers/leaders run away from conflict thus allowing small problems to become major challenges to their integrity and authority.  The lessons you described in helping people see the impact of their negative behaviors and engaging them in a way to think and act differently are important to catalog – come up with your own heuristic device that outlines different levels of discipline.  Become a leader who is comfortable in engaging what Susan Scott calls, “Fierce Conversations” i.e., robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager, and unbridled.[i]

Communication – you talked about how the congregation felt that the board did not communicate. You were right to put an emphasis on communication and encourage the board to meet with members of the congregation. The second most noted complaint I hear from teams and employees I work with is that their leaders don’t communicate.  It is interesting that in those same companies the leaders all feel they communicate effectively and often.  One reason that a disconnection exists between what one speaks and what others hear is that leaders confuse proclamation (the conclusion of hours of executive deliberation) with communication. One message proclaimed does not make for good communication. One mentor of mine says that unless you deliver a message seven times in seven different ways people don’t hear what you said.

Presence –  is that sense of self a leader has that exudes confidence (not arrogance) and awareness of and empathy toward others. The insight you made about the power of “talking people back from the ledge” illustrates this ability. Many leaders never develop a sense of presence.  The only reason anyone takes notice of the average manager or executive is out of fear or perfunctory attention. A leader without presence usually always depends on power alone to get others working.  The lesson you outlined on presence is extremely significant because it is a foundation to exercising that most powerful of leadership tools – namely, influence.

Shaping the Environment. You talked about confronting or challenging negative people or a dooms day mentality with hope and a commitment to solution finding. You observed that the entire group began to shift from petty self-protective action to a team oriented problem solving when you made a stand toward hope. This is no fluke – wise leaders understand that they shape the environment they are in both by the way they approach it and more definitely in what they expect of others (both explicitly and implicitly). The reality is that people respond to the implicit expectations of the leader.  That is if a leader believes their team are a bunch of ignorant yahoos – the team will act that way.  On the other hand if the leader believes their team members want to make a difference, and will put forward their best effort, they will.  This is called the Pygmalion effect. Leaders who consciously shape the environment in which their team works consistently show productivity >30% higher than leaders who ignore their work environment or who hold a negative view of his/her team.

Planning. The budgeting process you voluntarily picked up when the volunteer CFO dropped the ball pulled you into a planning process.  People around you commented on this capability in part because the ability to see a problem and form a solution and the willingness to assume responsibility to do so is rare in many organizations. One of my graduate professors described the power of planning by reminding us that well begun is half done. The power of a plan is that it reduces enormous tasks to small measurable actions.  The power of taking responsibility is that it encourages others to do the same so that instead of being a group of onlookers you contributed to developing a team.

Execution. Of course the best plan is worthless if no one ever acts on it. You described getting to work in the fiscal crisis through the budget and then actually acting on what you mapped out. As amazing as it seems I find the failure to execute is a common down fall of many leaders – they simply do not “pull the trigger” and act. Often leaders spend so much time analyzing their situations they fall into an analysis paralysis.  Analysis paralysis trains a team to do nothing knowing that real accountability for action is consistently overshadowed with the call for better analysis.  At some point analysis becomes an excuse to avoid decision-making and taking the risk to act.

Analysis. However, analysis is necessary. You also described a drive to analyze the situation.  Analysis is not bad, you looked at the budget and began to ask critical questions about what outcome each line item intended to carry out and then ask whether it was the right outcome for the time. You asked whether the actions behind the budget item would result in those outcomes or not. Surprisingly, many leaders fail to ask that second question, i.e., will my intended actions produce the outcome desired?  I watch a lot of leaders work long hours and burn out because of their roles. However, when I ask them about what outcome they aim to hit they often answer with a look of puzzlement. They were so committed to a specific action and their specific resource set (or lack of it) that they completely lost sight of their intended outcome.  They work like a boxer wildly punching the air or the collapse in inactivity hiding behind their power.


In what ways are your capabilities being engaged and enlarged?  Are you paying attention?  In what ways do you exercise reflection on your various experiences to pull learning from them?  In what ways can you change your daily routine so that you take time to learn from your own experience?  Let me know your thoughts, I would love to learn from your experience.

[i] Susan Scott. Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Time (New York: Berkley Publishing, 2004).

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E.D.D. Prep: Meet the Grand-Mentor!

Ray Wheeler, DMin:

It is always a joy to see mentees walk into their calling and potential.

Originally posted on PBnJ:

Mentor: (noun) An experienced and trusted advisor.

Grand-Mentor: (noun) A more experienced and trusted advisor, who becomes a mentor to his/her mentor’s younger colleague.

The experience of gleaning wisdom and pursuing growth in journeying with a spiritual mentor can be an invaluable part of a person’s walk through life and in Christ. So much clarity, constructive criticism, and encouragement comes through simply asking someone who has walked through more life and its various trials and triumphs. So, to meet a mentor’s mentor is like a compounded gift, similar to a C.S. Lewis super-fan meeting both C.S. Lewis AND George McDonald in the same day!

This morning at 10am, the typical Starbucks in the beautifully quaint city of Claremont became the meeting place where Brian experienced the rare joy of meeting with his mentor’s mentor. Ray Wheeler, mentor to the beloved NewSong Church pastor Dennis Bachman, became the source of clarity…

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Spiritual Leadership or Its Absence Affects Your Bottom Line

Spiritual leadership is the missing piece of the puzzle.

Spiritual leadership is often the missing piece of the puzzle of sustained performance.

Spiritual leadership impacts the bottom line

Most leaders understand the necessity of developing skills and leveraging their unique personality. Fewer leaders understand the antecedent of spiritual formation in the development of leaders. Fewer leaders still believe that spiritual formation has any bearing on their bottom line.  However, research begs to differ with what leaders believe or don’t believe.

So what difference does spiritual formation and spiritual leadership make according to the research?[i] Every significant metric of employee performance i.e., commitment, productivity, performance, character, and competence are positively affected by spiritual leadership. The reverse is also true; the lack of spiritual leadership exists as a drag on these same metrics. The fact is that spiritual leadership melts the impediments that keep organizations and businesses from hitting sustained bottom line performance. How?

First, spiritual leadership positively predicts calling (i.e., the experience of transcendence that defines how one makes a difference through service to others and thus derives a meaning and purpose in life). How calling is generated in followers is the concern of the spiritual leader.  Calling is that sense of meaning or purpose that makes up the triad of intrinsic motivation (competence, mastery, and purpose – see Pink).  As Fry et al describe it:

“The term calling has long been used as one of the defining characteristics of a professional. Professionals in general have expertise in a specialized body of knowledge, ethics centered on selfless service to clients/customers, an obligation to maintain quality standards within the profession, calling to their field, dedication to their work, and a strong commitment to their careers.”[ii]

Second, spiritual leadership positively predicts membership (i.e., the fundamental need to be understood and appreciated – this emerges in followers as the leader manifests the characteristics of spiritual leadership and so generates a sense of mutual care and concern so that followers gain a sense of membership). Spiritual leadership contributes to the altruistic love of each team member toward the other as they jointly develop a common vision. Altruistic love and a common vision is a prerequisite to developing hope – a characteristic that expressed in a “do what it takes” pursuit of “a vision of transcendent service to stakeholders.”[iii]

Third, the positive relationship between spiritual leadership and organizational commitment and performance is fully mediated by calling and membership.  Leaders who tap into their followers needs of calling and membership find that shared experience helps the emergence of trust, intrinsic motivation, and organizational commitment needed to enhance the team’s performance.  Researchers explain the dynamic at play in shared experience as:

“Concerning spiritual leadership, over time these individuals would begin to form shared or compatible mental models of altruistic love, vision, and hope/faith of the group, thereby increasing the group’s sense of calling and membership, and ultimately influence each other toward increasingly greater levels of commitment and performance.”[iv]

Spiritual leadership is a game changer

Clearly the exercise of spiritual leadership is a game changer. So what is spiritual leadership? It is an expression of vision, altruistic love, and faith/hope that characterizes the leader’s approach to exercising influence and power.  Spiritual leadership is a composite variable in organizational performance. It cannot be adequately deconstructed to create a reflective construct but does serve as a formative construct i.e., causal action flows from indicators to create a composite variable.  The formative indicators of spiritual leadership include:

  1. Vision – a picture of the future based on implicit or explicit commentary describing why people should work to create that future.
  2. Altruistic love – “…a sense of wholeness, harmony, and well being produced through care, concern and appreciation for both self and others.” (262)
  3. Hope/faith – hope is a want with the certainty of fulfillment; faith adds certainty to hope. People with hope and faith have clarity in where they are going and how to get there and are willing to endure hardship or setbacks along the way without losing the conviction behind their goal.

Taking care to help leaders in their spiritual formation is action designed to help them develop a clear vision, love for others, and hope/faith.  The methods of spiritual formation vary but always need a mentor who helps the emerging or existing leader frame their insight and communicate their vision and hope clearly.  Spirituality is that transcendent aspect of humanness that seeks out a sense of meaning and purpose in life. It may take on a variety of forms or expressions. Spirituality is distinct from religion. Religion is concerned with theological system of beliefs and rituals and related formalized practices and ideas. This distinction is important to keep up not only to avoid the violation of human resource law but to cut misunderstanding that wrongly equates spirituality and religion in a way that then disassociate its importance to the business goal.

In contrast to the idea of spiritual leadership, some leaders assume that the only needed tool of effective leadership is a dispassionate commitment to “the numbers”. The value of analytics is not in dispute.  What is in dispute is the assumption that analytics alone are enough to lead the sustained performance of any group. Research simply does not support the belief that a manager can be effective and stay dispassionately disengaged from the people they manage while hiding behind “the numbers.” Nor does research support the idea that the idea of meaning/purpose is secondary to the real business of making money or completing tasks. Meaning/purpose are primary factors to high employee motivation, sense of calling, and feeling of membership with the group.


How do you make room for the development of your own spiritual leadership?  How clear are you about your own sense of purpose or the meaning of life and work?  Do your vision, love, and hope/faith rise to the level of responsibility you now hold or did your spiritual formation arrest under the press to acquire the skill needed to master the technical aspects of your current role?  If spiritual formation has not been a conscious exercise in your professional development you may just have found the reason your team’s performance continues to lag behind the competition and your organization’s expectations.  Need help in kick starting your spiritual formation?  Then it is time to talk with a coach who gets it.

Afterward: The relationship of spiritual leadership and servant leadership

According to Fry et al, spiritual leadership addresses four key areas that research in servant leadership has not yet examined: (1) the specific cultural values that are necessary for servant leadership; (2) the role of servant leadership in achieving value congruence across organizational levels; (3) the personal outcomes of servant leadership; and (4) the apparent contradiction of placing the needs of people higher than the needs of the organization.  It must be noted on this last point that Fry observes a popular perception not a data supported by experience in servant leadership.  Servant leadership works at the level of motivation with organizational views in mind and indications are that organizational outcomes are enhanced by this perception as Fry et al also acknowledge in their definition of professionals above. What may be a more accurate statement is that a spiritual leadership perspective is the antecedent of the exercise of servant leadership.


[i] Louis W Fry, Sean T. Hannah, Michael Noel and Fred O. Walumbwa. “Impact of Spiritual Leadership on Unit Performance,” The Leadership Quarterly, Volume 22, Issue 2, April 2011, 259-270. 11 pages.

[ii] Fry et al 263

[iii] Ibid. 263

[iv] Ibid. 261


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