Inspired, effective leadership

Sometimes it can seem hard to find examples of leadership that’s both kind and effectual. But as a former school principal found, a willingness to let God, good, impel our thoughts and actions empowers us to lead with compassion, care, and effectiveness.

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I attended a conference recently that focused on the topic of biblical leadership. The presenters described how different patriarchs exemplified inspired leadership. When I looked up the definition of the word “inspired” in a dictionary that often uses biblical examples to illustrate the use of words – Webster’s 1828 dictionary – I was happily surprised to find this: “informed or directed by the Holy Spirit.”

Wow, I thought. What a contrast this is to the popular concept of leadership, which is often characterized by a display of authority, personal power, charisma, etc. I loved that idea of an inspired leader as one who is moved and directed by God, the divine Spirit, who is entirely good.

This made me think deeply about Christ Jesus, whose profound example continues to resonate millennia later, and whose every work was impelled by divine Love. I have often pondered some of the titles used in the Bible to describe Jesus – among them, Prince of Peace, Master, and Lord. And yet, he had no interest in acquiring material wealth or projecting personal authority and power. So, what was it that made him great?

Throughout his healing ministry, Jesus repeatedly said that his teachings and actions were not personal, but divinely reflected and impelled. He pointed to his complete reliance on God for inspiration and direction. For example: “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. ... This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:9, 12).

The Leader of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, speaks of Jesus as the “great Exemplar” in the Christian Science textbook. And she says, “He was inspired by God, by Truth and Love, in all that he said and did” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 51).

My desire to be a more compassionate leader at work led me to ponder frequently Jesus’ example of loving others as he was loved by God. This was especially helpful when I worked as a school principal and had to address behaviors that sometimes were not easy to overlook.

On one occasion, a boy was brought to my office for engaging in disturbing and inappropriate behavior. I silently reached out to God in prayer to restore my poise and for inspiration to know what actions to take. My prayers acknowledged that the divine power and presence were right there with all of us. I also affirmed with deep sincerity that everyone involved was embraced in divine Love’s care, and that Christly love is universal, able to be felt by everyone.

I have learned through my study of Christian Science that the true identity of everyone is spiritual, made in the image of God, as revealed in the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible; so we are created as the expression of God’s nature – of His love, purity, peace. I realized that the desire to do wrong was not this boy’s God-given nature, which was entirely good.

My prayers empowered me to address the boy firmly but kindly and calmly. In response, the boy became less upset. I accepted his apology, which felt sincere.

In preparing for a meeting with his parents, I prayed to affirm the power of God’s compassionate love to uplift the entire school community. During the meeting, there was a sense of humility and grace, and all agreed to follow appropriate guidelines to ensure the situation would not happen again. And for the rest of my tenure in that office, there was no repetition of that kind of behavior.

One time, after explaining to his disciples that he would be crucified, Jesus overheard them debating who among them should be the greatest (see Mark 9:30-37). He responded by taking a little child lovingly in his arms and conveying that it is in tender, loving care for others that one truly follows Christ. What a peaceful yet impactful way to illustrate what true greatness really is!

I love the imagery of greatness that Mrs. Eddy presents when she writes, “Be great not as a grand obelisk, nor by setting up to be great, – only as good” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 203). This simple yet profound counsel is one we are all capable of practicing. Why? Because the source of universal goodness is divine Love, and as God’s reflection, we are inherently able to express that goodness. Each of us can freely seek – and receive – divine guidance that helps us to be effective and inspired leaders.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.