Spiritual leadership for management and activities

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Michael McCann
Michael McCann
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists; when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.”
— Lao Tzu.

When one hears the phrase “spiritual leadership,” it usually pertains to one promoting or advocating for a religious faith through a specific church or religious organization.

However, being a spiritual leader is much deeper. It's using your personal values to lead people of all cultures and beliefs with integrity, balance and focus. It is important for a leader to maintain a balance of understanding and acceptance when leading a community of residents and associates with diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

A spiritual leader with a Zen-like mentality is able to accept and promote various traditions without his or her own belief system feeling threatened. One must have the mindset that there are several paths toward the same destination and what works for one, might not work for another. This is extremely important as you promote spiritual wellness and activities for your residents. It's the core of an interfaith philosophy.

A spiritual leader should be effective in the following traits:

Mindfulness. Spiritual leaders are able to maintain a calm presence and awareness in day-to-day life. This is having a deep understanding of the functions, thoughts and actions around them. This does not mean that the leader is not passionate or is an unfeeling robot. What it does establish is a practice of awareness and analysis to help make decisions and actions from a position of wisdom rather than a reactionary process of “Fire, Ready, Aim.”
Spiritual leadership shows mindfulness when leaders are comfortable with their own inner self and know that they don't have all the answers, despite their title or influence.

Mission. Spiritual leaders are able to live the mission of their organization on a daily basis. They lead the way in coping with and promoting change not only to the organization, but also to the individuals within. On a daily basis, a spiritual leader seeks out “Mission Moments” that celebrate actions that demonstrate the organization's core values.
Spiritual leaders understand that promoting the mission is a promotion of principles. The mission helps guide them as they balance between acting gentle and leading with strength.

Engagement. Spiritual leaders work side-by-side among those they serve. A true leader is able to lead without making others feel they are being led. Leading from the front, very naturally as part of the whole, is an art form.
Spiritual leaders understand that each member has his or her own skill sets and abilities that blossom in different ways. Therefore, a spiritual leader is able to maintain person-centered relationships without changing who they are and what they stand for.

Balance. A spiritual leader is able to find life-balance, not only in himself or herself, but also in recognizing the needs of others. This leader is the same person, whether he or she is in or out of the office. While spiritual leaders find time for other interests, friends and families, who they are at their core, is the same.

We all have a constant battle of “heart vs. head” as we sift through emotions such as anger, stress, anxiety, vengeance and ego. A spiritual leader is able to rise above these emotions and make balanced decisions based on honor and fairness rather than ego and revenge.

The impact of spiritual leadership should resonate in your resident programming.

The activities program should reflect that we are all driven by a spiritual dimension that holds a belief that positively sustains and affirms life. This need requires more that just physical food and activity to live.

We also understand that each of us has a personal spiritual journey.

Because of this, a comprehensive activity program should celebrate all faith traditions. Your programming model should reflect a personal spiritual journey, adding layers to faith traditions while educating residents on the greater spiritual world around them. This celebrates the very essence of person-centered care.

Mindfulness, mission, engagement and balance are traits that we all should strive for.

The more we cut away from our own ego, the more we are then able to really grow as individuals. We then can grow the people we lead, serve and impact.

On your path toward enlightenment, you will fall and fail. This just gives you another opportunity to grow, understand and rise above.

* Michael McCann, M.S.Director of Lifestyles at Friendship Village of Schaumburg, IL.