Rev. Toni G. Boehm, Ph.D.
What if saying “yes” to a leadership position where actually just a means to an end? A disguise for its real purpose. What if the essence of leadership in ministry is about personal soul growth for the person stepping up into leadership roles? What if saying “yes” to a leadership position was about the next step on the spiritual journey and lessons that we are ready to learn?
What if one of those lessons was about how to learn to acknowledge and honor oneself as an influential leader? And what is an influential leader? It is someone who models spiritual and emotional maturity in their behaviors and actions.
Engaging and developing leaders is a common occurrence in ministry; what is not common is a clear intention as to why. Why do we take the time to develop leaders? The outer expression appears to be to have qualified persons on our boards or leadership teams.
Yet, after years of consulting and seeing what arises within the context of leadership; it has become clear to me that we are never doing what we are doing for the reasons we think we are doing it. There is always a deeper purpose. The question is do we take the time to distill what that purpose is?
Spiritual leadership is not a job or a task, it is a calling. An interior calling to awaken to a new opportunity to discover who you are at another level of expression. However, often, once in a leadership position we forget that this is what we are about and begin to focus on what is happening around us, instead of what is desiring to emerge from within us.
Influential leadership is at the heart of leadership, but it is not influencing from an outer perspective but from an interior, self-oriented perspective. What does this mean? Many great writers have claimed that it is not what is happening to us but how we react or respond to it that creates the essence of an experiences outcome.
How we respond (vs. reacting) to events, situations, circumstances, and/or people that are not in agreement or alignment with us is the measure of spiritual and emotional maturity; and our response to moments is truly the only power or control we have in any given situation.
For instance, I was invited to participate on a leadership team that had a task for which I was truly excited to engage and participate with. Once on the team, I discovered that where the chair was moving the team was not the direction I had so joyously signed up for. It was actually a direction I had no interest in? What to do? What to do?
For a few sessions, I gave input and worked to influence a shift however, the team chair was not open to any other direction than the one that they carved out. S/he had created their own perception of what the project was to entail and there was no room for dialogue or collaboration on possible variations of the theme.
Again, I asked myself, what could I do? I could complain and whine about my disappointment and disillusionment. Or, I could try collusion and work to enroll others to see my point of view – but somehow I knew that wasn’t the right thing. This was such an important project to me – I made a conscious choice to give it over to Spirit for guidance. I knew what I wanted and that I could play the game of collusion and coercion, but I didn’t’ want that; I wanted guidance from Spirit.
So, I surrendered and went into a time apart, a time of interior listening and prayer. I invited Spirit to give me an answer or direction that was clear regarding what was mine to do without making anyone else wrong, in order for me to be or feel right or justified. And after a few days the answer came.
This was not my team, my project. Period. No making any one wrong – it was just not mine to do. That clarity brought a sense of relief that was cellular. The following week I resigned from the team and my soul was elated. Immediately a new door opened and I was able to walk through into a new project that supported a sense of joy.
The influential leader is not necessarily one who stays the course in misery and martyrdom; the real influential leader is one who knows who they are and when their soul is ready to shift into something more interesting. To move towards conscious action and be willing to take what appears to be difficult steps towards that new action.
Rev. Toni G. Boehm, Ph.D. is the national coordinator, U.W.M. Peace Skills and Transition Ministry Support and Unity South Central Ministry Consultant. Boehm is contracted to support ministries in ever-evolving vibrant and excellent experience of spiritual maturity and ministry dynamics. She can be contacted at 816-304-3044 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: portions of this article were adapted from another work