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Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership

Written on March 29th, 2016


Earlier this month, an abscess discovered in a most inconvenient spot brought the busy schedule of my life to a very quick halt.  Being unable to sit, unable to stand, and unable to lie in any position comfortably for more than a few minutes will drive even the most stubborn of us to ask for help. So, obedient to the symptoms of physical illness, I reluctantly went to see my doctor.

Apparently it was for good reason, for within a few short hours I had undergone surgery for the first time in my life—the unwanted abscess removed.  Suddenly, however, I was faced with the prospect of an entire week (in fact ten whole days, 240 hours!) of unexpected, unwanted time away from work in order to allow for a proper recovery.

In the Lord’s ironic sense of humour and His impeccable timing, I had just begun reading the book “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership.”  The author, Ruth Haley Barton, intertwines the story of Moses through her own, to bring the reader to a deeper understanding of the need for leaders “to enter more deeply into the process of spiritual transformation, and to choose to lead from that place.”  (p.15)

Since the beginning of January, my pace of work life had been non-stop.  I filled every possible moment with appointments and travel and meetings and calls and emails and …. you get the idea. I ignored the warning signs, the reprimands from those who know me well, and the internal flags that will appear within those moments.  I know that, from speaking with many other leaders, I was not alone.  The schedule of life, the hectic pace of events, meetings, calls, social media and even the occasional crisis feeds our existence, our sense of being needed.  Even our quiet times, our devotional times become perfunctory or obligatory—just another challenge in an already busy schedule.

For a while this works, and we feel as though we can handle it all.  In fact, it feeds us—and if we are honest, it feels good to be seemingly indispensable, to be needed.  But then slowly, and sometimes not so slowly, the anxiety takes over; the body rebels, and the feeling of disconnectedness from others and from God begins to take hold.

Ruth Haley Barton’s encouragement through the life of Moses is timely, as she creatively lays out a path for “encounters with God in the context of our leadership.”  She, in a most helpful manner, concludes each chapter of her book with suggestions which allow us to engage more deeply with our loving God and Father.  She encourages, through her very practical challenges, “to keep seeking tenaciously after God through spiritual disciplines that keep us grounded in the presence of God at the center of our being.”  (p.26)

March Break and the Easter long weekend are now behind us.  The stretch of the three months that lie before us is often described as “the sprint to the finish”.  Those three months will come with their inevitable challenges, chaos and crisis.  You will need to do the small stuff well, while leading wisely and prudently on the larger issues.  You will need to be reflective and thoughtful in planning for the school year to come.  As spiritual leaders in our communities, let me encourage you to explore the writings of Ruth Haley Barton in “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership”, as you seek to keep our Lord central in your life, in your decision making and in your leadership.