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Effective Leadership: Vision, Values and a Spiritual Perspective

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Sandstrom and Smith (2005) note that it is pride that separates us from each other, and from our shared values and vision of a “more perfect union.” A leader is effective if they can overcome this propensity toward personally oriented pride to truly advocate for the differences that make up the whole. Human pride says: “pull away and be separate.” Alternatively, we say: “pull together and be one.” Human pride says: “judge this person to see if they meet your criteria of acceptance.” An appreciative and collaborative leader says: “join me as we seek out the path to a better future.”

Hollow Communities and Habits of the Heart

We have already spoken of the importance of advocating for differences. We must champion, cherish and constructively utilize those differences to accomplish the goals of the community. What we often fail to do, however, is to embrace the complete concept of a whole community. It is our human tendency as a social animal to group together. It is a tendency, unfortunately, that is wired in with a preference for being with others who are like us in thought, belief, practice, and physical appearance. In every city of the world, we find ethnic neighborhoods clustered together, separated from the larger community.

We find silos in every hollow organization and community. Groups, departments, and functional divisions are inclined to operate and think independently of the whole. We are all part of the bigger community, but we are separated into our own little comfortable cocoons of sameness. We talk about community, but we don’t live it, embrace it, or encourage it. We haven’t yet fully comprehended what community really means.

As Sandstrom and Smith (2005) observe, there are communities within communities – necessary for practical life – but we must think beyond our established boundaries to find heartfelt allegiance with all mankind. A viable concept of community is not limited to separated sameness.  Our heart should bleed for the entire community of humankind. We should be working to build a community of those who cherish and work collaboratively for a better, more caring, and equitable future.  It is in the “habits of the heart” that we find this sense of community.

While promoting an inclusive environment united toward common focus, leaders who engage in this best practice know that their vision and values are not to be compromised. There is no room for expedience or the hiding of one’s vision and values under a basket. The Best Practice Four leader encourages collaboration rather than “silo” orientation in all areas of life. They foster communal habits of the heart on behalf of the higher, transcendent purpose and greater good. These leaders help the community to find a like-minded commitment to the greater good–and to find an opportunity to create the greater potential of becoming one family.

Relativism and Commitment

The challenge for a mid-21st-century leader—especially one with a specific and distinctive faith orientation—is to honor different spiritual traditions, yet find and retain commitment to a specific, tangible vision of the future and set of values. A psychologist and counselor at Harvard University offered some guidance in this matter several decades ago that is still relevant. William Perry (1970) offers a detailed description of the challenges we face in finding spiritual commitment in a world of relativism. He suggests that most of us move through several stages of cognitive development and epistemological sophistication as we mature.

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