I’ve often said that a person can be a leader and possess bad character…just not for very long. Over time, the neglect of one’s inner life will show itself in one form or another on the outside.
A longstanding leadership principle states that you cannot give what you do not have. In the real world, we call any attempt to do this – faking it. You can probably fake it for a short period of time. But sooner or later, you have to ask yourself: am I going to be a leader or an actor?
My mission in life isn’t to simply raise up and grow leaders for the moment. It’s to inspire others to embrace a leadership perspective and posture for life – I want to develop lifelong leaders.
Lifelong leadership doesn’t happen without taking the time to nurture and care for one’s own soul. To be a leader who lasts, consider the following principles of soul leadership.
1. Leaders follow a purpose greater than themselves.
This may be closely tied to your faith, to your significance, or to your values. You understand the most significant contributions you make will be for the good of others. You are influenced and committed to a higher calling than simply caring for your own needs or personal success.
2. Leaders ask the right questions.
It is aligning your life with the answers to the questions like: Why do I get up in the morning? What is my mission? What will be my lasting legacy? The focus of our minds and hearts will flow out of the questions we ponder. The greatest satisfaction in life comes from living out an answer to the most meaningful questions.
3. Leaders value and look for diversity.
It is so important to recognize that people who are different from us will strengthen our perspective, our worldview, and our team. Leaders can’t continually search for carbon copies of themselves. Look for people who have strengths you do not have and stories you have not experienced.
4. Leaders submit to the “mirror” test.
Is the man or woman we see in the mirror in the morning the kind of person we want to see all through the day? The quickest way to erode the core of our souls is to not have consistency in our lives. Discipline isn’t punishment, it’s a path that leads to strong character.
5. Leaders look far into the future.
A leader will assess the present moment in light of where they hope to be (both personally and organizationally) in the years ahead. Vision is the compass that moves people through the barriers and conflicts we face in the moment. If you lack vision, your leadership will be reactionary, rather than anticipatory or creative. Without vision, both leader and followers can quickly become stuck in the moment.
6. Leaders recognize the importance of modeling.
People may appreciate your words, but they’ll be moved by your actions. When you take the time to care for your soul, you begin to lead from the inside-out. This means that your words, actions, and behavior will be consistent with the person you are on the inside. Leaders who fail to nurture their own souls are like rudder-less ships, tossed about in their actions by the forces of public opinion or protecting their image.
7. Leaders understand that serving is the most powerful form of leading.
People make a decision everyday whether they will continue to follow your leadership. Leaders who take the time to serve others model a more powerful form of leading. Serving others has a profound effect on both the one serving and those being served. If you are struggling to find a sense of consistency or alignment between your inner life and your observable life, many of your issues can be worked out as you give yourself away in the service of others.
What would you add to this list? How have you nurtured your own soul as a leader?