A while back I wrote a piece on leadership from the perspective of service. Here it is:
A leader who knows her work as service often experiences a call from within. The nature of this experience roots the leader’s service in the expansive foundation of where the call came from. The Mystery, where our questions and passions arise from, is unexplainable. It is much more about questions than it is about answers.
It is one thing to hear the call and another to heed the call. If a leader has the faith and courage to step into the call, she has the potential to embody what is possible when it might not be seen yet, even by the leader herself. Think of Moses, who in the Exodus story heads out into the stark desert where water and food is scarce. Everything Moses needed to know, his guidebook so to speak, came from a wisdom voice beyond his comprehension. Author Robert Greenleaf writes that a servant leader is “searching, listening, expecting that a better wheel for these times is in the making. It may emerge any day. Any one of us may discover it from personal experience.” Things were not good in Egypt for Moses or his community. The voice that he heard knew that there was greater possibility for all of Israelites if they left. Through his leadership in the wilderness, Moses embodied this knowing.
In this embodiment of faith, a leader faces doubt – in herself and in the mysterious call itself. St. John of the Cross calls this the dark night of the soul. I have been experiencing this lately in relation to my work. Deep listening, my community, and the forest and river help me make it through and learn.
A leader is nothing without the community. The liberation of the community, through the actions that Moses was called to, shows us that Life has the power to renew and free us. Meg Wheatley (an important elder of our time and one of my greatest inspirations) writes, “We have to be the ones who welcome newness; who look to be surprised rather than are fearful of surprises; who look for difference rather than try to have people conform.” To do this, leaders must have incredible faith not only in themselves, but in a presence that enfolds them as they lead.
The job of the inspired leader is to remind others that they have the capacity to rise to the occasion of what they are called to be. A leader embodies what is possible so that others can experience and know that possibility within themselves.