In our ways, we have opened ourselves to suffering as a choice to embrace and be embraced by a life fully.

We do not take leadership lightly. We feel immense urgency to contribute to our own and others’ leadership journeys through our teaching, advising, and writing. Helping people become better leaders by visioning, making decisions, and partnering with greater awareness of one’s inner space, external dealings with the world, and what is held in between is critical to moving beyond paralysis and fear. Through co-creative conversation, we have found leadership as spiritual care a conceptual bridge for connecting the experience of leaders, our expertise in international development, and our experience in end-of-life care and contemplative pedagogy.

Central to spiritual care is opening to liminal spaces beyond dichotomous constructions of living and dying, self and other, giver and recipient of care, and the like. Applied to the context of leadership, we can say that leaders are not in the service of “helping” others or “fixing” problems, implying that others are helpless, or situations are somehow broken. Neither is leadership a process of “leading” others, meaning that others are somehow powerless or dependent. Leadership is fundamentally a co-creative and reciprocal process that allows each to feel seen and see the other in ways that open all to collective grief as a source of wise living and compassionate action beyond constructions of helplessness, brokenness, and the like. Such reciprocity moves groups and leaders away from problem-solving, which assumes that those in power know in advance what the problem is that needs to be solved, to visioning the possibility of death of what needs to be let go and of birth nurturing of that which is emerging.

When leaders open themselves to suffering, death and mourning become less daunting, and they can see themselves as part of a larger continuum. The capacity to rest in discomfort and uncertainty can create greater awareness of cross-cultural communication and connection possibilities rather than fear and alienation of self or others. When suffering is not fearfully approached as a problem to be managed or contained, space for a global mindset and the capacity to lead diverse teams opens. Within this space, fear of not knowing gives way to a moment-by-moment awareness of what shows up, facilitating.

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