It’s January, and for some of us it’s a time of resolutions. I’d like to propose a resolution for all who serve the Church…resolve to make a difference in the current situation in the coming year. And even better, I know what can help you make a difference: invest in your own leadership development. Why? Because everyone gains when leaders get better at leading.
Most of you reading this are lay ecclesial ministers of some sort or another. Before you jettison this challenge to make just such a resolution because you are not the pastor, give me one more minute to persuade you. Just one more minute…for you see, if you have responsibility for some area of parish or diocesan life, then you have a sphere of influence. Leadership is about exercising influence within the spheres you can influence…which means you are a leader with the capacity to resolve to make a difference this year by becoming an even better leader.
Persuaded? I hope so. Our Church has too much that is right, good, true and beautiful to offer this world and she needs you to be exercising the kind of powerful influence that can bring Christ’s light to bear. She needs you to be improving your leadership, right where you are, right now!
Where to being? I propose that you begin improving your leadership with an investment in courage. It will take a good deal of courage to listen to the Spirit, to change what the Spirit directs needs changed, to speak up and out about what is both right and wrong about your ministerial milieu, and to risk the inevitable resistances you will meet. Here’s a road map to begin investing intentionally in developing your courage as a leader.
- Acknowledge that the kind of courage you will need must come from the Holy Spirit, and then begin to seek that supernatural courage that comes only from the Spirit. Courage or fortitude is a gift of the Spirit, promised by Christ. Pray for an even greater manifestation of the gift. Pray for guidance about what you specifically need in order to lead with this kind of courage. Pray with others for the kind of courage that trusts in the Lord, risks listening and acting on the Spirit and believes that resistance and negativity are signs you are headed in the right direction.
- Name your personal barriers to courageous leadership. Do you hate conflict? Do you lack skills in holding difficult conversations? Are you afraid of reprisals like losing your job? Have you come to believe that being nice is the most important characteristic of your work? Are you unwilling or ill-prepared to face the kinds of persecution, denial, betrayal and abandonment being courageous for Christ might cause? Name your personal barriers, and then begin to pray with and for them.
- Study courageous leaders. Take a look at leaders like Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Pope Francis, Saints Francis and Clare (and so many others!) and see what fueled their courage. Are you embracing some of those same behaviors?
- Articulate what God is asking of those within your sphere of influence. Study the Church’s documents for her great visionary statements. Have you embraced the vision? For example, Our Hearts Were Burning within Us sets out a paradigm shift in how faith formation is conducted in parishes, moving the locus from child-centered to adult-centered. Have you embraced this vision? Does your heart burn with the hope and the possibility and the energy necessary to begin to shift the paradigm? How has that happened? Why might it not have taken hold? These huge visions exist for liturgy, for Christian initiation, for faith formation, for parish governance, for engagement with the culture and more. Do you know them? Have you embraced them? Courageous leaders work out of a heart-burning vision!
- Learn some skills that, when used consistently, increase courage. They include (but are not limited to) vision-casting, mindfulness and memory. Vision casting: a set of steps that concretize the vision. Each time you speak or act one of the steps, the vision gets strong. Stronger vision means greater courage. Mindfulness: being aware of yourself, the situation and the possibilities and taking time to be aware of how you are feeling creates courage. Memory: remembering all the other times you faced fear successfully. These are specific skills that can be learned and practiced.
- Get a coach, a mentor or a courage companion. Jesus created a small community that he taught, apprenticed, corrected, celebrated and empowered. He helped them embed the vision of the Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. He helped them improve their evangelization skills. He fostered conversion of mind, heart and hands. He held them accountable. He was their coach, their mentor and the Source of their courage. Find that for yourself.
Looking for some help becoming a better leader in 2020? Contact us. We want to invest with you in making your resolution come true. Everyone wins when leaders get better. Resolve to invest in your leadership! it will make a difference. Blessings on this new year!