By David Lichter
Over recent years, I have heard so often, in many contexts, of the need for chaplains to provide leadership in spiritual care. Standard 10 of the Professional Chaplains’ Standards of Practice states, “Chaplain as Leader: The chaplain provides leadership in the professional practice setting and the profession.” While several of the fine articles in this Vision issue address leadership in spiritual care, I would like to offer some reflections on developing leadership capabilities by sharing some research insights from a study of executives by the McKinsey & Co. in 2008-’10.
McKinsey researchers began by interviewing women leaders and studying their responses and identifying capabilities that made them successful. These results were published in their McKinsey Quarterly in September 2008. They expanded their study in 2009 to include 2,000 executives from around the world, to see if the same qualities were true in successful male leaders, and published those findings in October 2010.
They found that their leadership model did predict personal and professional satisfaction in male and female leaders. They came to call this model “centered leadership,” as the capabilities incorporated spiritual and emotional characteristics, as well the usual qualities often found in virtue ethics leadership.
These findings describe the capabilities and qualities rather than to-dos of leadership. I think they are worth reflecting upon in our spiritual care profession, as I would argue that these capabilities should come more easily, if not naturally or by call, to spiritual care leaders.
The first, and the most important, is meaning, that is, identifying “your strengths and putting them in service of an inspiring purpose.” Certainly knowing your strengths (and weaknesses) is one of the certification standards. 303.3 states, “Identify one’s professional strengths and limitations in the provision of pastoral care.” Even more so, serving with an inspiring purpose is connatural with our ministry, as we continue the healing ministry of Jesus. We realize, however, that this is not natural or the work environment of many leaders. The successful ones live this daily. Don’t we?
Managing energy is the second capability, described as knowing “where your energy comes from, where it goes, and what you can do to manage it.” Certainly, at the core of our spiritual care ministry is our own spirituality and assisting those to whom and with whom we minister to identify their own spiritual and religious resources. This refers to all the sources of life and energy within us. We should be able to embody this leadership capability quite naturally.
Positive framing, the third capability, is described as “adopting a more constructive way to view your world, expand your horizons, and gain the resilience to move ahead even when bad things happen.” Wow, how often this is part of our spiritual care ministry, as people seek to cope with life-threatening illnesses, and we are present as people of hope. We are well aware that we are not Pollyanna people, but our lives are grounded in a sure and certain hope. For the most part we don’t voice it, but people experience it in us as we listen and witness and facilitate their reflection on life circumstances that seem suffocating and desperate.
Connecting refers to identifying “who can help you grow, building stronger relationships, and increase your sense of belonging.” It reminded me of the second part of the twofold definition of spiritualty first provided by Consensus Conference sponsored by the Archstone Foundation of Long Beach, CA, in 2009: “Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.”
Both the first capability of meaning and the capability of connecting are part of this definition. While the McKinsey study refers to the social or relational connecting to mentors and colleagues, the experience of connecting is one of belonging, is it not? Centered leadership is that ability to help others experience that sense of belonging at all levels of now, self, others, nature, and the sacred. Is this not again the domain of spiritual care?
The final capability, engaging, is understood as “finding your voice, becoming self-reliant and confident by accepting opportunities and the inherent risks they bring, and collaborating with others.” Perhaps this one is our growing edge. We don’t inhabit this one naturally or easily. It’s been our task for years, maybe decades. Perhaps no time in recent years has it been as critical for us to embrace and embody this capability.
In the second study, which included men and women, McKinsey researchers noted that “finding meaning in one’s activities has the strongest impact on general satisfaction. In fact, meaning is five times more influential than either of the two closest dimensions: energizing and engaging.” Perhaps in our spiritual care profession, we can take solace, find strength in, and lead with this capability as well, as we continue the healing ministry in the name of the Church.
So, how do you match up with the capabilities of centered leadership? Spiritual care leaders can be and are centered leaders.