While I was getting working on my master’s degree, the topic of leadership came up. I got my Master’s degree in Depaul’s School for New Learning. My degree was one that focuses on your profession, and my focus was shamanic practice. When we studied leadership, we were looking at it from the prospective of our individual professions, so I was looking at it from a spiritual perspective.
The thing I was trying to understand was how we tend to transfer our own power into that of our leaders. We don’t just assign them a leadership job, many people see leaders as special and uniquely empowered in some way. We project our own gifts onto that leader, and that person becomes the only extraordinary one. The regular person is left ordinary, or less than ordinary, in part because he has projected his own gifts on to someone else. Each individual’s piece of the work, and his or her unique creative gifts are reduced because she is not authentically empowered.
This made me wonder: How can a leadership model function without this uneven distribution of power? I do think that groups often need a leader, because there has to be one or more people giving a focus to the group. But can there be a role to focus a group, without also having an uneven distribution of power?
Our past models of leadership, put the leader on the pedestal, glorifying and elevating the leader. In other words, the leader became the focus, rather than the purpose of the group being the focus.
Spiritual leadership is about helping create a focus for individuals or groups, without becoming the focus of those individuals or groups.
In other words, invisible leadership.
The goal is the empowerment of the group, rather than the empowerment of the leader. The goal is to empower the work of the group, and empowerment of each individual that makes up that group. The leader acts in an invisible way, by not shifting the focus on to him or herself, and by refusing to accept the group’s projections of power onto him or herself.
The grand action or magic bullet that fixes everything in a instantaneous profound moment of change… isn’t really how change happens.
Most change happens piece by piece, bit by bit. It isn’t always as satisfying as a sweeping change, because it can be hard to see that the change is in fact happening. Somewhere in the middle the members can forget the change, and that is when a leader can come in a quietly refocus the group without distracting the group members by being the flashy star of the show.
In the book Middlemarch, there is a character Dorthea. She wanted to use her money to make a real difference in the life of the poor.
Finding out that her resources were not enough to truly complete the vision she had in mind, and a partial solution would not work, she had to accept that there were limits on what she could do. The softening was in some ways an opening of her heart, which allowed her to feel more connected to the world around her. She didn’t seem to realize, however, that the smaller acts she was now involved in were in fact, just as powerful as the ones of a grand vision:
“And Dorothea..she had no dreams of being praised above other women.
Feeling that there was always something better which she might have done if she had only been better and known better, her full nature spent itself in deeds which left no great name on the earth, but the effect of her being on those around her was incalculable.
For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on un-historic acts and on all those Dorothea’s who live faithfully their hidden lives and rest in un-visited tombs.”
George Eliot, Middlemarch (Movie 1994)
While this is not a quote on leadership specifically, it does talk about how powerful good can come from invisible sources. Dorthea did not see the amount of good that she did, because it was not the sweeping grand action that she originally had in mind.
Invisible leadership is capable of effecting change, without the trappings of majesty that can be a part of leadership. The leader helps make the focus, but does not become the focus. He or she is more like a lens of the camera.
The invisible leader gets a clear vision of what the change is, and pays attention to how the group moves forward in creating the shared vision. The leader can then remind the group of the shared vision, helping the members see it again. Or as things evolve and change, the leader can facilitate a process to update the vision by bringing the group together, as needed, to express new aspects of the shared work. The invisible leader can help a group sharpen in on what is needed, and then fade back into the background, virtually unseen.
“There is also such a power that comes from working in anonymity. Often people confuse being leaders and changemakers with having to be public. We are part of an invisible community that works together with concentration and the power of focused intent to shift the energy in the web of life.”
Sandra Ingerman, Transfiguration News, January 2014
Lauren Torres – Lansing, IL
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