The Inner Life Of Leaders

Parker Palmer’s Center for Courage & Renewal is offering a 6-month program to ‘explore the inner life of leadership.’

I have learned that in their reflective moments good leaders are more interested in their inner life or self-awareness than how to advance to the next level of position and authority.

Since leadership success is often measured by rising to the top, many, if not most leaders live with what Thoreau called ‘quiet desperation,’ never quite accomplishing or measuring up to their aspirations and expectations.

Palmer says that if ‘we want to take on big tasks we need another standard to measure our actions.’

He believes that ‘faithfulness’ is that standard.   It is more that just showing up, although there is something to be said for that.   In his brief 5-minute video he defines faithfulness as being true to one’s inner self, as in the questions:

  • Am I faithful to the gifts I possess – the strengths and abilities that I bring to the world? 
  • Am I faithful to the needs I see around me?
  • Am I faithful to those points where I intersect with the needs of the world and have a chance to serve?
  • Do I enter that opportunity or do I shy away or run away for fear that I won’t be able to serve well, or be stretched beyond my ability?

These questions point to a pathway for rewarding leadership whatever the context or outcomes.   And they suggest a profile for the leaders we choose to follow.

Palmer predicts that ‘on the day that I die,’ I will not be asking myself how effective I was, did my books sell well enough, did I make enough money, etc. Each of must fill in the blank for our own situation in life and the standards by which we judge ourselves and/or are judged by others?

Rather, ‘I think I will asking,’ he reflects, ‘was I faithful to the opportunity I had to be on earth for 70 plus years? Was I engaged as I knew how to be with my life, with the needs around me?.’

The key question for leaders then is – what’s on the inside?

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3 Responses to The Inner Life Of Leaders

  1. Harold "Hal" Parry says:

    Thanks Tom for sharing this info. I have been convinced for a long time that FAITHFULNESS is the most important criteria for being successful at most things in life. It certainly is a mark of successful leadership. Praying that I’ll be found faithful!

  2. Gary Morsch says:

    Your post reminds me of a quote from Mother Teresa: “We’re not called to success, but to faithfulness.” Mother Teresa will be canonized on September 4th at a mass in Rome, and, just a few days ago, I received an invitation from the Mother House in Kolkata to attend the ceremonies in Rome.

  3. Harold Nevin says:

    Really liked this piece, “The Inner Life of Leaders.” It seems to me that this is not just for leaders. The standard of faithfulness to those and circumstances outside our own little, personal circles is something we can all attend to. We can all be God’s angels to others, even in smaller ways, like given someone a helping hand at something. Can you imagine how the world might change if every Christian did one good deed every day?

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