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?