This is a spiritual season. It reminds me of a nonprofit event at which executives and board members convened to share strategies and ideas for coping with the impact of the dot com “crash” – years ago. As part of the program, four “senior” nonprofit leaders were invited to share their ideas for making it through those challenging times. (I was a little taken aback to be identified as a “senior” leader, but quickly was honored as I realized it meant I was seen as having some wisdom, not that I was “old”!)
But . . . “What could I offer?” I asked myself.
The day of the event I listened as the other “senior” panelists offered valuable insights about strategic thinking, collaboration, fundraising, and other helpful management tips. I’ll admit: I was nervous. I had decided to take a risk with a completely different approach.
I chose to promote spiritual practice as a means to effective leadership in difficult times. Even today, spiritual practice (and I don’t mean religion) is not often discussed in the same conversation as business, management, or leadership. But studies teach us that certain spiritual practices actually improve our leadership. Here are the ones I shared.
1. Meditation. As a nonprofit leader, you have a lot on your mind—a lot! Spending just 15 minutes quieting the mind makes room for new ideas—improved creativity. Racing thoughts or crowded minds interfere with our ability to think clearly. Leaders need inspiration especially when times are tough. Make room for those great inspirations to enter your mind by meditating. (Stress reduction is your added bonus!)
2. Reflection. Make time to be alone and review your day. There are lessons and nuances within our daily experiences we must capture to lead effectively. This is part of a spiritual practice called discernment. Decision-making is a critical competency for leaders; reflection (i.e., discernment) enhances decision-making.
3. Be present. Jon Kabat-Zinn tells us that “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” In stressful times particularly, we rush through our days—focused on the future or the past. We worry. As a nonprofit leader you can’t afford to miss something in the present—be aware.
4. Detachment. At some point you have done all you can do. Then it is time to let go—let go of the outcome—release it to a higher power, the Universe, God – whatever that is for you. Trust yourself, trust the power beyond yourself, and by trusting, you allow that power to work for you and those you serve. Whatever you believe is possible, releasing through detachment will renew and refresh you. With new energy you begin again.
What do you think about the relationship between spiritual practice and leadership? What other spiritual practices do you find relevant for leaders? What works for you? Please take a minute and share your thoughts here so others can benefit!
This is an amazing reminder. I am going to pin it to my bulletin board in eye site. We forget the simple things that lead to enhanced thinking. Instead we try to think faster, work harder, etc. This works! Thanks Mary for the reminder
Thanks so much for your comment, Kathleen! I think it is a struggle for all of us to remember this simple truth!
As usual Mary – spot on. I recommend an app I just ran across called Headspace. It helps in reminding us to – stop, breathe, calm the mind just 10 minutes a day – all on your phone. It’s like having your own meditation coach.
Thanks for this resource, Amari! I am going to give it a try.
These are such good points – each of the four are important but I am especially drawn to #2 (reflection). The whole world is in such a “busy, busy, busy” mode these days – how much more effective we could be if we practiced these. Thanks for sharing them!
Couldn’t agree more Beverly!
All good points. With respect to #3 – Being Present – if you practice this by doing only one thing and focusing on it while you’re doing it, you will feel a lot less stressed. Another lesson I learned – Bend like a willow, be flexible. If you are rigid in your thinking you’ll snap like a dry stick. Finally, when some important solution eludes you, leave it a while. Maybe sleep on it or watch TV, read a book. The answer will come when you are not looking for it!
Good advice Chris! I learned a while back that part of discernment is being willing to NOT make a decision – to wait as you point out.
Thanks for your comments!
It is important in our busy lives to provide time for the light to come inside ourselves
Thanks for your comment Patricia! I really like the way you put this re: the light inside ourselves.