As I read about the successors to Solomon in the middle chapters of the book of I Kings, a clear pattern emerged: not only did these kings sin, but they also caused Israel to sin, much in the manner of Solomon sinning and causing Israel to sin at the end of his life, an act that caused God to be angry with him. With Solomon, it began (in earlier chapters of I Kings) with Solomon's taking of foreign wives against the commandment of God, a command with which God had sought to prevent Solomon being converted to foreign gods through the love of foreign wives and concubines.
Reading: I Kings 15: 33-34
Meditation: It may seem like a bit of a stretch to apply this history to modern leadership, but since modern leadership is the stuff of my every day life, I do see parallels and lessons nearly everywhere, including in I Kings. As was written about Baasa, he "did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin," so can it be that leaders of all sorts do evil in the sight of the Lord and in their sin make their followers to sin.
As a senior leader, it is easy to forget the influence that one has over the thinking and beliefs of one's subordinates. More than one display of anger, and some junior leaders will consider that heavy-handed approaches are permissible ways to manage. After all, it is easier to demand and to be angry when one's demands are not met than to share governance, listen patiently to someone you just know is wrong, and to compromise when you just know you are right. A lax interpretation of rules and regulations for self benefit tells both junior leaders and employees that cheating is okay if it is only "a little thing." Remembering that deeds speak louder than words can keep one from self-exemption in acting in accordance with moral and ethical standards especially when one thinks one is not being seen. It is much like with our children. If our words and deeds do not match, our children are more likely to emulate what we do than to follow the principles we hope to inculcate in them through education.
It is far easier than we think to lead those who follow us astray, whether that be astray from moral standards, scrupulous adherence to regulations, or willing obedience of God's commands and taskings. For that reason, I ask God to help me at the beginning of every day (often several times during the day as events unfold) to keep me not only from hurting anyone but also from leading anyone astray. I also ask that His love flow through me and splash onto those around me, that both my words and deeds honor Him, and that I set the kind of example for junior leaders and employees that He would have me set. (Of course, even with God's help, I do not always succeed for human emotions intervene from time to time, causing me to forget to refer the given situation back to God.)
In trying to lead as God would have me lead, I find two sources of leadership development helpful. One is the Bible. Just as the passage from I Kings can provide excellent guidance, so can much throughout the Bible -- those situations where leaders excelled and those where they failed. There is another book that I have found to be quite helpful and that I recommend to any leader: Jesus on Leadership (C. Gene Wilkes). For leaders who are not Christians, a very similar book is put out by the Greenleaf Center, The Case for Servant Leadership (Kent Keith, the author of the Paradoxical Commandments that Mother Theresa loved, otherwise known as "Do It Anyway"); while foot-washing is not mentioned in it, it does reflect principles that God taught to leaders and hoped and expected from them throughout the Bible.
These books help me a lot. God (and prayer) help me even more. And the rest I mess up all by myself -- and go running to God to help me fix it!
And that is far as I can go with you this Monday morning. I must retire to prayer to continue to ask for guidance every minute of every day as I interact with junior leaders and rank-and-file employees, to repent for those times that I have set a bad example, to thank God for so often setting straight with my employees what I do wrong, and to give praise for the way in which He leads me and my subordinate leaders to assist and support those who work for us, the ways in which he ensures that we do not harm any of them exceedingly much, and the way in which He has brought much spirituality into our workplace. After that, I will spend time in contemplation, my favorite part of the day, letting God take over the direction in which my relationship with Him moves.
I will now leave you to your prayer and contemplation, but first, I would like to bring to your attention a Monday morning prayer post that you might enjoy:
Fr. Austin Fleming, priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and pastor in Concord, Massachusetts, posts a prayer each Monday morning that he calls "Monday Morning Offering." I enjoy his prayers very much. I hope you also will find them inspirational. He has graciously given me permission to include a link to his blog on my Monday Morning Meditation posts.
For additional inspiration throughout the week, I would point out two sets of blogs: (1) the list of devotional blogs that follow the enumeration of Monday Morning Meditations on the sidebar of this blog and (2) my blogroll, where I am following a number of inspirational priests and writers about spiritual matters. I learn so very much from all these people. I highly recommend them to you.