Leadership Through Purpose

Leadership Through Purpose

Dr. Bill Robinson

I have shared about the importance of relationships, of creativity, and of cultural awareness for effective leadership.  What is just as important is purpose – why you lead. In this, there are three levels of purpose – self, community, and world/spirit.

When asked to lead others, it is vital to know what one’s individual purpose is. This is true whether you are a Jewish communal professional or a lay leader. What are you trying to achieve? It could be a more effective organization, a successful program, improved outreach, a meaningful Board meeting, or a host of possibilities big and small. The important thing is you know why you are leading, and you share it to inspire others. Otherwise, one confuses in communication, meanders in execution, and eventually exhausts good will.

The trick is that when you actually lead with purpose, you have to hold it lightly. For example, when you enter into a meeting with other volunteers, other professionals, or even just friends, it is just as important to be present – actively listening to what others have to say – as it is to be cognizant of your purpose for the meeting.  Instead of pushing through in accordance with your own purpose, one begins by listening for what others feel are their reason – their purpose – for being there.  From this, one forges common purpose. 

If you only lead from your values and perspective, without understanding the values and perspectives of others in the room, then you are not leading.  You may be in a position of authority from where you can demand that others follow.  But, that is not what we mean by leadership – in which anyone can “lead from any seat.”  While authority can dictate, leadership can only influence.  Yet, authority elicits compliance, whereas leadership inspires commitment.

Finally, I believe that the Divine Presence seeks our partnership in leading a broken, fragmented world toward wholeness.  As we do with other people, we must begin by being present and not filled with our own sense of self, so that we can hear the Divine music that is continually playing but is barely heard.  As Rabbi Art Green suggests “Our task is to notice, to pay attention, to the incredible wonder of it all, and to find God in the moment of paying attention.”  And, when we become aware, do we answer Hineini – “Here I am, ready to lead in service”?

In aligning ourselves to Divine purpose, we seek out emerging opportunities to bring forth the elusive yet promised healing of the world.  We are then engaging in the deepest form of “servant leadership.”  We are leading with purpose that emerges deep in our soul in response to the call of the Divine and with a purpose that forges the bonds of sacred community.  We are Leading with Spirit.

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