Leadership, Guidance and Discernment
Whether you want it or not, setting yourself up as an expert puts you in the role of a leader. Not everyone is cut out to lead and many don’t want this responsibility. But the moment you hang up your shingle and take on clients you are accepting the responsibilities of that role. So be prepared for it.
It doesn’t matter if you’re offering a single service, such as a psychic reader or holistic healer, even these one on one roles have a form of leadership. But the responsibilities of leadership are especially essential if you are taking on the role as teacher, guide or spiritual Minister/Priest/Priestess.
Don’t be afraid to apply the lessons you learned in other areas of your life to your spiritual profession. Whether you’re a house wife or a corporate professional, you have acquired skills that can be translated or transferred to your spiritual profession.
Attributes of Leadership
A good leader maintains a range of qualities and skills that can be learned and developed. Before you hang up your shingle or hand out your first business card, look in your area for management and leadership classes. They will benefit your mission and aid in the success of your spiritual vision.
Remember that the first skill of leadership is leadership itself. For goodness sake if you’re going to be a leader than LEAD! You cannot manage a successful group, congregation or whatever if you allow others to manage you, if you manage by rumor, if you allow others to use manipulation or popular vote to provide direction to your endeavor.
Spiritual Leadership is no different from Business Leadership. Both can be defined with a top list of qualities that make a good leader.
Above all else you must be honest with both yourself and with those around you. Being honest with yourself means admitting you don’t know it all and you’re willing to take in constructive criticism. You’re willing to seek and further your own education not only in business and management of your mission, but to continue learning about your chosen field of expertise. Everyone has something to learn no matter what level of knowledge or experience they hold. Honesty also means being honest with those who seek you out. If you are new to your role, then be honest with those who come to you and let them know you’re starting out and beginning your practice. They will respect you for being honest. If you have decades of experience behind you and someone brings something to you that you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to admit it. There’s nothing wrong with asking for clarification or for someone to explain what they’re bringing to the table. Could be you do have expertise on the topic, but you call it something different from they do. Nothing wrong with that. But if you try to fudge a reply and they’re left confused or worse they know you’re B.S.ing, you will degrade your reputation. And in the spirit business, reputation is EVERYTHING!
There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. You can be confident in your knowledge and ability, as long as you respect the knowledge and ability of others. But when you believe your way is the only way, then you have stepped over the line into arrogance. Confidence doesn’t mean degrading others in order to feel better about yourself or putting your position above all others. Confidence is secure in one’s own skin and has the ability to nurture others and help them to develop their own strengths and improve their weaknesses. Confidence can withstand harsh criticisms. It validates itself and doesn’t need to look outside itself for approval from others. But it is open to constructive criticism and is willing to change in order to improve and gain wisdom.
Know your specialty. If you’re setting yourself up as a holistic healer than it’s important for you to be well versed not only in your own modality, but you should also be familiar with others as well. A good healer knows the workings of the physical body and has some understanding of general anatomy. If you don’t know where the liver is within the body, how are you going to provide healing for someone with liver disease? Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know, but I can find out or find someone who does”. There’s nothing wrong with directing people to others that have more knowledge than you do. Know your limitations and don’t be afraid to admit to them.
Book knowledge isn’t all there is to being an expert or a leader. You must also have practical experience in your field of study. You have to be able to actually do the job. If you are setting yourself up as a spiritual teacher, then you need the knowledge of what teaching entails. Can you create a curriculum, can you create a lesson plan, can you organize your classes and subjects to provide migration for your students from entry level studies to advance studies? Don’t be afraid to ask someone else in your field if you can apprentice with them for a year, or even six months. Look for opportunities where you can volunteer to learn about your chosen field from a practical position.
You must be able to see all sides of a situation and topic without personal prejudice. This is especially important for spiritual leaders. Leading from a place of purity that blocks out your own past hurts which can cloud your judgment is a key trait to being a good leader. Our past experiences create our perspectives and views. But when those experiences have caused emotional or physical harm, they must be healed within before we provide advice to others. Healer heal thyself first. As a leader you cannot take sides when conflict arises. Rather view both sides and hold both sides accountable. In all areas of conflict, both sides have typically done something wrong. Be fair and just, but hold both up to scrutiny and review.
Show strength and conviction to your chosen area of expertise. But also show strength in your ability to lead on your own merits. Lead with compassion and understanding, but be willing to tell the hard truths and show tough love when needed. Sometimes brutal honesty is needed in some situations. Where as others may require kid gloves. But in both situations a good leader isn’t afraid to make tough decisions, implement their vision, and see beyond the limitations. A good leader has the strength to lead!
Being honest isn’t the same as being trustworthy. All areas of spiritual expertise requires discernment and confidentiality. A good leader does not gossip about those that seek their assistance. If you cannot keep a confidence, don’t step onto the path of a spiritual expert. Even if you think sharing personal information with someone will help resolve a situation that your client has confided in you about, you are stepping over the line and breaking their trust in you. Don’t do it! The only time this is ok is when the client has pre-approved the sharing of information AND they are present when you do it. By the same token a good leader also shows trust in the ability of others. If you ask someone to do something, allow them the opportunity to do it and to do it their way. Don’t micro manage or hover over them until the task is done and you’re satisfied. Trust that when assignments are made, they will get done.
Each of these abilities will play off of each other and impact all areas of your leadership. Individually and together they will support your role and provide guidance to situations that arise in your practice. But there are other things to consider in applying these leadership traits to your path of expertise.
Don’t be wishy washy. Use your knowledge, confidence and strength to make decisions. Show the way to go and guide others safely down that road. Learn from your experiences, good, bad and indifferent. Don’t try to play both sides of the fence when drama breaks out. And it will break out in group dynamics. If you don’t know how to deal with conflict, then find a Conflict Management Class! Learn to apply fairness, trust and strength to these situations and resolve conflict when it pops up in YOUR organization. Being a leader sometimes means throwing your weight around and calling someone on the carpet when needs be. Your business is your creation, treat it as such and maintain control over it!
As a spiritual minister we strive to show compassion and be supportive. But there are times when brutal honesty is needed and you must be able to show some tough love once in a while. If you wrap your arms around an addict and tell them it’s ok you love them anyway, all you are doing is enabling the addict. If some one seeks your help then don’t be afraid to actually help and tell them the truth about their situation. If it’s time for them to learn the lesson, they’ll listen.
Don’t loose sight of your mission. You are not going to be able to help everyone and there will be those who refuse to listen and learn. The biggest and best thing you can learn to do is ..say “No”. If you don’t know how to do that, it’s time to learn! Because you are going to say that for the best interest of yourself, and sometimes the client.
Discernment comes in many forms on a spiritual path. Just because you know something doesn’t mean you always have to share it. Using good judgment to determine when you can say something and when you know you won’t be heard is a key asset to leadership and especially spiritual guidance. You may have two clients who are in the exact same situation, but one may be emotionally strong and can handle your honesty. While the other maybe at the breaking point and needs additional compassion, support and guidance. They may not be able to handle the brutal honesty and hard truths and you must know the difference.
Discernment also means know your audience. As a teacher of your spiritual expertise you must learn how to deliver your knowledge to a wide range of individuals. How you express your ideas to a fellow practitioner will be different from how you share information with a novice or someone who doesn’t follow your path. Effective communication begins with knowing your audience and being able to clearly express your perspective in a supportive and clear manner.
How you deliver your message is also important. People today don’t want to be preached to, talked down to, or told that they’re guilty of this and that and must change their ways to be spiritual or worse worthy of being spiritual. Many people are leaving mainstream religions for this very reason. They are tired of the negative sinner talk and want to be shown how they can empower their own lives for the better in a positive approach. While I don’t agree with everything Rev. Joel Osteen believes in, I do respect his method in delivering his message. His positive up beat approach is a perfect example of how to empower others through your message. Change your own talk from showing examples of negativity and instead express examples of positive thought and action. Your message should up lift others and leave them feeling capable of taking on the world no matter what their hardship.
Keeping A Healthy Ego
Develop a tough skin because there will be people who criticize and condemn some of the things you say and do. Ask yourself, am I in this to feed my own ego? Or am I walking this path to share my knowledge and experience in order to help even just one person?
It’s great that so many people want to hang up their spiritual shingle and share their expertise. But the moment you do that, you are going to be challenged by others with more experience or with differing views. Be open to all those perspectives and look at your position from their words and criticisms in an academic fashion. Take the emotion out of their attacks and don’t let their words control your confidence or definition of who you are. Don’t take what they say personally. But do read it. Decide if you have something to learn or if your perspective can be altered by looking at it in a different way or better yet if you can expand your view and see a bigger picture that you may not have noticed before.
A very wise man said to me once… “If you don’t want your ego bruised, don’t bring it into the room!” This is good advice for anyone who stands before an audience and shares their perspective. Whether you’re doing so in front of a group of people in a class room, in a pulpit, or on a message board or chat room online, don’t bring your ego with you and it can’t be hurt!
Many who know me, know I’m a big Nascar fan and my favorite driver is Tony Stewart 3-time Nascar Champion. Tony isn’t afraid to express his confidence in his ability to drive. Those who don’t hold the same confidence, see him as arrogant. This is the fine line between a healthy ego and arrogance. We view others through our own eyes and beliefs from within.When you are jealous of others, or condemn others for thinking they’re so smart or better than you, you are looking at them through your own limited vision of yourself. My favorite quote from Tony that has always been an example of his healthy ego was after a Nationwide race where he crashed and was unable to finish. A reporter asked him what happened and he replied “just ran out of talent”. It takes someone with a good healthy self confidence to say that. But it’s a great example of how you can be confident in your abilities and still admit you have something learn.
As a pagan, I’m used to condemnation and attack. I’ve learned that my path is right for me and I walk it with confidence. I don’t get angry every time someone puts down my religion or spiritual path, because I don’t define who I am through their eyes. But I’m also open to the perspectives of others because I want to expand my awareness and learn from everyone. Not to mention, sometimes the best defense is knowing more about your opponent then they know them self.
If you want to be a Master of your spiritual journey, then make sure you’re open to all paths that lay before you. If one doesn’t ring true to you, don’t condemn it, just walk on past it. But don’t be afraid to learn from it. I’ve learned a great deal from Christian Minister Rev. Joel Osteen, as well as, the Dalai Lama and even from a famous atheist like Bill Maher. The best way to develop tolerance is not to be afraid to learn about the views of others. You don’t have to take on their beliefs, but don’t be afraid to learn about their beliefs. You may even learn something about your own that you didn’t expect.
Holding an ounce of skepticism is a healthy thing for any person on any path in life. It keeps us questioning and challenging not only our own knowledge and experiences, but the new things we are presented with and can learn from. Some of these things you’ll take in and say ‘Nope, not for me’ and that’s ok. But remember, just because it doesn’t fit your paradigm doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit someone else and where they are on their own spiritual journey. Respect all views, just as you want others to respect yours.
-> What Is A Spiritual Expert? – Part IV – Divine Holistic Healing
© 2012 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Spring’s Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved