Blog post

SPIRITUAL LIFE AND LEADERSHIP

May 3, 2020frjohnma

Rev. Fr. John-Mary Benedict Ntol Atep

During a Q&A session at a conference, someone asked, ‘What has been your greatest challenge as a leader!’ I think my response surprised nearly everyone in the auditorium. ‘Leading me! – John Maxwell

The Lord Jesus Christ is a Good shepherd, one who died for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). The image of Good shepherd of the Lord is what we celebrate every fourth Sunday of Easter. Precisely, it is a Sunday set aside to assess our sense of leadership. It is always a great news to acknowledge the fact that we are spiritual beings and through the Spirit of God we came into existence and therefore we need to sustain our spiritual life no matter the cost. Leadership is a special gift and skill to take seriously and apply its tenets in order to move towards emotional maturity and spiritual maturity. Thus, our preoccupation is to reawaken the reality of the strong nexus between our spiritual life and leadership.

I like the simple description of leadership by John Maxwell, “leadership is about influence. Nothing else.” It reveals a lot when read reflectively. Influence is the capacity ingrained in every human person to move others into action. The foregoing view of influence is good and it has dominated our spheres of enlightenment and spiritual growth, but reasoned further, influence should not only be understood as having effect on others alone but also on our individual selves. Meaning, you and I can influence our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. We find it difficult to understand and appreciate leadership, especially as we cultivate and lead a spiritual life, because we have been conditioned to see leadership from a very narrow perspective and worse still as a means to move others into action. To this end, leadership in most cases is seen from the dimension of occupying a position especially of high honour. But leadership from the spiritual perspective is holistic.

Leadership properly understood begins with you and me. What we call personal leadership. Personal leadership in the spiritual life is the ability to influence oneself to listen to the voice of God, His Church and an educated conscience and not to be overtaken by time and chance. According to Robin Sharma, “Leadership begins from within. Organizational leadership begins with personal leadership. You cannot be a source of positive energy if you have no energy. The doorway to success swings outward – not inward.” If you cannot lead yourself to accomplish some goals then you cannot lead others. 

Today in our world, good things rarely happen and if they do, they are rarely sustained because of lack of good leaders. We have bad leaders in the Church, families, businesses, careers/professions and societal governments because of poor personal leadership. Many of us cannot lead ourselves let alone lead others. The Latin adage: nemo dat quod non habet (you can give what you lack) confirms the seething problem of lack of personal leadership in our world today. This is why we are quick in leading others but neglecting ourselves. The Lord wants us to also develop a good sense of personal leadership. The outcome of personal leadership are enormous: emotional maturity, spiritual maturity, integrity, peace of mind as a result of less mistakes in life and supremely doing and living according to the will of God. Personal leadership has become very important today, because the main part of the problems confronting us in the Church, family and society are as a result of negligence and failure of personal leadership.

Action plans

  1. Personal leadership informs us of the need to embrace freedom and responsibility
  2. Personal leadership challenges us to move from our false self to true self,
  3. Personal leadership dares us to work on the mechanics of our minds and move from thinking to consciousness
  4. Personal leadership calls us to liberate ourselves from selfishness to self-forgetfulness

Here is a story from an unknown monk of the 12th century which lucidly underscores the place of personal leadership in the spiritual life: “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town, and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only one I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that, if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

Comments (20)

  • Gerard-Mary

    May 3, 2020 at 10:58 am

    Happy Shepherd Sunday. Very wonderful story of the unknown Monk. Thanks Padre.

    1. frjohnma

      May 3, 2020 at 11:33 am

      Thanks so much my dear brother

  • Pauline Otu

    May 3, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    Thank you Father & happy Good Shepherd Sunday. Happy vocation Sunday to all Bishops, Priests & Pastors amen

    1. frjohnma

      May 4, 2020 at 10:37 am

      Thanks for praying for the leadership of the Church. May heaven reward you abundantly. Amen

  • AndyMarie

    May 3, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    Happy Good Shepherd Sunday. May God grant you the grace and favour of a good Shepard to take care of the flocks under your care. For us may we be the individual change that the world need. Amen

    1. frjohnma

      May 4, 2020 at 10:36 am

      A necessary change in life is the change of the self. Thanks for your prayers and comments

  • Victoria

    May 3, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    So so true Fr. The greatest problem with us is US. I have during the lockdown taken time off to go through a journey of ME. It has helped me to reassess my relationship with my immediate family, me and Spouse, me and kids now Men , me and Wards.

    On the overall, I am thankful to God for the opportunity to read one or two more books to help improve me.

    I also want to thank you for the daily prayers and small pep talks that you send to uplift our spirit in this dare moment of our lives.

    May God continue to help us in our little spaces as His children and as Leaders to begin the change me , to family, to neighbourood, villages, cities ,countries, Nations and ultimately the entire world.

    1. frjohnma

      May 4, 2020 at 10:35 am

      According to Chinua Achebe: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.” I dare say that the problem with us seeking and leading a spiritual life is lack or complete failure in personal leadership. Thanks for your words and self-disclosure.

  • Juliana-Mary Ukeje

    May 3, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    Very true indeed Father; the ability to bring about positive and right change in oneself guarantees effective leadership over others. I believe this outward attribute of leadership according to Robin Sharma, also reveals the need to seek the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit in dealing with this greatest leadership challenge, which is: ‘’leading me’’ as very honestly & courageously identified by John Maxwell.
    Thank you very much Father and may the Holy Spirit continue to inspire you to help us hear the voice of ‘’the Good Shephered’’.

    1. frjohnma

      May 4, 2020 at 10:29 am

      Thanks for your powerful comments. Personal leadership needs to be awakened for the good of our entire life, the Church and the society.

  • Okeke Amaechi Patrick

    May 3, 2020 at 2:39 pm

    Happy good shepherd sunday father. Your massage is true and it is food for the mind and soul, i hope and pray that it penatrates the heart and mind of those who are willing to follow the path of truth.

    1. frjohnma

      May 4, 2020 at 10:28 am

      Goodwill that is supported with prayer. God hear our prayers. Amen

  • Batomaria

    May 3, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    I pray Jesus the Good Shepherd to strengthen all our religious leaders especially in this period,Amen. Father, for some of us who are in positions of leadership both in family and outside of it, how can we properly understand ’emotional maturity’. Thanks

    1. frjohnma

      May 4, 2020 at 10:25 am

      Thanks for your prayer and comment. They are great! Emotional maturity has to do with the quality of our relationship with others. It is the ability to manage circumstances in life and not allowing them to weigh you down or unnecessarily escalate them against other people wellbeing. Again, instead of blaming others for your problems in life, you respond by fixing such problems or behaviours.

  • Louis Mathias

    May 3, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    Great insight on the need for personal leadership! God bless you with more wisdom Fr

    1. frjohnma

      May 4, 2020 at 10:10 am

      Amen Fr. Thanks for your prayers and your manifold support

  • AdaJesus

    May 4, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks fada!!! Very rare to get good leaders & good followers. The one I’m scared of are church leaders (Priests & societal leaders, etc). Do we lead well? Do we follow well? May God have mercy on us all, through Christ our Lord, amen.

    1. frjohnma

      May 4, 2020 at 5:36 pm

      Truth told. Thanks a lot

  • Chidiebere

    May 11, 2020 at 10:50 am

    Nicely written. Thanks so much Fr

    1. frjohnma

      May 11, 2020 at 10:01 pm

      Thanks be to God

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