Leading Like a Monk: We Follow Leaders Who Inspire Us

Leading Like a Monk: We Follow Leaders Who Inspire Us July 5, 2018

We Follow Leaders Who Inspire Us

Leadership is not a skill we can learn by reading about it or studying it. Our leadership is a practice we develop by following the example of leaders who inspire us.

We may be fortunate enough to actually know the leaders who inspire us. Some of us have the opportunity to meet and have conversations with them.

There are leaders who inspire us by what they write, even when they lived long before we were born. We may watch leaders inspire us on video or hear their words on audio. There are leaders who inspire us we can only see in photographs.

Some leaders lived so many years ago or so far away we do not even have a picture of them. Their inspiring words and examples are passed down to us in stories and legends. We may not even know whether they were real people.

Other leaders inspire us even though we know they are fictional characters. They may be superheroes or our favorite hard boiled detectives. Their stories may have inspired us since we were children.

The leaders who inspire us leave footprints for us to follow. We walk in their footsteps and grow into our own understanding of leadership.

Following in their footsteps is not about always doing things the way they do them. We are not trying to become new versions of them. Following the leaders who inspire us is about becoming the leaders they inspire us to be.

We are not looking for leaders to transform ourselves into imitating. The leaders who inspire us help us become more deeply ourselves.

Two of the leaders who inspire my contemplative life have been facing some challenges recently. Both of them are monks and they are each facing challenges in their own ways.

Leaders Who Inspire Us: Thomas Keating

Thomas Keating is a Roman Catholic priest and a Trappist monk. He entered the Trappist order when he was 20 years old. Fourteen years later he was appointed Superior of Saint Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado and elected abbott of Saint Joseph’s abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts three years after that. Father Keating served as the abbott there until he retired twenty years later and returned to Colorado.

With William Meninger and Basil Pennington, also Trappist monks, Thomas Keating is one of the architects of centering prayer.

Based in a 14th Century spiritual classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, centering prayer is a method of praying. Centering prayer is an uncomplicated introduction to contemplative prayer practices.

Thomas Keating has taught centering prayer through his writings and teaching and the Contemplative Outreach organization. His contributions to the centering prayer method and explanations of it has changed the way thousands of people pray.

I was first introduced to Thomas Keating through his writing. I saw in the Los Angeles Times that Father Keating was here in Southern California and bought one of his books. That book led me to an Introduction to Centering Prayer workshop and my practice began. Now I present those workshops.

Father Keating’s writings and videos inspire me. I find something new each time I explore them.

The one time I have seen Father Keating in person was years ago at the cathedral in Los Angeles. He spoke briefly and a group of us practiced centering prayer together.

Thomas Keating is now 95 years old. I learned last weekend he has been accepted into hospice care. He is one of the leaders who inspires me.

Leaders Who Inspire Us: Robert Hale

My centering prayer practice was a first step as I gained interest in other contemplative practices. A friend of mine noticed my growing appreciation and suggested I explore Benedictine spirituality.

I read about Benedictines and their history. Visiting Benedictine retreat centers and monasteries, I asked questions. I explored several communities but did not find one which fit me.

My same friend asked me if I had heard of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California. She said they might be my “kind of guys.”

I went to their website, contemplation.com. They provide a lot of good information, including a list of books to help people discern about becoming a lay Oblate. One of the books was Love on the Mountain by Robert Hale, who had been the prior of the community.

I was impressed with the book and called to reserve some time for a retreat. The person who answered the phone when I called was Robert Hale. While I was there I turned in an application to begin the process of becoming an Oblate to Robert Hale.

Robert Hale is a Roman Catholic priest and a Camaldolese monk. After graduating from college he became a Roman Catholic and a monk at New Camaldoli soon after it was established. He is 80 years old.

The time I spend at New Camaldoli is mostly spent in silence. Father Robert is the monk with whom I have had the most communication. We are friends on Facebook and follow each other on Instagram. He has asked and answered important questions for me.

A few weeks ago Father Robert took a serious fall on some steps at the hermitage. He has spent some time in the hospital and a recovery center. I look forward to seeing him at New Camaldoli next month.

Following in the Footsteps of Leaders Who Inspire Us

Father Keating and Father Robert are leaders who inspire by not telling me what to do. They are good at guiding me and giving advice, and excellent listeners.

Their leadership shapes the ways I think and act and live. Each of them has helped establish communities in which I learn and grow.

The leaders in whose footsteps I choose to walk do not resort to force or intimidation. They are leaders who inspire trust and relationship.

Leaders who inspire me help me understand myself and the world differently.

Are there leaders who inspire you today?

How are we following in the footsteps of leaders who inspire us this week?

[Image by ANDR3W A]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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