Isn’t this a great photo? When I see I think of hesitation and preparation, and for some of us, excuse. “I’ve got to get my ducks in a row.” Well, let’s consider those ducks today in the shadows and lights of leadership. Parker Palmer (2000, pp. 85-94) gives a short list (by no means exhaustive) of five “monsters” that cast a shadow for leaders and the complementary gift of understanding / transformation if we accept it.
#1 shadow: INSECURITY ABOUT IDENTITY AND WORTH
When we are insecure about our own identities, we create settings that deprive other people of their identities as a way of buttressing our own (p. 86). The gift available on the inner journey is the knowledge that identity does not depend on the role we play or the power it gives us over others (Amen somebody!). It depends only on the simple fact that we are children of God, valued in and for ourselves (p. 87).
#2 shadow: BELIEF UNIVERSE IS A BATTLEGROUND, HOSTILE TO HUMAN INTERESTS
Consider just how many images of warfare we employ…in natural things. We can create enemies just by our constant conjuring of strategy/tactic, ally/enemy, and win/loss talk. It creates conditions where we live like we are at war with the world. “Yes, the world is competitive, but largely because we make it so.” The gift we receive on the inner journey is the insight that the universe is working together for good…the “spiritual truth that harmony is more fundamental than warfare…could transform this leadership shadow” (p. 88).
#3 shadow: BELIEF THAT ULTIMATE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL THINGS IS MINE
Palmer calls this functional atheism, the conviction that if anything good will happen it’s because we make it happen. This belief leads us to impose our will on others, stressing relationships sometimes to their breaking point. It also drives the frenzy that keeps a group making noise, unable to see progress in silence. The gift to us on the inner journey is the knowledge that ours is not the only act in town. (pp. 88-89)
#4 shadow: FEAR, ESP. OF THE NATURAL CHAOS OF LIFE
Buckle up recovering perfectionists. We want to organize ourselves into exemption from messiness of any kind. This shadow projects as rigidity of rules and procedures, creating bondage instead of liberty. The insight we receive on the inner journey is that chaos is the precursor to creativity. When we fear chaos so much to try to eliminate it, the shadow of death will fall over everything we approach…because death is the final answer to all messiness.
#5 shadow: DENIAL OF DEATH
We can deny that all things must die in due course. Projects and programs that should have been unplugged long ago are kept on life support to accommodate the insecurities of a leader who does not want anything to die on his or her watch (SELAH, and yes Lord!). Within our denial lurks the fear of failure. The gift we receive on the inner journey is the knowledge that death finally comes to everything — and yet death does not have the final word. In allowing death we grant permission for new life to emerge!
Take another look at the ducks now. What do you see?
Love you all so much! Go deeper on the inner journey…keep doing the work. Refining and yielding to the divine life and work in YOU is the best investment YOU can make. And, THEY will be better for YOUR EFFORTS. Amen.