Christ is not valued at all unless He is valued above all.”
—Augustine of Hippo, A.D. 354-430
Let us hear what the Bible says and what we as Christians are call to hear together. By grace you have been saved.”
—Karth Barth, 1886-1968
Tim was recently interviewed by Kim Ketola (“Kim Jeffries”) of KTIS radio in Minneapolis. Kim’s program is heard weekdays from noon to 2 on KTIS-AM in the Twin Cities and on the Northwestern Radio Network (http://kimketola.net/).
Spirituality Leads To Effective Leadership
Most people who teach seminars on leadership are concerned more with the “what” of leadership – actions and strategies that lead to success – than with the “who” – what it takes, as a human being, to be an effective leader. As president and chief executive officer of Family Hope Services, which serves at-risk youth in the Minneapolis suburbs, pastor, professor, and spiritual coach Tim Geoffrion spends a lot of time thinking about the nature of his relationship to his team, and how he can best help them to work with their teenage clients.
“When I think about being a leader,” says Geoffrion, “I’m thinking about not only what I do, but who am I when I do it?” He believes that cultivating spirituality is essential to effective leadership. The essential question, he says, is “how do I become transformed as a person, so that when I apply leadership strategies there will be certain quality to my work, not just based on techniques, but on who I am.”
For Geoffrion the answers to the “what” questions flow out of leaders’ visions of who they want to be. The consequence of personal spiritual work, he believes, is a transformation in leaders’ perception of what happens in the workplace and their responses. Following quality personal work, he says, “I become a deeper person so that in my interactions with others, in the workplace, in life in general, there will be a quality to my personhood that would not be there otherwise.”
Geoffrion leads a workshop on “Spiritual Depth in Life and Leadership” on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, April 16, 17, and 18, at the Princeton Theological Seminary in Erdman Hall’s Art Studio. Cost: $285 for the program only, and $455 with lunch and lodging. For more information, call 609-497-7990.
Geoffrion’s interest in the spiritual side of life began while he was still in high school outside of Chicago. He loved the volunteer work he did at his church, teaching children and leading a boy’s club. “I was very drawn to God and felt fulfilled when helping other people in church,” he says.
At Wheaton College in Illinois he continued to work as a youth leader and graduated in 1979 with a bachelor of arts. He chose to major in psychology, which he saw as a tool to help him work better with people.
Geoffrion’s first job post-college was as a church’s director of youth ministries, but he soon decided to go to Princeton Theological Seminary. While there he worked in the Philadelphia prison system as a chaplain, an experience that affected some of his eventual life choices. “That is probably when I began to be drawn to suffering people, people in particularly difficult circumstances,” he says. “A lot of my ministry has included working with hurting people, abused and neglected people – as well as your `normal’ churchgoer.” He also served as assistant pastor at the Beverly Presbyterian Church, south of Burlington, extending his seminary time to four years to accommodate the church work.
After receiving his master of divinity degree in 1984, he and his wife, whom he met at the seminary, were co-pastors at a church outside of Chicago for a year. But then he decided to attend the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where he earned a master of theology degree and then a doctorate in New Testament studies. He stayed within the academic realm for several years, teaching a year at the Lutheran School of Technology and then moving to Minnesota, where he served as an adjunct at Catholic and Lutheran seminaries as well as at Baptist and Methodist colleges.
But he did not follow a path toward full-time teaching, because, he says, “I really wanted to be out where the action was.” Toward that end he became the vice president of programs at Family Hope Services, whose five facilities served teens who were falling through the cracks – in trouble at home, school, or with the police. Where possible, the agency also involved parents. After five years he became the social service organization’s executive director.
“My 10 years there involved a lot of administration and spiritual leadership of the staff,” he says, estimating that the numbers of people under him varied from 25 to 40 at one time, with numbers fluctuating because of summer interns and such.
His personal goal was to strengthen the team, and that, he says, “was part of what motivated me to go deeper into learning about spiritual leadership.” He wondered how he could equip his staff to be more effective in working with the kids and realized that their effectiveness depended on their “depth and spiritual maturity.”
The first step to becoming an effective leader, as Geoffrion sees it, is to develop a vision for integrating one’s spiritual life with leadership. He also recommends that a leader develop a specific spiritual discipline. “Where you are coming from will affect how you view spirituality,” says Geoffrion, explaining that he is influenced by teachings in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. As a result, he trusts in a God who is essentially good and loving, “in spite of the many questions in life that can’t be answered.”
The result of a new spiritual alignment is a change in leadership, both in style and substance, he says, leaving the leader with several enhanced abilities:
Listening effectively to others. “You start to listen for and appreciate the contribution of every member of the team more,” says Geoffrion. “If a person believes that the Holy Spirit speaks and works through every team member, then listening just makes sense – especially for an autocratic leader who may just want to tell other people what to do.”
Being graceful and loving. “We live in a perfection-oriented culture,” he says, “and many of us don’t know how to be graceful with ourselves. We don’t know what it looks like or feels like.” At the core of the Christian message, he explains, is a gospel of faith in unmerited favor – God’s loving us and accepting us as we are and forgiving us when we need forgiveness.
“The more we can let ourselves experience that grace of God, the more that we are equipped for being agents of grace to others. It affects how others will trust me, how they will feel like I respect them,” he says. “They can have a sense of confidence that I am for them, not against them.”
One example he cites is the performance evaluation. By having a sense of grace, he believes leaders can separate out the performance from their regard for the person.
Developing sensitivity to others. This involves greater sensitivity to what Geoffrion calls “a spiritual flow that might be happening in the workplace.” When a leader is dealing with a staff conflict or a strategic planning conflict, sometimes spiritual principles may allow the leader “to look beneath the surface of what might be happening and become more attuned to other dynamics.”
The same sensitivity can help a leader who is searching for a way forward to recreate a corporate culture, and change how people relate to each other and how they feel about work.
Being successful as a leader, according to Geoffrion, who is also a spiritual life coach and has written a book titled “The Spirit-Led Leader,” takes a special perception of the value of other human beings. Many managers are missing that “sixth sense” about people, and perhaps an enacted spirituality can transform workplaces from competitive, stress-filled environments to spaces that offer enhanced quality of life. – Michele Alperin