Awhile back, I read through Parker Palmer‘s brief book Let Your Life Speak. This is an outstanding book on life and leadership. Palmer has worked quite a bit with educators and as an advocate for peace in our world today. He comes from a Quaker background.
To set the tone of what he is trying to accomplish in this book, slowly read through the following quotation in the book:
It is so much easier to deal with the external world, to spend our lives manipulating material and institutions and other people instead of dealing with our own souls. (82)
Immediately after this important statement, Palmer outlines five ‘shadow-casting monsters’ in the life of a leader. I wanted to outline three of those here today, with particular attention to the first one.
Shadow-Casting Monsters #1-2:
1. “Insecurity about identity and worth” (86).
2. “The belief that the universe is a battleground, hostile to human interests” (87).
In pondering the first of Palmer’s leadership monsters, I was challenged to look into myself. Am I leading out of insecurity or lack of worth? Am I trying to get a sense of value and meaning in my life through those I am leading? Am I controlling or manipulating others in order to create a sense of value in my own self? Our shadow-side stretches out to satisfy our own selves through what we do. This is not true leadership or ministry.
Further in on this first monster, Palmer writes these words that every leader should consider deeply:
These leaders possess a gift available to all who take an inner journey: the knowledge that identity does not depend on the role we play or the power it gives us over others. It depends only on the simply fact that we are children of God, valued in and for ourselves. When a leader is grounded in that knowledge, what happens in the family, the office, the classroom, the hospital can be life-giving for all concerned. (87)
The alternative to such a grounded living? Flipping Palmer’s words on their head, it would be giving death to those around us.