Metanoia For Today’s Organizational Leader

I heard the term “metanoia” used in a sermon recently.  It means to transform in one’s way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion.  The priest used the term in the context of using the Lenten season to last beyond just the 40 days of Lent.  He simplified the term to mean to change yourself on the “inside” and then your behaviors and actions to become a better person and a person more in alignment with God’s plan for what He really wants us to be.  This change is accomplished through actions on the person’s part, hard work, and real effort, not just through “wishing/hoping” to change.  Metanoia is first a change of heart that then drives a change in behaviors.  It is an external change (actions) driven by an internal change.

I thought that metanoia is not a concept that should be bottled up to just have a Lenten perspective.  Pretty much all organizations today could benefit from their leaders actively engaging in Metanoia type of personal growth.  Over the years, I have seen so much leadership training focus on just the “how-to” of performing certain actions usually expected of leaders of a team.  The training target is nearly always external (our actions).  Metanoia, as a change process, first will have the leader focus on their heart, in this case, their VALUES.  Leaders need first to discern and then understand the “why” behind their actions in terms of the values they want to communicate, and therefore, perpetuate, throughout their teams.  It is key to label and speak these values in the organization.  In addition, true understanding may enlighten the leaders to realize the values they are communicating are not the correct values or the ones intended.  Now, leaders/managers still need to know how to effectively perform the tasks of a leader, i.e. performance reviews, strategic planning, financial management, deal with conflict, operational management, staff management, etc.  But, it is important for the leader and the team to know the “why” behind doing these tasks really well.  Part of that end game is certainly a successful organization, but also an organization that emanates the desired positive values of the organizational leaders.  Leaders execute tasks but lead through demonstrated values.

Leaders and organizations should apply a metanoia lens to their leadership and organizational development practices.  Meaning, develop the habit and skill of self-awareness and self-reflection to look inside yourself, your actions, and the true value driving your actions.  I used the terms “habit and skill” intentionally.  Unlike Lent, metanoia for leaders does not end at 40 days.  A leader needs to develop the internal discipline to have this examination of one’s heart (values) and how to truly and effectively externally demonstrate those values through their actions.  This includes realizing, that like we are all sinners, we are all flawed human beings and, therefore, flawed leaders.  So, truly effective leaders will make metanoia a habit.  Constantly looking inward at their heart and values, examining their actions and determining how to course correct the “how to’s” of their role in the organization, and then taking the often difficult steps to truly put into action the steps to genuinely change to provide more effective leadership to their teams.  Metanoia for leaders is kind of a version of Deming’s Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle but in a much more personal, perhaps even spiritual sense.  Effective leaders will always realize they need to grow and improve to provide even better leadership to their teams.  Those leaders will ingrain a metanoia process (i.e. develop a habit) of regular self-reflection, and that begins with their heart and their values and then creates the actions to more effectively project their right values to their teams.

This is a guest article by Gary Hassenstab. Gary is the author of three books, one “Dear Sis: Letters Home,” based on his dad’s WWII letters, and two leadership books. His first was “Old School Leadership Wisdoms,” and his latest book just released is “Brighten Your Leadership Light, “published by Christian Faith publishing.

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