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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Leading with Character: Lectio Divina 

I pick up ideas for this leadership blog from every aspect of my life. I advocate that “leaders are readers,” and get ideas from books, newspapers, and publications; I get inspiration from listening to podcasts or watching shows; other ideas come from communing with nature, such as taking a walk in the woods; and some of my best ideas come from an entirely different avenue – thoughtful messages from the pastors at my church.

Divine Reading

Recently, while attending a Sunday service, the pastor introduced us to the lectio divina, which translates from the Latin to “divine reading.” It’s an ancient concept of meditation and reflection. The lectio divina provides a framework that helps one focus on and more deeply understand a text, which historically has been the Bible. It consists of four steps:

  • Lectio (reading): Read the selected passage,
  • Meditatio (meditation): Read the passage again, looking for a word or phrase that stands out,
  • Oratio (prayer): Read the passage a third time, praying for spiritual guidance, and
  • Contemplatio (contemplation): Think about the deeper meaning of what you’ve read, and how you can apply it as a force for good.

Applying Lectio Divina to Leadership

As I listened to my pastor speak about the power of the lectio divina to help us better understand God’s word, I was struck by how I could apply the same framework to becoming a more engaged leader, equipped to better understand people and situations in the workplace.

Let’s consider how the framework could help a team leader assimilate a new member:

Step One: When a new employee arrives at work for the first time, the team leader should meet the new person and make introductions. That encounter will leave the team leader with a first impression of the new member. In a hectic or virtual work environment, that might be the extent of the interaction, with the new employee left to do their best to integrate into the team. But that’s not where an engaged leader should stop.

Step Two: Rather, the team leader should take a moment to note a positive quality or two that stands out from that first encounter. That broadens the first impression, and starts a connection between the team leader and the new employee.

Step Three: Within a day or two of the new employee reporting in, the team leader should invite the new employee to a “welcome aboard” meeting. This is the time to get to know the employee better. Think about what the person has to offer – where he or she would best fit on the team, and what value the person could add to the team and the organization. Set expectations. Ask the new employee to share their thoughts, concerns, and goals.

Step Four: In the new employee’s first few days and weeks, the team leader should reflect on what qualities the new person has to offer in terms of perspective, background, way of thinking, personality, experience, etc. that will help take the team to the next level of performance. This is also the time for the team leader to consider the needs and desires of the new employee: How can the team leader optimize the new member’s value to the team and also provide the new member with the motivation needed to give his or her best effort?

Applying this framework derived from the lectio divina can help a leader build a deeper, stronger, connection with new employees, helping build a spirit of commitment to the team’s and organization’s purpose and values.

The same framework could be used by a team leader to evaluate and solve a problem. Taking time to think the problem through, understand it better, and contemplate how to best solve it will lead to a better outcome than rushing to a suboptimal solution or procrastinating to avoid having to deal with the problem.

Look in the mirror. Could you benefit as a leader from connecting with others and employing a framework to more deliberately evaluate people and problems?

Please join me next time for more on Leading with Character.


If you enjoyed this post, please visit my website where you can sign up for my mailing list to get this blog in your inbox, and buy my book, Breaking Ice & Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters (proceeds from my book are donated to the US Coast Guard Academy to help develop the next generation of leaders of character): https://sandrastosz.com/book/breaking-ice-and-breaking-glass/

Sandra L. Stosz
Sandra L. Stosz
Vice Admiral Stosz, a Homeland Security Today editorial board member, started out in the U.S. Coast Guard as an ensign serving on polar icebreakers, conducting national security missions from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Her 40-year career is filled with leadership lessons gleaned while breaking ice and breaking glass as the first woman to command an icebreaker on the Great Lakes and to lead a U.S. armed forces service academy. She finished her career as the first woman assigned as Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, directing one of the Coast Guard’s largest enterprises. She has lectured widely on leadership, and has been featured on CSPAN and other media outlets. In 2012, Newsweek’s “The Daily Beast” named Vice Admiral Stosz to their list of 150 Women who Shake the World. Proceeds from “Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters” will be donated to the US Coast Guard Academy James M. Loy Institute for Leadership.

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