“Leadership is both active and reflective. One has to alternate between participating and observing…Although the principle may be easy to grasp, the practice is not. Rather than maintain perspective on the events that surround and involve us, we often get swept up into them. Consider the experience of dancing on a dance floor in contrast with standing on a balcony and watching other people dance. Engaged in the dance, it is nearly impossible to get a sense of the patterns made by everyone on the floor. Motion makes observation difficult.” (Ronald Heifetz, Leadership Without Easy Answers)
The amount of collective goodwill and concerted effort to make amends for the chaotic excess and frenetic pace of the Christmas holiday season is inescapable during the first several weeks of the new year. Perhaps it is the residual anxiety left over from the discarding of most forms of self-discipline in what we eat, drink, or consume, or the unnerving inward focus that grows when our societal pace slows down during the holidays. For several reasons, most of us welcome the annual fresh start that January brings once the tinsel and Christmas lights are stored away for another year. As this familiar rhythm descends upon us once again, may we offer an alternative way to proceed?
Instead of rushing headlong (with the best of intentions!) into all that 2024 will bring, start slowly. In fact, start so slowly that it appears that you haven’t started at all. Said another way, begin by reflectively listening – to the Spirit of God, to your neighbors in your community, and to what society as a whole is saying in this cultural moment. This sort of listening requires patience, a slower pace, and the resilience to move outside of the cultural systems of production and consumption that undergird so much of Western capitalism.
Ruth Haley Barton once remarked, “You’d be amazed at what your soul wants to say to God.” Creating quiet listening space to get on the balcony of our lives – and to truly see what God is unfolding in our midst – this is the invitation of a new year.
What if you began this year responsively, listening first to God and then stepping into all this year will hold?
Instead of rushing headlong into all that 2024 will bring, start slowly. Begin by reflectively listening – to the Spirit of God, to your neighbors in your community, and to what society is saying in this cultural moment. (1/2) Click To Tweet
Getting on the Balcony of Our Lives
“However important the balcony may be, it is not a place to retreat. Diagnosis is meant to enable action.” (Ronald Heifetz, Leadership Without Easy Answers)
In Ronald Heifetz’s masterwork Leadership Without Easy Answers, Heifetz asks a series of reflective questions in a simple four-step process that I have adapted into an examen for leaders. Here are the steps and questions that frame this reflective process. I pray that it is a helpful tool for you to contextualize in your own life as this new year unfolds:
- Identify an adaptive challenge in your life. What is causing you distress? Can you name the real problem and its underlying root issues?
- Regulate the distress present within your soul. How have you typically responded to disequilibrium and chaos? What actions could restore peace and wholeness in your life?
- Direct disciplined attention to the root issues at hand, as best as possible. What do my current avoidance patterns tell me about the nature of the current challenges at hand? Is there a root cause that is ripe and ready to be addressed in a more systematic, healthy manner in this season?
- Wherever possible, give work back to the people within your larger community itself. What core values, beliefs, and behaviors must shift if this adaptive challenge is to be met with courageous openness, not only by myself but by my wider community being empowered to help me change? What is the next right step forward? We are praying for you as you step into this new season with intentional purpose.
~ Chris Kamalski, Editorial Director
Chris Kamalski facilitates space for Missio’s Writing Collectives to thrive as Editorial Director, shaping both words and ideas to help our writers find and use their unique voice within the global Church. Born and raised in the Bay Area, Chris has lived in South Africa since 2009, happily married to Maxie, an Afrikaans South African. Together, they are committed to the restoration and development of all Africans in a just manner. Presently, they are rooting deeply in Jeffreys Bay with their two girls, Mia and Clara, and their Scottish terrier, Wally. Chris’s work and calling lies at the intersection of the holistic spiritual formation and leadership development of Christian leaders, particularly under-resourced leaders from the global south. As a Gallup certified strengths coach and long-time spiritual director, the ideation and creation of initiatives that mature a leader’s formation is a thrilling part of his work. Chris completed a Doctor of Ministry in Leadership & Spiritual Formation from Portland Seminary in 2023.
Ruth Haley Barton once remarked, 'You’d be amazed at what your soul wants to say to God.' What if you began this year responsively, listening first to God and then stepping into all this year will hold? Click To Tweet