What did Charles Fillmore say about leadership and the requirements of a great leader? In a Sunday talk given by Fillmore on May 7, 1928, titled “True Ambition,” he said that true leadership comes from a deep Source within, beginning with self-awareness. Fillmore spoke about ambition, saying:
Ambition is one of the great efforts, really, of the man. We must be ambitious for the attainment of, first, our manhood, first that ideal man that is implanted within us, and when we carry out that ambition in the right way it is clarified; so we should not decry ambition nor belittle it in any way, but get it into action according to the divine law.
The “ideal man” or woman is the Christ within, the pure impulse of Spirit that has the capacity to lead with inspiration and wisdom. We must come to know ourselves more deeply in order to lead “according to the divine law.” Fillmore adds that personality is often a driving force in the ambitions of leaders. He warns that we need to become deeply aware of how our personality can lead us away from being centered in Spirit. If we seek achievement through personal influence or by providing favors for those who can advance our cause, we are not aligned with our inner Christ. He suggested, “You should measure yourself every time and see if you are living up to the divine standard or if you are allowing personal ambition to lead you astray.”
We must know something about ourselves; we must analyze the man and find out just what he is doing. There are factors working in our mind that we are not conscious of until we get to a rather close analysis of the man.—Charles Fillmore
In other words, we must bring aspects of our personality and behaviors embedded in our subconscious to the level of our conscious awareness. It is only then that we can evolve to become a wise and inspirational leader given the context of our ministry and community.
Ask Yourself: What Are My True Motivations in Becoming a Spiritual Leader?
Am I acting consistently with integrity and from my spiritual center as a leader? If not, am I aware of when I get off track, and do I take steps to get back to Spirit-centeredness as soon as possible? Do I include self-awareness practices in my regular personal work? Do I regularly reflect on my behaviors in my role as spiritual leader and take corrective actions when I notice a change is needed?
Jesus, the Original Servant Leader
Jesus told us to give up personal ambition and attend to the spiritual impulse within. When James and John requested to sit on either side of Jesus, Jesus said, “You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:35-38 NIV). The great teacher let his disciples know that it takes commitment and deep work to earn the right to leadership.
Furthermore, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:39-40 NIV). Long ago, Jesus taught us the concept of what we know of today as servant leadership.
Robert Greenleaf, considered to be the modern day “father” of servant leadership, prompts us to ask ourselves, “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” The servant leader focuses on the needs of people and organizations. The servant leader turns the traditional organization pyramid upside down. For a typical spiritual community, the spiritual servant leader is at the bottom of the pyramid, supporting and empowering the board of trustees, who support and empower the volunteers, who support and empower the community.
Flipping the pyramid doesn’t automatically imply that you become a “doormat” or people-pleaser. It’s important to develop and practice discernment in order to discover and respond to the needs of your spiritual community. According to Greenleaf, the 10 core competencies of a servant leader are: authentic listening, empathy, healing self and others, self-awareness, persuasion through group consensus, conceptualization of vision and multiple perspectives, foresight, stewardship, commitment to people’s growth, and building community.
These are your tools for discernment. Spend some time contemplating how well you have developed and used these competencies as a leader. Make a plan to develop and consciously use the competencies and then put the plan into action.
Fillmore stated: “The whole world is beginning to see … that service is the real thing; that as we serve, we become valuable to the community.… By learning the law of service; by becoming servants of other people, and through that righteous service there will come our appreciation and we shall be lifted to that place we have really earned.”
The ultimate servant is God, our Spiritual Substance. We do not need to feel the weight of the entire pyramid of our spiritual community upon our shoulders because God is the ultimate support of the entire system, and of course all of life! God serves through and as each of us—we can trust our Source to do the work of leadership through us!
Note: All Charles Fillmore quotes in this article originate from his Sunday talk on May 7, 1928, titled “True Ambition.”