Weekly Thoughts

Annual break and Weekly Challenge – Leading out of COVID

Dear colleagues,

As Space for Grace takes its own annual break over the next couple of months, why not take some time to reflect on how God has spoken to you during this time of endemic? How did the pandemic affected your relationship with God?

Over the coming months we wanted to showcase your own thoughts and experiences to the topic ‘Leading out of COVID’. Please do send your own responses to that question (however you interpret it). We’ll help you turn them into Weekly Thoughts that can be shared with this wider community…

Do send your responses to: Elaine Vitikainen elaine@ev-visuals.com

As ways to provoke your thinking you might consider questions like:

  • What have I learned about my leadership through this pandemic?
  • What do I hope to take with me and hold onto from this experience?
  • What does my leadership need to be like ‘post’-pandemic?
  • How would I reimagine my organisation to become fit for purpose in our radically changing world?

These are only questions to stimulate your thoughts, so don’t use them too prescriptively. They are not ones to structure your response around, unless you find that particularly helpful.

The next Weekly Thought will be posted on the 11th of September.


Rick and Elaine

Leading by letting go

By Stanley Arumugam

Leadership is about both taking on and about letting go. But letting go is hard. We’re wired to take on more, give more, do more. Strategic plans bulge at the seams with new ambitions, new initiatives, new markets, new ways of working.

But letting go is also essential for leading well. It’s discerning when to stay, when to leave; it’s about knowing what works and be bold enough to recognise what doesn’t. When less becomes more. When the important matters more than urgent. When people come before tasks.

Letting go requires courage. It’s not giving up, acquiescing, compromising. It’s not a state of failure but one of intentionality. Letting go of the things that get in our way from being our best as individuals, teams and organisations.

Letting go of our ego is the biggest task of leaders. Our ego often gets in the way, creating blind spots and leaving us insecure and search of the approval of others.

This week, think about what you need to let go of, in your life and your organisation?

A language of hope

By John Evans

Many of us feel surrounded by crises at the moment. So much is out of our control. This can very easily breed despair and despondency. When people get discouraged and give up, crises can be destructive. But they do not have to be. Crises are never passive places. They are always a turning point, for worse or for good.

Our language plays a crucial role which way people turn. Leaders in times of crisis need to choose words carefully. People need to be encouraged in a crisis. So leaders need to impart hope. But a hope that is so much more than superficial wishful thinking. We can pray for language that is ‘pure, full of grace and seasoned with salt’ (Zephaniah 3).

Genuine hope does not flinch from fear and the pain in the storms and harsh realities around us, but refocuses our eyes on the living God. After all, it is God who makes ‘the Valley of Trouble into a door of hope’ (Hosea 2:15). So the Psalmist says “As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more” (Psalm 71:14 ). And today we are still called to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).
This week, what does it mean to you to rejoice in hope?
How can you communicate to others with words of hope?

Caring for Creation in Spirit and in Practice

By Charles Câmara

The spiritual reflections for practical actions offered by Pope Francis in his encyclical letter “Laudato Si, mi Signore” (Praise be to you, my Lord) published seven years ago in May 2015, outlines a Christian view on the environment, about the humans’ place on earth and our relation with and responsibility towards all beings. The Pope, along with many other religious leaders, exhorts us as individuals, groups and institutions, including the faith-based organisations, to praise the Creator of heaven and earth, and love His creation by caring for all beings on earth. Such reminder is urgently needed, as the world continues to experience increased global warming, climate-related disasters and biodiversity loss. There is still a long way to go before the objectives of the Paris Agreement are attained. While we are involved in humanitarian actions and with influencing the national and global political and economic power-holders to act in ways that benefit all beings, especially the world’s most vulnerable members, we may ask ourselves:

  • To what extent have we imbibed Christian spiritual views and values pertaining to creation in the work we are involved in, thereby letting God’s spirit permeate everything we do to become faithful stewards and animators involved in transforming the world?
  • Through renewed discernment, could we reconsider some of our strategies and actions, so that more of our work will address the structural root causes of human-induced global warming at the local, national and international levels?
  • Isn’t it time for us as people of faith to leave our dogmatic differences aside and instead focus upon that which unites us in our profound desire to combat material poverty, inequalities of various kind, and global warming?

Kindness at work

By Stanley Arumugam

A little kindness goes a long way. I remember my first job as an intern psychologist at Spoornet, a very Afrikaans organisation at that time. I was anxious, being in a new space in so many ways. My colleagues mostly White Afrikaans, at all levels were kind in welcoming me, helping me to be successful at my job and we continue to be friends over the years.

Some organisations are not wired in that way. They believe that ‘tough is best’; the workplace is harsh and survival of the fittest is better in the long term. Yet we know too well how the resulting ‘macho’, patriarchal leadership style (in both men and women)causes comes at a high cost of toxic organisations.

We don’t need fancy engagement strategies. Start with the basics of ubuntu, of common humanity. Be kind to one another. Kindness is expressed in respect and honouring the dignity of another. The rest will follow. St Paul in the Bible reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that Love is kind. William James put it clearly, “Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

This week, where might you find opportunities to be kind?

Taking responsiblity to change

By Rick James

Change only occurs when someone, somewhere takes responsibility for a situation. Kurt Lewin, the father of organisational change theories, pointed out more than fifty years ago that the first stage in change involved ‘induced anxiety or guilt – a realisation that I am in some way responsible’. Instead of externalising blame onto other people, they realise that they are in some way responsible and that they can do something about it. Perhaps then I should not be so surprised that the OD exercise that has had the biggest impact on the organisations I work with is simply when I stop and ask people to answer:

  • How have I contributed to this situation which I complain about?

I tend to send people away on their own to prayerfully listen to God about how they have contributed to a situation. In dealing with hurt and frustrations it is important to get people out of a ‘blamestorming’ attitude. It allows God to bring conviction, not people to condemn each other. I have often found that changing people’s physical environment helps in this, suggesting they listen to God while going for a walk or sitting outside. The key is to create a safe space to consider the question in a meaningful way.

This week:

  • If we look at our own lives, where are we blaming others for a situation?
  • Let’s stop and ask ourselves: ‘How have I contributed to this?’

Leading with love

By Stanley Arumugam

Good leaders love their teams. It feels almost sacrilegious to connect work, leadership and love. Somehow we have been socialised to believe love stays outside the workplace. The Sufi poet, Kahlil Gibran, teaches us that ‘work is love made visible’. 

To some extent, the industrial revolution commoditised people and sanitised any emotion in the workplace. They become an object in a big machine. We talk about system, process and results and lose the people. Yet we know that every person coming to work is looking for an expression of love and a sense of belonging, which is our primary need. In the absence of loving workplaces, we have corporate toxicity, abuse and burnout. We can show workplace love in some practical ways: daily/weekly check-in with staff; paying full attention when speaking to staff, especially with distracting technology; giving open, honest feedback in a kind and constructive manner and being open to receiving feedback as leaders. All of our corporate wellness, diversity, inclusion and development programmes can be leveraged for good when intentionally grounded in love. 

The Forbes article, Leading With Love: An Unconventional Approach To Leadership, seeks to balance professionalism and caring. “With the right boundaries intact, showing genuine concern or compassion for the people you lead will not diminish your respectability or reputation as a strong leader, but it will instead bring out the best in them while fostering an environment that is conducive to thriving…Showing love is not a license for your team to be incompetent. Instead, it conveys that their job performance is not the only thing that matters to you as a leader. They matter too.”

This week, how practically might I lead with love?