2015 Leadership Conference: Transformational Leadership and The Prophetic Witness (Keynote 1)
When Leading for Change Simply Isn’t Enough: Leadership as Prophetic Witness with Jay Marshall
Transformational leadership intends to unify and inspire a group towards a higher calling. This inevitably involves change and innovation. A group’s ability to develop and transform may be a key to success, but without careful thought, change can become mindless, as though it is the end goal rather than a means to fulfilling the mission. Prophets, too, intend to inspire change toward a higher calling. Often possessed by a defiant certitude, they insist that a group’s willingness to change is intimately connected with its chance for survival.
Prophets are customarily associated with religious movements and political commentary, but there may be room for the prophetic witness in transformational leadership as well! Can innovation be more than merely a good idea? Can working for change be more than an effort to remain fresh and attractive to our constituencies? Persons for whom faith and spirituality are important face the challenge of integrating those values and principles into their acts of leadership, even as they lead change and aim for success. With a bit of reflection and intention, these commitments utilize opportunities for transformational leadership to offer a prophetic witness that helps the organization model its work after and advocate for its perception of God’s higher calling.
Jay Marshall is Dean of Earlham School of Religion, having served in that capacity since 1998. Prior to that, he was a pastoral minister in North Carolina and Indiana Yearly Meetings. In addition to the usual responsibilities of a dean, Jay teaches and writes on the topic of leadership with a particular interest in how Quaker principles can contribute to the discussion. His most recent publication, “Quaker Contributions to an Integration of Spirituality and Leadership,” appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of Journal of Religious Leadership.