Grounded in Love: Creative Leadership for our Times

Article by Margaret Benefiel (May 2017 eNews)

Marches. Online petitions. Letters to the editor. “Am I doing any good?” I ask myself. “Am I making a difference? Is there another way?” In the face of injustice, wars, and humanity’s inhumanity to humanity, I long to be faithful to doing my part to heal the world.

As I prepare to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis next week, I am taken by his creativity in his leadership. He, like his role model Jesus, does the unexpected. He strips in the town square. He up and sails to Egypt to visit the Sultan in the middle of the Crusades. When rejected by the people, he preaches to the birds.

People are startled. They take notice. He gets his point across. People follow him.

How did Francis come up with those ideas? How did he have the courage to execute them?

I suspect that Francis’ creativity in his leadership had something to do with 1) his fearlessness, and 2) his endlessly rehearsing ideas in his own mind and with his brothers.  Francis’ fearlessness arose from his deep groundedness in God. Rooted in prayer, in love with God, Francis feared no one. Free of fear, Francis’ imagination soared. Furthermore, he lived in community with his brothers. He and his brothers exercised their imaginations about how to lead the people. I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried acting out their ideas, laughing at one another’s antics while experimenting with ways to awaken people to truth.

Francis’ deep love of God, together with his rootedness in community, liberated him to generate and execute creative ideas for leadership. His fearlessness, his willingness to do whatever he felt God called him to do, helped free his creativity. As Francis’ life demonstrates, generation of creative ideas is tied to willingness to execute them.

I wonder how I can follow in Francis’ footsteps, not only physically in Assisi next week, but also in creative leadership. To be sure, marches, online petitions, and letters to the editor all have their place. The climate marches last week, for example, with 200,000 participating in Washington, DC and many more around the world, spoke loudly and clearly. Many of us are called to continue to do this work, and to do it from a deeply grounded place.

At the same time, perhaps I am called to more. St. Francis’ namesake, Pope Francis, delivered a TED talk this week, calling the world to a revolution of tender love. He demonstrates the same kind of creative leadership in our time that St. Francis demonstrated in 13th-century Italy. Washing the feet of prisoners on Holy Thursday, building showers in St. Peter’s basilica for homeless people, visiting mentally disabled children when he traveled to Assisi: all speak to his capacity to imaginatively demonstrate his concerns and invite others to do the same.

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I pray that I may be more deeply grounded in God, so that I can fearlessly imagine with my community acts of creative leadership. May the leadership of St. Francis and Pope Francis inspire us all.

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7 years ago

Such a lovely and tender article. Makes me all the more eager to meet you in Assisi next week. Thank you for what you are doing for all of us.

Margaret Benefiel
Margaret Benefiel
7 years ago

Thank you so much, Anne Marie. I look forward to meeting you in Italy.

Elizabeth Adams-Eilers
Elizabeth Adams-Eilers
7 years ago

Dear Margaret,

Your writing inspires me to look for more! I wonder now what you also learned from physcially being in Assisi, from hearing the history, seeing the cave, imagining Br. Francis preaching to listeners, not only human creatures! His legacy to me and to us is his joy!

I have been a secular Franciscan since 1981. Francis founded our order in 1221 for those married and single who could not join the brotherhood of the Order of the Friars Minor (OFM) or enter into the convent with his co-conspirator, St. Clare.

You have the Franciscan spirit. Thanks be to God!


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