« Back To All News

Leading from the Spirit

by Martha E. Stortz

I grew up on Stanmore Court, a ring of red-brick row-houses in Baltimore, Md. Twenty-one houses huddled in a circle, each one teeming with kids. We played kickball in the back alley; we staged adventures along a deserted railroad track; we waged watermelon-seed-spit parties on “The Hill.”

Every  Fourth of July we put on a parade, dressing in costume and decorating our bikes. The parade took weeks of planning, and the hardest part was figuring out where to lead from. Every kid wanted to lead the parade from her house, and we fought for the honor. After a few years and a lot of bloody noses, we stumbled onto a solution: gather on The Hill and then enter from the alley. We found a place to lead from.

Where do we lead from now? Whether the setting is a congregation or a corporation, a classroom or a parade, leaders typically lead from three different places:

  • from  above,  exercising hierarchical power over others;
  • from within, radiating  a personal power that draws people to them; or
  • with, demonstrating the power of solidarity to step out of a group of peers and up to lead.

Leadership from each of these places has its appropriate use—and abuse. Let’s look more closely.

Martha E. Stortz is the Bernhard M. Christensen Professor of Religion and Vocation at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minn.

To read the full article, subscribe now.  As a subscriber, you can also view Gather online, as an app on your iPad, on your Android device and on your Kindle Fire. To request a free copy of the magazine, contact us.