Effortless Leadership

Of all the books written about leadership, are any of them about ‘effortless leadership’? Maybe it’s time for one.

Since I was a teen, I’ve been asked to plan, organize and lead groups. I had lots of enjoyment with organizing and leading when I was in high school and summer camp. I felt humbled being asked and trusted to lead groups, yet also found it stimulating and fun. I discovered an innate sense of organization and that people seemed to enjoy working with me on projects. I was off and running as a leader.

That part of my life took a nosedive when as a young married woman we were in a church that wouldn’t allow woman to speak and our homes were to be run by men. Ah well, you can imagine that those were challenging years for me! After I emerged, people once again began to ask me to step into leadership roles, but I continued to decline them. It took some time till I was ready to see myself in any leadership role again. Eventually I said yes to one small commitment and then later agreed to a much a larger one that would change my whole life. I was back in the saddle.

I loved the years leading a Bible study class. For the first time I was taught leadership skills and a style rooted in prayerful consensus and team consultation. We studied together, prayed through our decisions as a team and cared for one another. The class grew numerically but also spiritually. We flourished together. And it was a lot of work, equivalent each week to a part-time job while I was still at home with four children. Frequently when I began to make retreats, I would sleep for the first day. I was tired.

The years I spent as clergy were wonderful too — and a lot of work. I burnt out within a year of my first placement and on retreat sorted out what I needed to do to not get exhausted. I managed most of years to be okay, but I worked hard, in parish ministry and adding Contemplative Fire into the mix as well. My days were long often with evening work. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but when I retired, I could feel the mantle of responsibility and leadership lifted from my shoulders. I had definitely been carrying a weight.

This story brings me to the other night, sitting around a campfire talking about Contemplative Fire, groups and leadership with a new Companion on the Way. He sighs with a mixture of exhaustion and frustration, ‘Leadership is so much work.’ Without thinking I responded ‘I prefer effortless leadership. That’s what I’d like to see move Contemplative Fire here.’

I’d never used those words before, but I know what I mean by them. I want to lead like a wave in an ocean. I sat at the beach today and watched the ocean and the waves. I watched how the ocean releases the waves onto the land. Sometimes gentle little waves, but other times, wow, they can rise up and smack the shore! But each wave, whatever the size, is the ocean’s effort. I can feel the depth of the ocean and see its breath in each wave.

One of my teachers has written that in spiritual life God’s effort is 50%, Jesus is 25% and Anne is 25%. That means that I am to show up, but I don’t run the show. Jesus is my guide, he directs my actions, gives me my assignments and helps me. Through him I have access to the full power of God. Anne shows up, but 75% of the effort is by spiritual power. Now that to me is effortless leadership. Grounded in God’s power, directed by Divine Will and acted out by two very human hands.

Too often what happens is our ego chooses what we do, we muster our own energy to accomplish it, get tired out and wonder what happens. I want to live, knowing myself as a wave in God’s ocean, in and out, moving and resting, listening and responding, being sent as I’m needed. God’s breath in and out. God’s the ocean, I’m the wave. Effortless Leadership. Not no effort, but effort-less. Listening Leadership. Holy Listening Leadership.

How does this sound to you Gentle Reader?

Love and prayers


Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

Companion on The Rivendell Way

8 thoughts on “Effortless Leadership

  1. Anne, this is now the second time in the last month that I’ve heard the phrase that God is the Ocean and I am the wave. Perhaps I’m being taught something fresh by the Lord!!!

    I find it to be such a beautiful picture of letting go and floating in the Mystery of who God is. I can be more playful and relaxed and allow Him to carry me. Sometimes the waters can be turbulent but if I allow myself to swim down lower in the water, immerse myself in this mystery and not fight it, then I can cope better. This is not always easy of course, but it’s a journey of trust and surrender.


  2. I enjoyed your imagery. I too feel leadership as an extension of me. Although I give leadership a lot of effort and reflection I do agree that if you give yourself time to understand your team leadership can often be much easier. I suppose it depends on the scale of the leadership task.
    your thoughts helped me reflect tonight, thank you.


    • thank you for sharing that my reflections were helpful to you. hmmm – the scale of the task. i wonder if we’re each given the scale that we can manage ‘effortlessly’. some of us can manage a larger task than others. i don’t want to lose myself again in any task. been there. done that. no more please.


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