Drawing upon his own experience living as both a leader and a humble servant, Friendship Village chaplain Shawn Kafader was a featured speaker at a national conference earlier this month.
His presentation entitled "The Paradox of Humility" was delivered to individuals attending the Deepening the Contemplative Dimension of Servant Leadership Conference in St. Louis. The conference primarily drew individuals who are volunteers in leadership roles for nonprofit organizations. Their objective in attending was to grow as leaders.
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The paradox of humility, Chaplain Shawn said, focused on how one can be a leader while remaining humble. "It's a paradox finding a way to keep your leading edge and be a strong leader, while keeping a humble attitude of self. A theme of the conference was how to lead without leading," he said.
Chaplain Shawn based his presentation on the 1,500-year-old monastic Rule of St. Benedict's Ladder of Humility. "It's pretty much a guideline for living in monastic communities or living out a spiritual life. It's largely about living in humility," he said, marveling at the fact that the Rule "has endured all of this time."
Chaplain Shawn said that he tries to live all aspects of his life by the Rule of St. Benedict. "I try to model it for our staff and when I'm interacting with our residents. I try to be a leader but yet a humble servant. To do whatever our residents need done. That takes on many facets," he said, including helping them get to or from the dining room, accompanying them to an activity and more. "My demeanor visiting residents is to take a deep listening attitude, a personal concern in their stories. I help however I can day-by-day, and yet remain a leader in the organization."
Chaplain Shawn said that being able to balance being an effective leader with humility is something that he's grown into through his work. "Part of the idea is that humility can't be taught. It can't be read in a book. It has to be caught through the experience of life. My time here at Friendship Village has helped me to live into the paradox in a fuller way. And it's transferred into my family life and my relationships with friends and neighbors," he said.
Chaplain Shawn said that because residents see him as both a leader as well as one who wants to serve, the door has opened for him to have conversations and experiences that otherwise might not occur. "There are things we've shared that wouldn't be there if I saw myself as being above the residents in some way."
Chaplain Shawn said that he developed a litany list that he sent home with attendees to his conference session. "It includes positive statements that they can use in their own lives as they think of themselves as servant leaders," he said.