Picking Fights with Chaps: Leadersmithing, Virtue and Spiritual Disciplines

I was also honored to present with Eve Poole at HOST during a lunch gathering of the Jersey business community. Eve and I talked about spiritual formation in the corporate workplace.

Eve presented material from her new book Leadersmithing: Revealing the Trade Secrets of Leadership. You can also check out Eve’s TEDx talk on leadersmithing.

For those familiar with the work of James Smith (Desiring the Kingdom and You Are What You Love), you’ll note similarities with Eve’s concept of leadersmithing. Specifically, Eve argues that forming leaders must focus upon up our emotions—especially during times of stress—through intentional virtue-forming practices.

The example Eve used, and it’s also the example in her TEDx talk, was how she overcame her fear response when faced with aggressive, belligerent males in business settings. To confront, habituate, and acquire calmness in the face of male hostility Eve began to adopt a practice she called “picking fights with chaps,” intentionally disagreeing with and arguing with males in the workplace. Not in any hostile and mean way, but simply as a practice that allowed her to habituate to conflict and disagreement. Eve practiced her way into a different set of emotional responses in the face of severe disagreement and personal attack, and this formed her into being a better leader.

I followed up by connecting Eve’s work to spiritual formation and the acquisition of Christian virtue, the Fruit of the Spirit in particular.

Forming a Christ-like character (virtues), like forming a good leader, comes down to intentionality and practice aimed primarily at our rapid, often unconscious, emotional reactions to situations.

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