By Jonathan Dunnemann

The subject of Authentic Leadership Development (ALD) is something that I am continuing to explore having begun work in this area nearly six years ago.  Being authentic requires that you know yourself. Michael Poutiatine, Ph.D., as my mentor at the time, helped me to see that, an authentic leader is someone who is self-aware, has a clear moral center, is open and transparent, and strives to be a fair and balanced decision-maker (George, 2003). 

Dr. Mike Poutiatine is a private Educational Consultant and faculty member for the On-line Organizational Leadership program at Gonzaga University.  In the past, I had the good fortune of being a student participant in one of his courses and subsequent to that, one of his mentees. While under his tutelage, I began studying the concept of transformational leadership.

Our mentee to mentor relationship began a few years later through an unplanned dialogue on a variety of educational, philosophical, and religious topics that took place through the random exchange of emails.  I would randomly put forth a question and Michael would very graciously provide a response.  At times, we would volley back and forth for a while and through this process expand on the fundamental topic that was under current examination.  On other occasions, several days, even weeks would go by before anything more or something altogether new emerged often setting us in a totally new direction for discussion.

Whenever I fired-off another email, I could trust that at a minimum Michael would kindly acknowledge what I chose to share.  He usually responded to my comments by openly expressing back to me the very thoughts that they elicited in him.  Michael always left me feeling appreciated in our developing relationship even on those occasions in which we held strong and differing views about the subject matter. He exemplified sensitivity and genuine respect throughout our dialogue.

Thanks to Michael’s geniality, I was able to learn more about my inner emotional reactions, thoughts, and plans and gain a more autobiographical self-understanding.  As a result, to this day I have a fondness for Michael that is usually reserved only for family and the closest of friends.  I know that years from now my admiration for him will remain as significant and appreciative as it is today.

At one point, I began including other individuals that I knew in some of our conversations. I was most curious to see whether they too would enjoy the chance to be heard, listen, learn and reflect just as much I did. In time, many of these other participants found the courage to begin expressing themselves.  I think that the experience enriched all of our lives and made us each feel far more interconnected.
One issue that I found myself grappling with at the time was my faith as a “Born Again Christian”.  I had persisted for what seemed like forever to erect a stiff religious back, for acceptance into the good graces of my local church flock, and to overcome past blunders in my interpersonal relationships, due to personal weakness and longheld feelings of inadequacy.  Although I did not realize it at the time, I was deeply fearful of becoming alienated, disobedient or irresolute in the view of my church brethren.  I fully expected that any doctrinal wavering on my part would as in the past inevitably lead to chastisement, disfavor, even suspicion.  Indeed, this did prove to be the case.

Initially, I thought that it would be easier for me to simply conform, be more obedient, and submit without question to church doctrine.  However, I repeatedly experienced an uneasiness accepting an exclusionary position regarding the beliefs of others, in remaining ignorant of the normative perspectives of others, and through exposure to the denouncing of others beliefs and a seemingly collective unwillingness on the part of a group of people to genuinely honor and respect the meaning and significance of the religious traditions, sacred rituals and beliefs of entire groups of other people.  In my mind, and equally so in my heart it seemed enormously unfair and uncommonly indecent. 

According to the renowned psychologist Albert Bandura, Ph.D., and the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University, as ‘ Agents ’“… [we] intentionally make things happen by our actions.  Agency embodies the endowments, belief systems, self-regulatory capabilities and distributed structures and functions through which personal influence is exercised ….”  “The core features of agency enable people to play a part in their self-development, adaptation, and self-renewal with changing times.” 1  Individuals can choose to behave accommodatively or, through the exercise of self-influence, to behave otherwise.  An intention is a representation of a future course of action to be performed.  It is not simply an expectation or prediction of future actions but a proactive commitment to bringing them about. 2

Looking back now, I realize that the decision to address my inner conflict represented a major turning point for me in my spiritual growth. Because it provided me with an opportunity to “go out into the desert” where I could begin to let go of my angst, “quiet the mind”, and in complete solitude just wait. Wait for what, you might ask? Wait for the world to change maybe?  No. The answer is, to wait patiently for a clearer, wider and healthier overall perspective to arrive on how to live at a deeper level of meaning.  It has been a long time in coming but I am beginning to see things more broadly just as they are. I don’t have to do anything or become something else for them to make sense to me. I can accept things as they are in their natural form and as their authors actually intended.

The Dark Nights

The spiritual journey is a process that parallels
the process of life.  If you have to let go of lower forms
or ideas of perceiving reality
that are proper to infants and children
in order to get to mature views of reality,
then why be surprised if you have to do the same
in the spiritual plane?
That’s really what the dark nights are about.
They’re a passive infusion of divine love
that assists us to do what we are too weak to do,
or haven’t got quite the guts to do under our own
human initiative, which is to face
the things in ourselves that are obstacles to growth
and to allow them to die by
letting go of them.

What was good is preserved or integrated into a higher view
of Christ, or of God. All that’s let go of is the childishness
or the undue identification with human props
that are no longer useful tools in the spiritual journey.
These served us at one level of our journey,
but now have to be laid aside.
We have to pick up a new set of tools proportionate
to the new wisdom or reality
that we’re dealing with.

You also have to deal with things that you’re going
to be embarrassed about
when you reach the fullness of light.
When your own interior light turns on,
you see as clearly as the hand in front of your eyes
everything you did that was against love,
or against love of neighbor, or God,
or that involved pride or putting oneself first.
So you’re inclined to get rid of these things now,
and that means you submit to the purification process
and to the treatments, one of which is called,
since John of the Cross’ time,
“the Night of Sense,”
and the other “the Night of Spirit,”
which is more profound.
Night is a translation of the Spanish word obscura noche,
which really means a fairly dark night,
that is to say, it’s obscure.
It’s dark, but it’s not total darkness.
So there are stars in this night.
It’s like a Spanish night full of stars.
It has its beauty, as well as its limitations.

And so, the dark night is an infusion,
according to John of the Cross,
of the pure love of God
that is confronting everything in us that is selfish,
self-centered, or unrealistic in that it puts other partial goods
ahead of the relationship that we have with God,
which could become more and more permanent.

The Night of Sense refers to your basic motivation.
The Night of Spirit goes to the root of the false self.
What characterizes the Night of Sense most
is not a rational conclusion,
but the intuition that nothing created can satisfy
us and that only God can satisfy
our virtually infinite longing for happiness.
This conviction then undermines the whole basis
of the false self.

Fr. Thomas Keating

1 Bandura, A., (2001). SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEORY: An Agentic Perspective. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 2001.52:1-26.
2 Ibid.