Who are our leaders?
Chris Lowney, February 16, 2005
I would like you to join me in considering this question by participating in a little thought experiment. Please take a moment to think of the names of two or three living leaders... I suspect that if I polled the audience, I might hear a few George Bushes, a diehard John Kerry or two, I hope a Pope John Paul or two. But I wonder how many of you thought of your own name. I suspect virtually no one. Why not? The answer might have something to do with modesty, a laudable virtue: it might strike you as unseemly braggadocio to proclaim yourself a leader. Well, I'm here to suggest, based on my reading of early Jesuit history, that the very first persons we each should consider leaders are ourselves. We live within a popular culture, transmitted through the mass media, that force feeds us a demoralizing, disempowering notion that leaders are those who are in charge-presidents, generals, bishops, CEOs and the like-leadership in this stereotypical notion is equated with having subordinates, being on television, having money, or having power and exerting it. That notion of leadership is not the solution, it's the problem.
And what do effective leaders do to motivate those around them?
Let's make this phase two of the thought experiment, and think informally of qualities, behaviors, or attitudes you would expect to find in an effective leader... .Again, if we polled the room I know we would assemble a rich list of qualities, and I have no doubt that anyone who embodied the traits captured in the collective wisdom of this room would lead well. Your lists probably include words like decisiveness, courage, bold decisions, sweeping change, vision, honor, and so on. But I wonder how many enunciated anything like this idea ventured by a man who himself compiled unimpeachable credentials as a leader. His simple, succinct vision: "You must love those you lead before you can be an effective leader."
The leader I just quoted was General Eric K. Shinseki, retired U.S. Army Chief of Staff, who was twice wounded in Vietnam, awarded a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and a host of other commendations. When America's commanding warrior retired in mid-2003, his retirement speech included that simple statement I quoted, "You must love those you lead before you can be an effective leader."
Sentiment like that may seem a bit remarkable and even out of place among the macho, towel-snapping military class. Or is it? I suspect that a general makes wiser choices when he loves those he must place in harm's way, and I suspect that soldiers perform more effectively when confident that they are loved and valued by those tasked with the awful burden of sending them to face possible death. It's quite clear that the armed services understand this reality very well. Indeed, the rituals of military life brim with opportunities for commanders to demonstrate concern for subordinates' welfare. No Marine officer, for example, would dare touch his or her food before subordinates begin eating, a richly symbolic gesture in an era when chief executives have gorged themselves at the corporate compensation trough, wrecked company balance sheets, and then staggered away leaving shareholders and employees stuck with the tab.
Indeed, to carry the image a bit further, surely no corporate leader who loved employees would recklessly gamble their pensions and livelihoods to prop up his or her stock option value, or treat as a personal piggy bank the profits generated by dedicated employees, or blithely wear the "chief executive" mantle while claiming complete ignorance of massive frauds engineered by key lieutenants.
So, who is a leader... and how are leaders leading? We're all leading, well or poorly, all the time, by virtue of the values that we're role modeling. And our way of leading-our claim to leadership-is not our status or hierarchical position on an organization chart, but who we are and those values we choose to role model-like love in the case of General Shinseki and Ignatius of Loyola.
This definition of leadership certainly may run counter to our culture stereotypes-witness the thought experiment we all participated in earlier-but such a definition is neither gimmickry, a fad, nor something I've made up. Consider one informal definition of being a leader that has some currency among academics working in the business arena-the Harvard Business School professor John Kotter, defines a leader as one who 1) sets out a vision of the future, 2)aligns others around that vision, and 3) helps them past the inevitable obstacles that stand in the way of attaining it. One of the dictionary definitions of leadership is quite similar, the act of pointing out a way, direction, or goal and influencing others toward it.
Everyone in this room is doing that all the time. You are pointing out a way or a direction for your friends and neighbors by how you treat those you work with or for, those you meet, how you prioritize your time, and so on-in other words, you are leading. Many of you are parents: can there be any more obvious act of pointing out a way and influencing others than the leadership that you are showing with your children every day?
Though all of us are leading, many of us are doing so only 'subconsciously.' Many of you in your families and workplaces are role-modeling exactly the kind of love that General Shinseki spoke about. But you may not have called the habitual way in which you treat others 'love,' and you may not have explicitly considered this virtue part of an overall leadership project that is your life. To realize our full leadership potential, we need to get more explicit-more conscious, more purposeful-about ourselves as leaders, what kind of leaders we want to be, and how we will project that in our families, workplaces, and the other arenas in which we interact. Everything we know about researching corporate America is that one of the factors that best predicts how well people will do is simply that they know what they want to achieve-you make the strongest leadership impact when you know what impact you want to make.
Let me start to unpack this vision of leadership I've introduced by describing what at first glance may seem a rather unlikely company around which to build a case study.
Imagine ten smart but unfocused men who want to start a company, but seem to go about it in the very worst possible way. They are ricocheting around every kind of work from retail street preaching to hospital orderly work to university-level lectures. They had no corporate name; no business plan; no capital. The one who was supposedly in charge of this start up was not only past normal retirement age, but had already outlived the average lifespan of a sixteenth-century European; he had no management experience and virtually nothing else on his resume but a good academic degree, a multiple arrest record, and a couple of jail terms.
Well, what odds would you give them of surviving?
Yet the company I just described not only survived but thrived. For I just described the Jesuits in the 1530s, as they were getting their company ready for launch. Today there are roughly 20,000 Jesuits working in over 100 countries. My book calls them the company that changed the world, and that is a very easy claim to back up: you may have put the date for this event on a calendar, and the calendar you used was implemented according to the recommendation of a Jesuit. While I'm talking, children in Vietnam are in school learning to write in an alphabet that was developed by a Jesuit, and further north in Asia soldiers are patrolling a Russian-Chinese border negotiated in part by, Jesuits. On the other hand, these Jesuits also boast the unique distinction of getting themselves completely disbanded by the pope, yet somehow resurrecting themselves 40 years later.
How did they succeed so spectacularly, and what can we learn from them? These are the kinds of questions I wanted to explore in my book, looking at the Jesuits more from what might be called a corporate perspective than from my own experience as a Jesuit.
As you've heard, I was fortunate enough to work in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. for JP Morgan & Co. for some seventeen years. Before that I was a Jesuit seminarian for seven years. As you well know, Jesuits like all members of Catholic religious orders, take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and you can guess which of those three proved daunting enough to prompt my departure. I could put it this way: I struggled successfully to live as a celibate for seven years; since then, I've been struggling not to be a celibate. You may conclude from this that I wrote the book as a cheaper way to figure out my life than going into therapy. But in fact, what most intrigued me was not the very obvious differences in mission between the Jesuit order and an investment bank, but the underlying similarities: all human organizations, and all individuals in organizations, have to do the same things: motivate self and others, establish goals, sell ideas convincingly to others. And it struck me that these sixteenth and seventeenth century priests did these things in ways that were frequently a lot more effective than the ways we do those things today.
My punch line: that vastly more important to personal and corporate happiness and success than the plan or capital the early Jesuits so obviously lacked was what they did possess-a unique approach to life and work that looks like what we in the modern era call personal leadership.
The leadership virtues these early Jesuits role modeled emerge most clearly by considering the extraordinary external environment in which the Jesuit company was founded, an environment more analogous to our own than it might at first seem. Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491 in the Basque region of Spain. He and his colleagues matured in a world that had changed as much in two generations as during the previous thousand years. Columbus and others had discovered lands previously unknown to Europeans, basically tripling the size of their world: is there any analogous 'market expansion' we could point to in our own lifetimes? Of course not, perhaps only if that little NASA go-kart rolling around Mars started beaming back pictures of Martians telling us they wanted to start buying toothpaste and deodorant. Consider another series of dramatic changes in the Jesuits' sixteenth century: Martin Luther had launched what turned out to be the first widespread competition to the Catholic church-of course, that was a less ecumenical age than our own, and these new articulations of Christian faith and worship were not exactly welcomed by the church hierarchy. Many scholars believe, it was thanks to Luther and his reformer colleagues that a relatively new media technology the printing press, came into its own, fueling the first real mass media revolution, one that was-I know this will be hard to believe-even more dramatic in its impact than the invention of cell phones and TIVO.
The standard 'business model' of religious orders was not particularly well-suited to this world undergoing immense change. You are familiar with names like Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, religious orders that pre-dated the Jesuits in some cases by many hundreds of years. At first glance, many of these orders seemed quite different. They distinguished themselves by particular outfits: next time you're enjoying a cappuccino, please spare a thought for the Capuchin friars with their brown robe and their creamy white cowl-and any attorneys in the audience might consider helping the Capuchin friars to extract some royalties from Starbucks. But these various orders were alike in at least two important respects. First, they all tended to specialize in only one field of endeavor: the Order or Merced, for example, exotically known as the Brothers of Ransom, lived at the frontier between Muslim and Christian Spain-the fault line of medieval civilization-and they were founded to ransom Christians taken captive by Muslim raiders, taking a special vow to exchange themselves to ransom captives if necessary-how's that for a specific market niche? Another critical similarity-I'm oversimplifying but only a bit- was that most were what we would call monastic in character: all their members prayed in common multiple times each day, and frequently they lived in self-sustaining monastic communities separated from the world. Each monastic enclosure was often semi-autonomous: electing its own bosses and serving its locality without much of a centralized, much less global outlook.
Amidst this context of a changing world for which existing religious orders were not very well prepared, the Jesuit founders nonetheless advanced a rather radical organizational vision of corporate religious life. While many religious orders like the Brothers of Ransom had specified one work, the Jesuits conceived a completely flexible mission statement, proposing to do anything that would 'help souls.' And so we soon had Jesuit missionaries, high school and college teachers, parish priests, astronomers, linguists, and so on and on. Instead of interrupting their work to scurry back to chapel and pray in common each day, they proposed to plunge into the world, praying individually as their schedules permitted. They coined the phrase that they would be simul in actione contemplativus-contemplatives even in action, and Ignatius told them they should live with one foot raised. And they had to keep one foot raised, for while many religious orders were localized and decentralized, these Jesuits had the distinctly modern idea of vesting enormous power in their CEO, so that they could quickly jump on opportunities by drawing resources from the whole Jesuit world: their first school in Sicily for example, was opened by Jesuits who jetted in (well OK, they walked and came by donkey) from half a dozen countries.
We today would look at that case study of 'how they did it' and admire all the behavioral traits that we prize in our own efforts to thrive in our own modern world characterized by constant change: speed, flexibility, creativity, ability to work in teams, to change aggressively. I talk about Jesuit rapid response to emerging opportunities, and you could easily point to a handful of similarly bold and nimble initiatives in the recent history of any of the excellent organizations represented on this panel. I point to Jesuit flexibility of mission; you today might think of a great Cincinnati company that, if I recall correctly, started solely in the business of manufacturing candles. Fortunately for its workers and shareholders, P & Gamble had the flexibility to transition into businesses with greater long term growth potential.
But the real issue, then as now, is not so much knowing what behaviors are needed, but understanding how to get individuals and teams to embrace those behaviors. Many of you, like myself, have been working in large, sophisticated organizations where we've been droning on about better teamwork and being change adaptive for about two decades: the point is not knowing it, it's living it, and it was clear to me that Jesuits instilled such capabilities through a four-pillared vision that governed their way of working as individuals and in teams:
Self-awareness_understand one's strengths, weaknesses, values and update oneself on those daily.
Ingenuity: the ability to confidently adapt to an ever-changing world
Heroism: to remain energized by great ambitions and a passion to excel, and
Love: Engage others with a positive attitude that recognizes their dignity and potential and seeks to develop that potential.
In the time I have today I am going to talk mostly about heroism, self-awareness and love. I'm largely going to skip ingenuity, because it's often intuitively clear how that virtue could help in the workplace.
Let me now start with heroism, and let me use an anecdote to help you conceive how early-Jesuit style heroism might differ from our stereotypical understanding of what heroic means: as many of you know, the Jesuits operate today what is the world's largest higher education network. There are some 70 Jesuit high schools and colleges in the US alone; Cincinnati Jesuit institutions co-sponsoring this event occupy the foremost tier of that extraordinary network, right behind Fordham, where I graduated. But that Jesuit school system was not always the world's largest, of course, and while it was in its relative sputtering infancy in the late 1500s, one Jesuit named Pedro Ribadeneira had the temerity to write the King of Spain and call the fledgling operation something so important that, "the well being of the whole world and all Christendom" depended on it. That's a heroic vision if ever there was one! -Yet, grounded in reality. Ribadaneira knew what it was like to teach in a school, because listen to what he said in a different context: "It is a repulsive, annoying and burdensome thing to guide and teach and try to control a crowd of young people, who are naturally so frivolous, so restless, so talkative and so unwilling to work, that even their parents cannot keep them at home." 209
This Jesuit Ribadeneira, in fact, may have articulated a wonderful model of heroism relevant not only to the teaching profession but in many of our work environments: this idea of immersing oneself squarely in the mucky reality you face each day, yet not losing sight of your guiding vision and fondest hopes. We've grown accustomed to associating heroism with extraordinary acts like saving persons trapped in burning buildings or saving comrades in battle. This Jesuit vision is instead proposing that heroism is less about the opportunity at hand-because most of us can't control the opportunities that life will present us: we may never have the chance to save someone in distress-than it is about the response to the opportunity at hand, which we can always control. The teacher has no guarantee that he or she will make a profound, life-altering impact in a child's life: his or her heroism is manifest in the commitment to live and work as if he or she might make such a difference, never losing sight of the fullest vision of what teaching can accomplish. I'm reminded in this regard of an anecdote, I hope not apocryphal, that President Kennedy visited NASA in the mid-60s, met a gentleman sweeping the floors and to be polite asked him what his job was. He supposedly replied, 'sir, I'm putting a man on the moon.' We New Yorkers tend to cringe at such gee whiz statements, but let's be honest: every one of us knows that the teams that perform best are those where individuals see themselves not just as 'doing a job' or task but participating in some purpose or project that's larger than themselves.
There's another important lesson learned for us in this whole example, which gets to another challenge the early Jesuits are offering us. Some of us may from time to time consider teachers heroic, but most of us don't consider such individuals leaders. This Jesuit model-cultivating these four virtues of self-awareness, ingenuity, heroism, and love, runs counter to a lot of our cultural stereotypes about what leadership is and who leads. I asked at the outset who we considered leaders-how many of you thought of your own name... Popular culture tells us that only those in charge are leaders-CEOs, generals, politicians; this early Jesuit vision is instead equipped everyone to lead in his or her own way, because anyone can find a way to apply these virtues, whether he or she is running a company, an individual contributor, a student, teaching, or raising children at home.
I find this idea particularly refreshing and striking, and an important, much-needed mindset today across corporate America. We've experienced in the past two decades almost continuous rounds of de-layering as middle managerial rungs have been eliminated. Spans of control for the remaining managerial levels have often broadened dramatically, even as the business environment has been becoming more complex. It has become impossible for many managers to even know what all their subordinates are doing most of the time, much less to provide close supervision, direction, and advice. We've built companies that by definition require a great deal of delegation and self-leadership, yet individuals' self-leadership skills have frequently lagged: we managers have often found ourselves herding one of two extremes: loose cannons who can't wait to take initiative but terrify us by their lack of judgment, or, on the other hand, the terminally timid who can't make a decision unless we hold their hand through it. We've built leaner, potentially more nimble corporate structures, but today, at least two decades into this evolution, we still haven't built-let's say developed-the human players capable of functioning effectively within such corporate structures. From their 16th century perch, the Jesuits would tell us that one of the missing ingredients, both among the loose canons and terminally timid, is greater self awareness, and let me know talk about extremely useful self-awareness tools the Jesuits use, one of which any of us could begin using tomorrow.
Every Jesuit in history, from the founders to Fr. Graham to the current Jesuits being formed in more than one hundred countries, with no exception in history that I'm aware of, has participated during training in a month-long intense period of personal reflection called the spiritual exercises, during which he is removed completely from the workplace, from reading papers, watching television, talking with friends, or anything that could deter from the intense introspection that becomes their only 'job responsibility' for thirty days. These guided meditations, which probably remain the most powerful retreat tool in the Christian world today, were St. Ignatius Loyola's very practical attempt to translate into a systematic approach the fruits of his own journey to religious understanding. As far as Jesuits are concerned, this is a spiritual and religious experience, but the self-assessment that is taking place makes these exercises a superb leadership bootcamp. For each Jesuit is making a considerable investment in pondering his strengths and weaknesses, his personal values, his outlook on the world.
Jesuits also learn during this period a wonderfully modern and easy to adopt tool for daily updating: for the rest of his life after this month-long upfront investment, each Jesuit follows a daily regimen of three mental pitstops that in aggregate absorb as little as twenty minutes a day. First, 'upon waking up' remind yourself of what you have to be grateful for, and remind yourself of your goals-which might be a weakness you want to work on or an objective to achieve. Then, once in the middle of the work day and once at the end of the day, take a few minutes, remind yourself of your blessings, remind yourself of your goals, and mentally scroll through the last few hours to extract lessons learned from your performance.
Remember I mentioned that the Jesuits broke radically by abandoning the monastic practice of gathering together in chapel multiple times daily in order instead to pursue a much more activist lifestyle. Yet, Ignatius had the incredibly modern insight that we in the 21st century typically overlook: if you and I don't have the luxury of retreating to chapel multiple times daily like monks, we need to find some other way of keeping ourselves focused and recollected as we bob along each day on a tide of e-mails, phone calls, and meetings without ever pulling back to take stock. I'm sure you've seen the fallout from this chaotic lifestyle as I have: the person who gets to the end of the day without ever getting to his or her # 1 priority, or the person who has a meeting go badly at 8:30 and remains distracted about it all day, draining productivity. These are self-awareness problems... .
The Harvard emeritus Abraham Zaleznik once observed that many leaders seem to be individuals who were 'twice born,' where some personal crisis like injury, alcoholism, or bankruptcy forced them to come to grips as adults with who they were and what they valued and wanted: the early Jesuits are telling us that if a crisis doesn't thrust this moment of self-scrutiny upon us, we need to manufacture the process for ourselves... ..
We've spoken now about heroism and self-awareness at some length, and so I would like to move on to the value about which anyone from a corporate background would surely be more skeptical: what place could love possibly have in a large company. First of all, let me assure you that I didn't patrol the hallways of JP Morgan telling my colleagues I loved them, nor am I recommending you do that in your respective workplaces. Anyway, Ignatius told his colleagues that 'love ought to manifest itself in deeds, not words.' So let me elaborate on what deeds might show the impact of love in a work, team, or other setting.
Everyone knows that children learn and perform more productively when they are raised, taught, and mentored by families and teachers and coaches who value them as important and dignified, who set high standards, who create environments of love rather than fear. Why have we somehow convinced ourselves that our adult needs are so different? The best teams I've been on have thrived precisely because there was trust, mutual support, real respect for each other's talents, real interest in helping others succeed, and a willingness to hold each other accountable to high standards so that each of us might realize our fullest personal and team potential. Ignatius of Loyola was unafraid to call this bundle of behaviors love, which is precisely what it is when these behaviors are supercharged by a self-aware vision that those I work and play with are not merely 'resources' for me to use but individuals as worthy of respect and support as I am. Accordingly, he told Jesuit bosses to manage with "all the love and modesty and charity possible" so that teams could thrive in environments filled with "greater love than fear."
I would note that the formal name the Jesuit founders chose for their company was, in their native Spanish, Compania de Jesus, company of Jesus. The word Jesuit was coined later as a kind of nickname. And the way they understood 'company' is not what we would typically understand today. Although nowadays the meaning of the word company has been almost completely hijacked by commercial enterprise, recall that the Latin roots of the word are cum panis, 'together' and 'bread', in other words, a company was the group of people with whom you might 'break bread'... in the 16th century a 'company' would more often refer to a religious group, a military troop, or even a group of friends. These early Jesuits clearly saw themselves as companions of each other, and that this companionship would energize their efforts. The Jesuit compania is offering us the challenge of getting our own companias back to this root concept: groups characterized by mutual support that energizes team members... that might even be fun.
I would like to put these ideas in a broader context before I sum up. I'm a proud, card-carrying free market capitalist, but I and most every colleague I've worked with agrees that despite its incredible successes and productivity our business culture at the beginning of the 21st century is in some ways wounded. The way we treat each other is increasingly Darwinian, fearful, and suspicious. Our sense of ethical values has drifted to a low ebb; we've 'dumbed deviancy down' to the point, where, for many, what's ethical means nothing more than what's not against the law.
Not since the 1920s, it would seem to me, has there been a time when our business society was so sorely in need of people willing to role model effective yet principled ways of doing business. And never, it seems to me, have the unique strengths in what we might call the Jesuit brand of being a human person fit in so well with crises facing American society in the 21st century. The great beauty of this four-pillared formula I've spoken about is that not only did it make Jesuits more daring, adaptive, bolder, creative corporate warriors of the ilk we so prize, it also made them more principled. Every pundit that I know of, whether speaking of business, the church, political or civic life, talks about the need for greater leadership. But though we all agree on the need, we can't articulate adequate solutions, in part because we're stuck with this broken idea of leadership that has only to do with status, position in a hierarchical chart, money, or power. Well, those embracing this Jesuit tradition can teach co-workers, students and society a unique and workable model of leadership for the 21st century, based on the notion that everyone leads when role modeling values like those that I've outlined. Our social fabric is fraying as the gap between rich and poor widens, and Jesuit ideals stress formation of men and women for others, or love, as I put it. We live in an increasingly globalized world, and the Jesuit network spans more than 100 countries.
If this is a unique moment of opportunity, that moment will only be realized if various constituencies in this room grasp that opportunity heroically, as I would say, or in a spirit of magis, as the Jesuits themselves would say. First, a challenge for those of us in the workplace: Whether or not you think of the words like self-awareness, ingenuity, heroism, and love that I used to describe the Jesuit style of leadership, I suspect a lot of you might share gratitude for the experience of having been touched, marked, imprinted as students or adults by this beautiful Jesuit vision of what it means to lead, to be a human person. We play a critical role as ambassadors of that vision by virtue of the way we live and work, how we treat our families and work colleagues and clients. That role becomes all the more urgent as we think both of the decline in Jesuit manpower and the challenges that have confronted American business.
We're gathered at a great Jesuit university, and so it might be worthwhile to reflect briefly on the academic community's challenges. You are undoubtedly better aware than I of the fascinating study UCLA conducted for the last 40 years of the priorities of incoming college freshmen across the United States: In 1967, when we idealistic baby boomers started school, 90% of freshmen considered it essential or very important to develop a meaningful philosophy of life; 40% considered it essential to be well-off financially. Today the proportion is almost exactly reversed: The bottom line- most are viewing college as a vocation training or career prep experience. What the freshmen don't understand-how could they without a number of years of work experience-is exactly what institutions like Xavier stand for: that those who do well in the end tend to have a clear vision of what it means to be a person, how to treat others, and what they value in life. In other words, those who are focused on corporate success stand the best chance of achieving it not only by knowing present value calculations and the concept of economic value added, but also by having a clear philosophy of life. Many academic institutions, this place excepted, I'm sure, have to start working hard at the same thing that we in corporate America have had to learn over the last twenty years: how to break down silos between depts and work better across functions; in other words, the philosophy department and entrepreneurship professor in the business school can better serve students together than either one alone. It's to the great credit of Xavier in this regard, that no one could take a business agree here without studying some philosophy and theology-but, do your business students understand how those disciplines will relate to their business life?
These Jesuit schools in Cincinnati should â??and do-populate the marketplace with graduates equipped to lead in this unique Jesuit style... .that is, young adults who in addition to being technically competent, know their strengths, weaknesses, and values; engage others with a positive outlook that unlocks their potential; whose passion to excel inspires themselves and colleagues; and who are not afraid of change but indeed ready to spur change... in other words, professionals who are self-aware, ingenious, heroic, and loving. We at JP Morgan would have been happy to hire as many self-aware, ingenious, loving, heroic, leaders as we could find, and I suspect that the organizations represented on this panel feel exactly the same way.
Let me use my last couple of minutes, by way of summary, to build a practical case for this Jesuit-style leadership approach from the ground up,
1. First, I hope you take away from these Jesuits their fundamentally different message about what leadership is: we tend to think of leadership as tactics-what we do; or status, the position we hold on an organization chart. And while leadership may be projected through status or tactics, it fundamentally is about who we are. It's not an act at work, but it's the set of values I stand for and project, it's the outlook I have on other human beings and how I display that... To lead well, focus on knowing yourself and what you stand for, and less on looking at The Apprentice or reading books about Jack Welch and trying to imitate them.
- If leadership is who we are, then it follows that we're all leading, and we're all leading all the time, well or poorly. And this is another different slant the Jesuits are taking on leadership. It follows from it that we should learn to focus more on the opportunities we have each day and less on the opportunities that have not yet come our way. None of us in our corporate lives can control all our circumstances, how other people will behave around us, or the opportunities presented to us. We can, however, always control our own behaviors and reactions. Ignatius of Loyola once had this to say: "Work as if success depended on your own efforts, but trust as if all depended on God." The subconscious message is incredibly important: our implicit assumption tends to be-if you get yourself into a specific job, you can make leadership impact; their implicit assumption is: you're going to be making impact whatever job you're in. Focus on the input you can control, not on what you can't control. It pre-figures, I believe, so much modern psychological insight: for example, the principle that the healthiest individuals learn to 'control the controllables': highly proactive in the areas of life they can control, but free from obsession over what they cannot control. So how do we go about controlling the controllables:
- Self-awareness is the key. Remember I introduced the idea that we need to move from subconscious to purposeful leadership. We need to get explicit about our strengths and weaknesses, our values, and the leadership legacy we each want to leave in the world. And once we've made that investment, we need to create mechanisms to focus every day on how we're doing. I discussed earlier the examen, that daily tool Jesuits used to take mental pit stops... Jesuit lore includes another great anecdote about staying focused: one elderly Jesuit had the job of being the doorkeeper, to receive those who came with business for the Jesuits, to deliver things, beg for money, and god knows what else. This was in addition to his work as community treasurer or whatever else he was doing, so you can imagine how easy it would be to think about the door-keeping duty as a constant distraction and a complete pain in the neck. And the brother wrote that he therefore created a little mental routine for himself, that every time there was a knock at the door he used to say to himself, "I'm coming, Lord Jesus." Now, just imagine what kind of customer service that brother was delivering! The story seems a bit syrupy, but I understand it to be true, and whether true or not it is a wonderful example of finding a way to remain focused on what values you want to display in the world or workplace.
I don't believe there is a magic formula in corporate life that guarantees we will be able to do well and be good, makes us successful while also making us better human beings-but this model offers at least the glimmer of that promise. And, yet more good news, unlike my book, which costs money to buy-the price of becoming better is nothing, nothing more than your own committed investment to self-awareness and to articulating your leadership values.
We all play a critical role as leaders ourselves, and as those who can role model a way of leading for those who are on our teams, in our congregations, and in our communities, by the way we live and work, how we treat our families and work colleagues and clients.
So thank you for listening, and continued best of luck with your involvement here in Cincinnati in a project on which depends, as Ribadeneira said, the "well being of Christendom and of the whole world."