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Home : Arts : Arts and Entertainment News
6/6/2014 7:50:00 AM
Leaders from corporate, church worlds offer valuable lessons
"Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads" by Chris Lowney. Loyola Press (Chicago, 2013). 171 pp, $22.95. "The Art of Leadership" by Notker Wolf and Enrica Rosanna. Liturgical Press (Collegeville, Minn., 2013) 144 pp, $16.95.
Catholic News Service

Chris Lowney, a former Jesuit seminarian and director for J.P. Morgan & Co., provides insights into the leadership style of Pope Francis from the teaching of St. Ignatius and the rigorous training that Jesuit seminarians undergo in their formation process in his latest book, "Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads."

It would be natural to assume that a man who has spent the bulk of his adult life in the cutthroat environment of corporate America can add little to the conversation involving a humble pope who is known for his simplicity of lifestyle and devotion to Christ and the poor. Yet the training Lowney received during his time in discernment as a young man in a Jesuit seminary has served him well in the corporate world.

Lowney's book makes a very interesting read for those who may wonder why and how Pope Francis leads the way he leads and what lasting impact Jesuit formation can have on a person.

Lowney has been formed in his seminarian training with the same Jesuit spirituality that Pope Francis and every Jesuit has been trained in. "Ignatius wanted Jesuits to be humble because Jesus, their role model, was humble. But he also understood how ambition and political infighting can shred organizational morale (sound familiar, corporate colleagues). So he was trying to rein in the human tendency to stroke one's ego by seeking status, power, and advancement."

By the pope's example and words we see that he is committed to igniting a massive culture change across the church. Pope Francis realizes that complex, multifaceted problems such as clergy shortages, political infighting among the Curia, dysfunctional church government, self-serving clerics and the recent clergy sex abuse scandal cannot be resolved easily.

His actions are humble, simple and Christ-like and his words are bold: "I want the church to go out onto the streets, I want us to resist everything worldly, everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism."

Lowney's book is highly recommended for anyone in a leadership position for he provides the foundation for the leadership style of the current pope and applies and interprets principles of leadership that have stood the test of time. These principles are of value in the corporate world in the church, which has suffered due to clericalism and, at times, poor leadership. It's an excellent evangelization tool for those in the business community who may think the church has nothing to offer them or that no wisdom can be gleaned from the 1.2 billion-member organization.

Benedictine Abbot Primate Notker Wolf, head of the worldwide Benedictine Confederation of Congregations, and Salesian Sister Enrica Rosanna, who serves as undersecretary for the Vatican Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, have collaborated in offering insights on leadership. Their book, "The Art of Leadership," draws heavily on the Rule of St. Benedict with 13 of the 16 chapters written by Abbot Wolf.

Is the Rule of Benedict, which was written over 1,500 years ago, still relevant in a technological and global society? Does life in a monastery offer leadership skills and principles that can be applied successfully for today's MBA graduate or corporate executive? Is there a feminine voice which exerts authority in ways different and more subtle than their male counterparts? "The Art of Leadership" gives a solid and sure "yes" to these questions.

The main concern of the Benedictine model is "to formulate the essential qualities of the leader and set standards for a leadership that is both efficient and humane."

We all know or have heard stories of maniacal, self-absorbed "leaders" both in the marketplace and in the church who leave chaos and destruction behind them without any concern for the people they are supposed to be leading. Buildings and programs are built with their names emblazoned on them while men, women and children suffer at their expense. The observations of the authors are timely, valid and rooted in the biblical image of humanity and in Christian anthropology.

Sister Rosanna writes beautifully about the difference being female makes in leadership and pays attention to the qualities that women are "naturally better at than men," such as "their talent for looking after the people and things entrusted to them." Examples from personal experience abound throughout this book which makes this an easy read. The authors have valuable leadership experience and a wealth of examples from which they draw to reinforce their premise that leadership is indeed an art.

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