Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week 10, Exercise 1: Love-based Leadership

This exercise should be experienced between February 19 and 22.

Chris Lowney lived as a Jesuit for seven years before leaving the Society of Jesus for a career with the investment banking firm J.P. Morgan. He worked for J.P. Morgan for seventeen years before writing the book Heroic Leadership. In this text, he contends that the values which guided Ignatius Loyola as he formed recruits into Jesuits should guide corporate managers and other leaders as they build their leadership teams. (Once again, I will encourage the readers of this blog to buy the entire text. It is an excellent book.)

The four core values which Lowney distills from Jesuit practice--self-awareness, ingenuity, love, and heroism--are very relevant to today's world. We will meditate on Lowney's analysis of love:

Leaders face the world with a confident, healthy sense of themselves as endowed with talent, dignity, and the potential to lead. They find exactly these same attributes in others and passionately commit to honoring and unlocking the potential they find in themselves and in others. They create environments bound and energized by loyalty, affection, and mutual support.

Machiavelli counseled leaders that "to be feared is safer than to be loved." Unsurprising advice from a man convinced that humanity was "ungrateful, fickle, liars and deceivers, fearful of danger and greedy for gain."

Ignatius Loyola was his polar opposite, counseling Jesuit managers to govern using "all the love and modesty and charity possible" so that teams could thrive in environments of "greater love than fear."

This starkly contrasting Jesuit approach stemmed from their starkly contrasting world view. Whereas Machiavelli beheld a world peopled with fearful, ungrateful deceivers, Jesuits viewed the world through a very different lens: they saw each person as uniquely endowed with talent and dignity. The Jesuits' behavior flowed from their vision, as Machiavelli's advice did from his. Love driven Jesuits worked with passion and courage, whether teaching teenagers or confronting colonialists who abused indigenous peoples in Latin America.

Jesuits remained committed to this vision because it worked. They were energized by working with and for colleagues who valued trusted, and supported them. Teams were bound by loyalty and affection, not riddled with backstabbing and second-guessing. The company's pioneer in Asia, Francis Xavier, eloquently exemplified the depth and far-reaching power of these ties. Crisscrossing Asia, thousands of miles and some years removed from his cofounder colleagues, he drew energy from mere scraps of paper he carried bearing each one's signature. Why? Their signatures alone reminded him of "the great love which [colleagues] always showed and are still showing toward me." It's hard to imagine today's corporate road warriors snapping open briefcases to draw similar energy from the latest memo from headquarters.

Their egalitarian, world-embracing vision enabled Jesuits to create teams that seamlessly blended recruits from European nobility, the world's poorest families, and most everything in between. Jesuits working in China included nationals from half a dozen countries, all this centuries before the term multinational teams entered the corporate lexicon.

Everyone knows that organizations, armies, sports teams, and companies perform best when team members respect, value, and trust one another and sacrifice narrow self-interest to support team goals and their colleagues' success. Individuals perform best when they are respected, valued, and trusted by someone who genuinely cares for their well-being. Loyola was unafraid to call this bundle of winning attitudes "love" and to tap its energizing, unifying power for his Jesuit team. Effective leaders tap its power today as well.

Ask yourself:

What is consoling about Ignatius' method of love-based leadership? What is consoling about Jesus' method of love-based leadership?

Have I ever been led in a loving manner? Was I respected, valued, and trusted by my leader? Have I ever been led by one who valued fear more than love? What is the difference between the two experiences?

Do I want to be a leader? How can love guide my leadership? Am I afraid to love?

Do I support my colleagues' success? Do we live in a relationship of mutual support or do we live in rivalry with each other?

Now engage in a colloquy with Ignatius, Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit. Ask them for the grace to lead as Ignatius and Jesus led. Tell them your fears and speak from your heart.

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