Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Heroic Leadership

I never thought I would be reading a book written by a former Jesuit...and enjoy it! Chris Lowney does a great job surprising me in his inspiring book Heroic Leaderhip: Best Practices from a 450-year-old Company that Changed the World. It gave me a greater appreciation for this Roman Catholic order and the contributions they have made over the centuries. I was surprised by how much I really identified with the Jesuits (Society of Jesus) and their leadership values. Here are a few excperts that stood out for me...

"We're all leaders, and we're leading all the time, well or poorly.
Leadership springs from within. It's about who I am as much as what I do.
Leadership is not an act. It is my life, a way of living.
I never complete the task of becoming a leader. It's an ongoing process."

"Circumstances will present a few people with world-changing, defining-moment opportunities; most will enjoy no such bigtime opportunities in their lifetimes. Still, leadership is defined not by the scale of the opportunity but by the quality of the response."

"A leader's most compelling leadership tool is who he or she is: a person who understands what he or she values and wants, who is anchored by certain principles, and who faces the world with a consistent outlook. Leadership behavior develops naturally once this internal foundation has been laid. If it hasn't been, mere technique can never compensate." (Really think about this one! -Mark)

(4 Guiding Principles of Jesuit Leadership)
Jesuits became leaders by...

1. Understanding their strengths, weaknesses, values, and worldview.
2. Confidently innovating and adapting to embrace a changing world.
3. Engaging others with a positive, loving attitude.
4. Energizing themselves and others through geroic ambitions.

"A...leader is not content to go through the motions or settle for status quo but is restlessly inclined to look for something more, something greater."

The greatest contribution this book offers for me is the practice of Examens as a daily tool to integrate these guiding principles into everyday life. Here's my outline on how to do this.

1. There is an inductive phase where for 30 days a person goes through a time of meditation and self-reflection to establish a foundation of self-awareness. We must discover for ourselves what our strengths, weaknesses, values, a worldview are. What do we care about? What do we value? Who are we? And how do I fit in the world?

2. The above will help us establish key goals for our lives; goals birthed out of self-awareness and discovery. These are innate goals that become guiding stars for our lives.

3. Every morning, upon waking, we meditate and remind ourselves of these key goals for our lives. This is the launching pad for the day.

4. Around noon, we take another 5 minutes to reflect and think upon theprevious few hours in light of our key goals. Have we been living up to who we've discovered ourselves to be? Have we contributed the way we know we must contribute?

5. Later in the evening around supper time, we take another 5 minutes to do what we did at noon.

In this way, we are constantly aligning ourselves to what really matters to us and to our role in the world.

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