Chris Lowney has a unique background among business authors. A former Jesuit seminarian, Lowney went on to become a managing director of J. Lowney reminded me why I've always admired the Jesuits and also Chris Lowney.
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After living for seven years as a Jesuit seminarian, practicing vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to the Jesuit general in Rome, Chris Lowney was transformed into a corporate man as an investment banker at JP Morgan. Lowney noticed that many up-and-comers with raw talent and sheer ambition, either were terrified of making major decisions, or terrorised anyone who dared make a decision without them.
Some were good at managing only numbers and not human beings and most were uncomfortable with change and taking personal risks. As he wrestled with the challenge of developing successful leadership in the corporate environment, Lowney was drawn to think back to the leadership lessons he had learnt from the Jesuit company during his time as a Jesuit priest.
He realised that this year old company had grappled quite successfully with many of the challenges confronted by companies today, including how to institute a degree feedback loop, forging seamless multi-national teams, motivating inspired performance and remaining change ready and strategically adaptable.
Jesuit explorers were among the first Europeans to cross the Himalayas and enter Tibet, to paddle to the headwaters of the Blue Nile and to chart the Upper Mississippi River. Jesuit astronomers and mathematicians were among the leading scholars in Rome, China, France, Asia and Africa.
The Jesuit founders launched their company into a complex world that had changed as much in fifty years as it had over the previous thousand years — a similar rate of change that is experienced in the world today. Its 21 professionals run institutions in more than a hundred countries. So why have the Jesuits been so successful and what can this religious company teach business today? What often passes for leadership today is a shallow substitution of technique for substance. Most literature on leadership today focuses on what leaders do.
Consult any of the current works unlocking the mysteries of leadership and management and you will see a long list of outputs that we want leaders to deliver, such as establishing direction, aligning people, motivating and inspiring and producing change. Despite all we know about what leaders should do, our societies and companies in general have a shortage of quality leaders.
In contrast the Jesuit team does not tell us much about what leaders do or what they achieve, but they have a lot to say about who leaders are, how leaders live and how they become leaders in the first place. In this way Jesuits offer a leadership model that flows against the tide of most contemporary leadership models. It rejects quick-fix approaches that equate leadership with mere techniques and tactics.
It finds leadership opportunities not just at work, but in the ordinary activities of everyday life. The Jesuits approach leadership in a totally different light revealing 4 main differences from modern leadership theory:.
The Jesuit vision that each person possesses untapped leadership potential cuts against the grain of the corporate top-down leadership model.
Think of what is lost and imagine the power of capturing that potential. The Jesuits threw aside the blinders that forced people to focus only on those in command and developed every recruit to lead. Everyone is a leader, and everyone is leading all the time — sometimes in immediate, dramatic and obvious ways, but more often in subtle, hard-to-measure ways. Who invented the yardstick that measures some as leaders and others as merely teachers, parents, friends or colleagues?
And what are the dividing lines? Does one have to influence at least a hundred people at a time to be a leader, or will fifty do? Or what about twenty, ten or even a single person? Or within a year? Are there not also leaders whose impact is barely perceptible within their own lifetimes, but manifests itself generations later through those they raised, taught, mentored or coached?
The confusion stems from an inappropriately narrow vision of leaders as only those who are in charge of others and who are making a transforming impact and who are doing it in a short amount of time. But this model of top-down, immediate, all-transforming leadership is not the solution, it is the problem. The Jesuit model reveals that everyone has influence, good or bad, large or small, all the time. A leader seizes all the available opportunities to influence and make an impact.
Circumstances will present a few people with world-changing, defining-moment opportunities, but most will enjoy no such big time opportunities in their lifetimes. Leadership should not be defined by the scale of the opportunity but by the quality of the response. No one ever became an effective leader by reading an instruction book, or learning one-size-fits-all rules.
Rather, a leaders most compelling tool is who he is: a person who understands what he values and wants, which is anchored by certain principles, and who faces the world with a consistent outlook. Leadership behaviour develops naturally once this internal foundation has been laid. Vision is intensely personal and is the hard-won product of self-reflection: What do I care about?
What do I want? How do I fit into the world? They take root when subordinates see managers take a personal interest in the purpose and it springs from within them.
The techniques of how to win buy-in from your team and fashion long term goals can amplify vision, but can never substitute for it. Leadership is not a job, not a role one plays at work and then puts aside during the commute home in order to relax and enjoy real life.
Leadership is real life. Your way of doing things should flow from your worldview and priorities. By knowing what you value and want to achieve, you will always be able to orientate yourself in a new environment, and adapt confidently to unfamiliar circumstances. Personal leadership is a never ending work in progress that draws on continually maturing self-understanding. The external environment evolves and personal circumstances change, as do personal priorities.
Some personal strengths erode, even as opportunities arise to develop others. All these changes demand consistent balanced growth and evolution as a leader. The strong leader relishes the opportunity to continue learning about self and the world and looks forward to new discoveries and interests. The Jesuits trained every recruit to lead, convinced that all leadership begins with self-leadership that springs from personal beliefs and attitudes, therefore, each person must first decide what personal leadership legacy they want to leave behind.
The Jesuits success was based on four guiding principles which can clearly be identified in their words, actions and writings. These four principles infused their work and achievements and leap from their writings and dominated their carefully mapped training programme.
These four leadership principles guided individual Jesuits and formed the basis of Jesuit corporate culture. They are:. Leaders thrive by understanding who they are and what they value, by becoming aware of unhealthy blind spots or weaknesses that can derail them, and by cultivating the habit of continuous self-reflection and learning.
Only the person who knows what he wants can pursue it energetically and inspire others to do so and only those who have pinpointed their weaknesses can conquer them. Leaders invest significant time and money to acquire the professional credentials and skills needed to succeed. Leaders need to invest equally in their human skills and their capacity to lead. No one lacking the requisite technical skills would naively waltz into a company and expect to succeed.
As the world becomes an even more complex place and change takes place faster than ever, it becomes increasingly clear that only those with a deeply ingrained capacity for continuous learning and self reflection stand a chance of surfing the waves of change successfully. Decreasing birth rates in developing countries since the s is creating a worldwide war for talent that will only worsen over time.
Instead of accepting greater numbers of recruits into the society to deal with the staff shortages, the society founder Ignatius Loyola was most concerned about admitting people too freely and so made the screening process even more selective.
Recruits underwent a longer, more rigorous orientation than any other religious order or commercial enterprise. While these actions did bottle neck efforts to reinforce operations and many opportunities slipped through their fingers in the short term, they remained committed to personal development.
This may have seemed counterproductive, but what transpired was far from a loss of momentum. Instead, membership swelled from 10 members in , to in , and more than by The Jesuits realised that an organisation can grow only as fast as available capital, talent and management capacity to oversee the growth.
Many an enterprise has imploded from unsustainable growth. Their reputation for selectivity, high standards and outstanding results was precisely what attracted the most-talented recruits. Or paradoxically, the Jesuits kept growing rapidly, by not growing too rapidly. The Jesuits realised that ongoing success depends on turning recruits into leaders. Solve that problem and the leaders you have moulded will solve all other problems. Management and leadership pioneer Peter Drucker writes on the ramifications of our changing economy, particularly the technology driven shift toward a knowledge economy.
In the past bosses gave out tasks and employees just needed to follow orders and performed the assigned tasks. This is not so today. Work roles have become largely self-managing. With fewer supervisors to give direction, most workers are on their own most of the time, independently prioritising and ploughing through responsibilities. In a more competitive and changing marketplace, companies must respond with increasing speed and urgency, further decentralising decision making to workers.
Skills once critical only for top management have become essential for everyone. Each employee is increasingly a self manager, making decisions on his own. With the accelerated pace of change, roles and tasks change constantly, requiring continuous judgement and the ability to learn on the job.
Individuals who thrive in this environment are those who can learn, innovate, exercise good judgement, take responsibility for their actions and take risks. These skills come from self-understanding, not vocational training. Daniel Goleman, in his research in managerial self-awareness, has noted that the more senior ones role within an organisation, the less critical to success are intellect and technical skills compared with the bundle of skills making up emotional intelligence. According to Goleman, emotional intelligence is made up of 5 core competencies:.
Self-regulation — the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, to think before acting. Social skill — proficiency in managing relationships and building networks; to find common ground and build rapport. Most companies today want to find people with these skills, but these skills do not show up on a candidates CV.
The Jesuits are one company that did look for emotional intelligence potential in candidates and then crafted a program to engender it in recruits. Rather than cycle through self-awareness approaches haphazardly, the company developed and promoted one universal tool for all Jesuits: the Spiritual Exercises.
Each Jesuit recruit emerged from his initial day Spiritual Exercises programme with invaluable personal strengths. Developed by the Jesuit founder Ignatius Loyola, they were called Spiritual Exercises as they are actions to be done not rules to be studied.
The individual undertaking them is like an athlete building his own internal resources. Each individual needed to work through the exercises on his own, with only the help of an impartial director to guide him through his experience. This is because all men are more delighted and moved by what they find out for themselves than what they are taught by others.
Recruits who successfully absorb the exercises were injected back into the world as self-aware, ingenious, loving, heroic leaders.
The Secrets of Jesuit Leadership
Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Leaders make great companies, but few of us truly understand how to turn ourselves and others into great leaders. One company--the Jesuits--pioneered a unique formula for molding leaders. In the process, the Jesuits built one of history's most successful companies. Founded in by ten men with no capital and no business plan, the Jesuits have been a source of innovation and discovery ever since. In this groundbreaking book, Chris Lowney, a former Jesuit and executive with J.
In this age of widely publicized business scandals, it helps to take another look at the values that sustain business leadership. There are innumerable examples of people who managed to build great businesses without delving deep into the process of leadership training. Lowney is an ex-priest and executive of the JPMorgan investment bank. He spent 17 years at that firm as managing director and board member in New York , Tokyo , Singapore and London.
Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World
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