Santa Clara Mag Blog
What is missing in our leadership?
Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010
“What is missing in our leadership?”
That was one of the questions posed by Adolf Nicolás, S.J., the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, at the Shaping the Future conference in Mexico City earlier this year. One of the presenters at the conference Chris Lowney, author of Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World, and now the president of the Jesuit Commons. In assessing some of the challenges facing the Society, Fr. Nicolás shared a story from the Philippines when he and Lowney both delivered talks in Manila. “After Lowney’s brilliant presentation of how good we are in leadership,” Fr. Nicolás said, “a Jesuit asked: ‘Can you tell us also something about what is missing in our leadership?’ Lowney very kindly went around the question. But the Jesuit insisted, ‘Tell us what is missing, because we need to know that also, not only what is good.’
“Lowney said, ‘Well, since you ask, what is missing sometimes in Jesuit leadership are two things. One is a sense of urgency. And second is the ability and the willingness to go through evaluations and measure those evaluations.’
“A confirmation of that,” Fr. Nicolás said, “is that I receive many proposals for projects in Rome, and very seldom do they come with a budget. Jesuits are very good at thinking. They want to do things. They are very generous. But the challenge is to be realistic and to be able to follow up our work with some form of measurement—which is not mechanical measuring. It’s always human and often spiritual fruits that we have to measure.
“Whether our students are being transformed—this also has to be evaluated. How do they perform later? Not only if they keep praising the Jesuits, but do they collaborate when we get involved with faith and justice? Do they collaborate when some of the issues in which we are involved bring conflict with the government, when this might bring some weakening in the profits they make in the companies?”
All that is just one of the asides in Nicolás’ talk, featured in the Winter 2010 issue of SCM. An edited version of the speech appears in the print edition, with more available online—including a downloadable PDF that contains the speech, sidebars, and more.
Steven Boyd Saum
Editor, Santa Clara Magazine