“From childhood, she seeks out in her father’s house, the most menial occupations and joyfully takes the lowest place. Later, when the brilliance of her works would seem to expose her to attacks of pride, we find her constantly penetrated with the sense of her littleness and unworthiness. All her words indicate the most profound knowledge of herself. Never does contempt wound her, nor praise dazzle her.”
From “Devotion to St. Catherine of Siena, The Five Wednesdays”
A Church organization dependent upon volunteers selects two leaders to co-chair a very large project, which requires coordinating dozens of people and a complicated schedule. Each individual has a unique leadership style, and both methods result in what appears to be a successfully completed task. Under closer examination, though, each method had a very different overall result.
Leader number one, let’s call her Sally, is very capable in the task. She has considerable experience, and in fact professionally provides the service required. Her attitude, however, is not one of charity. She shows little gratitude for the efforts of her volunteers, and treats them badly enough that they walk out, sometimes permanently. She somewhat meets the demands of the schedule, but not without excessive criticism of every deadline. She provides plans for several elements of the task, but vocally expresses her doubt in others ability to execute the plans as well as she can. She lists for anyone listening how much she does and why, and seems to expect recognition and praise. She even openly admits that she’s “praying” that the project fails. In the end Sally gets the job done, but at at what cost?
Let’s take a look at the other side of the coin. Leader number two, let’s call him Joe, is also capable in the task. He doesn’t have the professional experience, but he still understands very clearly what he needs to accomplish. Joe’s attitude is very different from Sally’s. He commands a prayerful, loving attitude among his volunteers, recognizing their effort with smiles and thanks. He encourages laughter, sharing and friendship. Prayer is essential to his leadership style, and pulls everyone together periodically to pray--this is, after all, a Christian project.
Joe doesn't draw any attention to himself, his opinions, his feelings, or his needs. He relies solely on true Christian charity to get the job done, and he’s able to accomplish so much more. The Second Vatican Council addressed how each of us, as disciples of Christ, proclaim our faith not just in words or acts of worship, but by our very lives. From Lumen Gentium: “the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.” (Lumen Gentium #10, emphasis mine)
Joe, unlike Sally, never loses sight of the reason he’s taken on this project in the first place. It’s never about him, or about the project really, but about witnessing Christ to everyone and anyone around him. The project is a catalyst for Christian Unity, and inspiring his volunteers to meet the needs of the project supercede everything to Joe, including any of his own needs. He sets a holy example, and his example inspires his volunteers to joyfully complete this task and consider volunteering for the next task.
While Sally inspires negativity and alienation, Joe inspires unity and a spirit of Charity. That makes Joe the real Christian success story.
Isn't Joe the kind of leader we should always seek?