Equipping strong leaders for service

Exploring models of leadership: the group at Manresa
Exploring models of leadership: the group at Manresa

The first module of an Ignatian Global Leadership Programme has taken place in Manresa, near Barcelona. It brought together 27 people from 21 Provinces - 16 Jesuits, five lay women and six lay men, from disparate backgrounds and cultures as far apart as Kyrgyzstan and Lebanon.

This Ignatian Leadership Programme (ILP) for Europe is the brainchild of Fr John Dardis SJ, the president of the Conference of European Provincials. It aims to marry Ignatian leadership with leadership models from the wider world, using the Global Leadership Profile (GLP) which has been developed with strong Jesuit influence in the United States and the dynamic of Ignatius' own life and leadership choices, as revealed in his autobiography and in the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus.

“It was a fantastic experience of sharing Ignatian perspectives.” says Fr Dardis.  “We learned a lot from each other.  There was great richness in the group and we were able to share at a very deep level.” A key word for the first module was vulnerability, according to Fr Dardis. “If we are in touch with our vulnerability and, in some way, able to share that, we can have strong bonds in our teams and we can build, going forward, in a real way.  The idea of a leader being invincible or perfect is a myth that has to be dispelled.  It gets in the way of real leadership.”

Models developed in secular trainingFr David McCallum SJ

Among those leading the Ignatian Leadership Programme was Fr David McCallum SJ (right) who has dedicated his doctoral studies to the model developed by Bill Torbert, Professor Emeritus of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, and now being further developed by Fr McCallum, the special assistant to the president at Le Moyne College, in Syracuse NY. “Although this is been widely used in secular management training in parts of the US, Fr McCallum remarked that the group had an unusual concentration of leaders already in the later management action-logics,” says Fr Tim Byron SJ, the Jesuit Chaplain for Manchester’s Universities who took part in the ILP. “This is perhaps a reflection on the Ignatian culture of reflection that we have imbibed. This was an excellent attempt to resource current leaders of Ignatian institutions and courses drawing from a model that has been developed in the United States.”

Also involved in the ILP in Manresa was Sarah Broscombe, formerly Director of Jesuit Volunteering in Britain and a development worker with the Society in the Guyanese interior. Sarah, now a freelance trainer, facilitator, coach and retreat guide, said that to her the most striking aspect was the way the various elements blended together, rather than just being bolted on to each other.

Great struggle, grace and insight

 “What was remarkable to me about this first module was no single element,” says Sarah, “it was the potent equation they created. The setting – Manresa - was a place of great struggle as well as great grace and insight for Ignatius, where he understood the long journey to a discerning heart and mind. The links to the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises were also inevitable, with a module about leadership self-awareness, vulnerability and grace.” Sarah says that the Global Leadership Profile offered an excellent and fitting tool for helping participants deepen their self-understanding. “The participants showed such generosity and brought a disposition and professionalism that Ignatius would have been proud of. The learning environment was not only deeply respectful, but also mutually enriching, good for growth, and huge fun. The result? Alchemy.”

This is a view shared by Stephen Noon SJ, one of two Jesuit novices from Britain who supported the training, who felt that one of the biggest benefits of the week was the confirmation that his present task was to do less and be more. “But added to this was an additional element and a new perspective,” he says. “The course talked not only of ‘being’ and ‘doing’ but also ‘knowing’, and I think this means noticing more what is going on in my life, evaluating it through prayer and then adjusting what I am doing in response. If I can master this over my time in the noviciate, rather than getting lost in a whirl of activity, then I will have gained something hugely valuable. The new perspective also came from comments made during the course and is linked in many ways. Instead of waking up every morning thinking ‘what can I do’, it is better to consider ‘how can God use me today’. Emptying myself means that God can fill me up.”

The Ignatian Leadership Programme group at MontserratA deeper level of self-knowledge

Fr Philip Endean SJ delivered some valuable input on discernment to the group which, by meeting in Manresa, had the opportunity to visit and reflect in places where St Ignatius himself had had a very powerful encounter with God that opened his mind to deeper understanding: the Cave of St Ignatius and the monastery at Montserrat where the saint had committed himself to Our Lady.

“The basic idea is that your 'action logic' - the assumptions and often unconscious conditioning that underlie your actions and decision making - can develop through life,” explains Fr Byron. “Often we begin as self-defining leaders who are socialised and thus limited to being efficient, practical and being in control. The more advanced models of leadership can lead into a deeper sense of self-knowledge with a leadership style which is less coercive, more self-critical. The model challenges us eventually to emerge into a deeper self-transforming style of leadership which has a freedom and complexity which leads to paradigm shifts and strategic self-deployment.”

To serve in a deep and meaningful way

There will be four modules in all in the Ignatian Leadership Programme; the second will be in Vienna in June 2016 and will focus on 'Forming a Body for Mission', specifically, the interpersonal competencies that equip you to build, manage and support an apostolic team. There will be a particular focus on Ignatius and his companion Polanco's famous description of the ideal superior general.

“We are hoping that this initiative at Conference of European Provincials level will be a catalyst and support for other initiatives at regional levels,” says Fr John Dardis SJ.  “Already there are some very good regional initiatives taking place in a couple of centres.  If we have strong leaders who are able to inspire; tackle problems; give vision; set direction, then our apostolates will be energised and effective and will serve people in a deep and meaningful way.”