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Leadership We Need Now

Deborah Stollery

We at ConSpirita Consulting Network are committed to improving leadership, especially ecclesial leadership.  These times of a global pandemic and a global awakening about racism cry out for courageous and humble leaders.  This series of blogs invite you to come along with us as we humbly, courageously, and consistently undertake the work of self-education about racism in the United States, in the Catholic Church and in our own white, privileged lives.

Since March 2020, our blogs first addressed leadership in a pandemic and then, in June 2020, leadership skills needed to move forward in a quest for a less racist world.  We shared with you what we were learning from Black authors and experts in the field of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).  We learned about White privilege, White Supremacy and White Fragility; Black fatigue and why White people have such trouble having a conversation about race.  For us, it was like taking a drink from a fire hose.

Through all these blogs, we have considered models of leadership that are best equipped to lead during these times so that the workforce is treated with dignity and respect and the company, or parish, thrives.

Our conclusion is that Servant Leadership emerges as THE way to lead in these demanding times.  Various versions of authoritarian, hierarchical leadership are not effective when what is called for is a shift in mindset/worldview that then drives new behaviors.  Yes, you can direct certain behaviors and evaluate based upon them.  No, you cannot direct mindset and organizational culture shift.  Those have to emerge because of leaders who set out to serve the mission by serving the employees.  

We believe that of the leadership models in use today, Servant Leadership is the model that will enable anti-racist organizational cultures to emerge.  You might ask how we come to that conclusion?  From our understanding and experience, we see Servant Leadership the model that treats all people with respect and dignity, which is the principle that undergirds a move toward anti-racist business cultures.  Perhaps some more explanation will help you see what we see.

The first concept of Servant Leadership is what the Scriptures tell us Jesus did:  he grew in age and wisdom, within the community of the Holy Family and their communion with the Lord as members of the chosen people.[1]  It’s tempting to think that growing in age and wisdom is the work of childhood and adolescence, but the truth is, becoming the image of God that we are created to be is lifelong work.  Since we spend about one third of our lives working[2] and so are within that “workplace” community for a LOT of our waking hours, and since Jesus intended our lives to consistently reflect the Kingdom in every part of our lives (a constant communion with the Trinity), then it follows that ecclesial leaders, but really all leaders, must invest in fostering people who are healthier, wiser, and freer to bring their gifts to bear not just within the Church, but throughout the whole world.[3] 

But it’s not enough to say this is what leadership based on the dignity of all human beings must do.  This has to be followed with specific actions that operationalize this focus on dignity and so begin to create the kind of organizational culture that can become anti-racist.  So, what current leadership concepts enable people to grow in age and wisdom, fostering community and communion?  Diversity, inclusion and equity.  We’re now going to shift to applying these concepts within the organization called the Roman Catholic Christian Church, but we firmly believe these concepts are readily transferable to any organization trying to move toward creating an anti-racist culture.

Let’s start with the concept of diversity.  Also known as cultural difference, diversity includes but is not limited to “gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability and socio-economic class.”[4]  In summary, diversity is anything that sets one individual apart from another.[5]   Jesus intended His Church to be the place where these distinctions unite through Him, with Him and in Him to form a thriving body, able to bring His Good News to bear across all the earth.[6]  Diversity is to be constitutive of the Body of Christ, a body organized to reveal the power of communion and community in Jesus Christ.

Community and communion also contain the concept of inclusion.  As a leadership concept, inclusion refers to the ability to embrace all the gifts and skills brought by diverse peoples and then unleash their potential in service to the vision and mission.  It is not the same as diversity.  The concept of diversity has to do with recognizing that there are differences, being able to name them and welcome them.  Inclusion is creating systems and structures that leverage the diversity so that all have a voice, a seat at the table and the ability to influence the outcomes.  Inclusive leaders, according to Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon, have these traits: cognizance (awareness of their own biases and prejudices), curiosity (different ideas and experiences enable growth), cultural intelligence (not everyone sees through the same cultural frame), collaboration (the output of a diverse thinking team is greater than the sum of its parts), commitment (staying the course as an inclusive leader is hard), and courage (talking about imperfections involves being vulnerable).[7]

Community and communion also include the concept of equity.  “John Stacey Adams introduced the idea that fairness and equity are key components of a motivated individual.” [8]  Equity theory says that individuals are motivated by fairness and that if they identify inequities in the input or output ratios, either as they pertain to their individual work or in comparison to other workers, they will adjust their input to match what they think it is worth.  For ecclesial leaders, addressing the concept of equity means having a firm grasp on the Catholic Social Teaching theme of the dignity of work and the rights of workers.[9]    It also requires the courage to address inequities and to be alone in the wilderness awaiting others to embrace equity as part of living the Church’s identity.

Let’s stop there and notice what the current necessary focus on anti-racism is asking of all organizations: diversity, equity and inclusion.  These are strategies grounded in the dignity of every human being, elucidated in Catholic Social Teaching, supported by Pope Francis, and imagined as characteristic of the Church as an organization.  Catholics have had these concepts for a hundred or more years in Catholic Social Teaching.  It seems to us that now is the time for Catholics to step into organizational leadership in all walks of life, access these principles and commit to leading by them.  Faith will meet culture and the cultures will be transformed when this kind of Servant Leadership is widely practiced.  And anti-racist organizational cultures will emerge, led by people of faith.  That is Good News!

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[1] Luke 2:52

[2] https://www.reference.com/math/percentage-lives-spent-working-599e3f7fb2c88fca

[3] “Christ’s redemptive work, while essentially concerned with the salvation of men, includes the renewal of the whole temporal order.  Hence the mission of the Church is not only to bring the message and grace of Christ to men but also to penetrate and perfect the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel.  In fulfilling this mission of the Church, the Christian laity exercise their apostolate in both the Church and in the world, in both the spiritual and temporal orders.  These orders, although distinct, are so connected in the singular plan of God that He Himself intends to raise up the whole world again in Christ and to make it a new creation, in initially on earth and completely on the last day. In both orders the laymen, being simultaneously a believer and a citizen, should be continuously led by the same Christian conscience.”  Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity#5 http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19651118_apostolicam-actuositatem_en.html

[4] Diversity and Cultural Competence.  University of Iowa School of Social Work.  https://clas.uiowa.edu/socialwork/about/diversity-cultural-competence

[5] “What is diversity in the Workplace and Why Should You Care?”  Colliers International Knowledge Leader. https://knowledge-leader.colliers.com/editor/what-is-diversity-in-the-workplace-and-why-should-you-care/

[6] Galatians 3:28.  1 Corinthians 12:12-27.

[7] “The six signature traits of inclusive leadership.”  Deloitte Insights.  April 14, 2016. https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/topics/talent/six-signature-traits-of-inclusive-leadership.html

[8] Dr. Douglas Hawks.  Lesson Transcript.  “Equity Theory of Motivation in Management: Definitions and Examples.”  Introduction to Management. https://study.com/academy/lesson/equity-theory-of-motivation-in-management-definition-examples-quiz.html

[9] USCCB.  “The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers.”  http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/the-dignity-of-work-and-the-rights-of-workers.cfm

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