Passion for the Servant Leader

Since November 2018 I have been blogging on concepts for the servant leader. I referenced leaders like Cheryl Bachelder, Sheila Heen, Brene’ Brown and more. I talked about 6 concepts:

  • Vision
  • Values
  • Clarity
  • Honesty
  • Listening
  • Courage

So you would think I was done with the series, right? Not quite.
The one thing under which these concepts exist, the umbrella if you will, is Passion. Without passion, there will be no energy to fuel these concepts.

When Catholics see the word “passion,” we think of the Passion of Christ; the crucifixion, pain, suffering and death of Jesus. Passion means profound energy, intimate connection, a kind of laser focus, and love. We understand that in the common use of the word, but we fail to bring that other level of understanding to Jesus’ work as well as his embrace of suffering…passion has the same root as patient which is to allow suffering. Jesus had passion which enabled Him to go to the cross: passion for His Father, His message, His love for us.

Do you think “passion” is a requirement for Church workers? Do you think it’s found on position descriptions or considered during interviews? The answer is rarely or it’s assumed that you wouldn’t want this kind of work if you didn’t have passion. But that is not true. People get into Church work for all the same reasons they do other things. Things like it looks interesting, you can do it while the children are in school, you need a paycheck.

There’s a way to grow passion: Reflection and introspection.
Think about the following:

  • What energizes you at work?
  • What makes you want to go to work?
  • What keeps you going on a busy day?

Even when you are exhausted, what is it about your work that makes you still feel it is worthwhile? [1]  When you have answered these questions, you will have discovered your passion.

What’s needed to develop or keep passion, enthusiasm, for God’s work?
First of all, passion starts at the top. Ordained and lay leadership need to have passion. That kind of enthusiasm for the work is infectious. Passion will deteriorate if you get bogged down in administrative tasks, constant complaints from parishioners, an over load of meetings that seem to go nowhere. Look to Jesus, and to his vision expressed in the Church’s best version of herself vision of the Church and parish to keep yourself focused on the real meaning of your work. Commitment to the vision fuels passion and passion has some direct positive influences.

Jacob Shriar from the officevibe blog tells us: “When an employee is passionate about what they do, they consistently look for better ways to improve themselves, their role, and the business (parish) in general.” [2] (Italics mine)

Second, connect with people outside of your parish world. Explore other professions, like I have in these posts. Outside resources are a wealth of information that can apply to parish work. For example, Sheila Heen’s work on how to have difficult conversations would be very beneficial to the parish leader. Different knowledge streams contain different perspectives on how to serve people. That information is transferable to how to serve the people of God.

Third, continue formation. The parish budget should have monies for retreats, conferences, books, and spiritual direction for leaders. Passion begets passion, and passion is fueled by filling the wells of leaders: intellectually and spiritually…you cannot give or inspire what you do not have.

We who have taken on the mantle of leadership cannot sustain God’s work without passion. It will keep us alive in those desert times when we seem most overwhelmed by the mundane.

I’m a nurse by trade. When computers were first coming to health care I knew I’d found my niche. I believed nursing had important information to share and it was getting lost in nursing notes that no one ever read. My passion was ignited. I did everything possible to learn about clinical information systems (just in their infancy). I couldn’t get enough. Over the years, I moved into a managerial position and it seemed my passion began to fade. The tasks of managing people and products placed a shadow over my passion. It just wasn’t fun anymore. Working on the ConSpirita website reignited my passion for what computers could do, now in terms of spreading the gospel. So my whole heart and soul was given to create again. When working on it, time was irrelevant. Hours would pass and I wouldn’t even notice. It was fun again.

Passion can be recognized by things like no regard for time, a clear vision of how the work serves the mission, and a sense of creative fun. God is generous with the gift of passion if we open ourselves up to it coming in different ways.

Jesus went to His death with a passion that’s hard to fathom; intimacy with the Father that kept him focused on his mission, a community with which to journey, time alone to pray, ponder and rest, and an understanding of the truth that God’s kingdom challenges the kingdoms of this world and that will lead to persecution and suffering…which he knew were signs that God’s Good News was being heard. The disciples had that same passion for Jesus’ message and His identity. Many went to their deaths proclaiming it. We can have that same passion for the work of our Savior. Sometimes it just takes a little effort.

[1] The Baird Group. Leading with passion: 3 keys to sharing your enthusiasm. http://baird-group.com/articles/leading-with-passion-three-keys-to-sharing-your-enthusiasm
[2] Shriar, Jacob. Passion for work is more important than engagement. https://www.officevibe.com/blog/passion-work-important-engagement


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As I write this, it’s just under a month until the first phase of the Church’s Synod on the process of synodality is to begin.