Do you have it?
Is it truly in your parish?
How are you developing leaders within your community?
What does Catholic leadership look like?
We, the team of Elevare, have asked these questions as Leadership developers and members of the catholic community. Through our own study, development, and ministry, we’ve learned there is a deeply rooted connection between effective structures of teams and the example of Christ, which is not only applicable in today’s businesses and parishes alike, but necessary in moving our church forward.
Few understand this as well as the Sacerdos Institute in Rome, whom we were honored to accept a contract from for their annual Seminarian Formators course. During the month of July, for the last 30 years, the institute has hosted priests from around the world to equip them for effective formation and development of seminarians. This course in conjunction with the other offerings of the institute, including an exorcism and liberation of prayer course and a priestly renewal in the Holy Land, fosters the importance of forming the entire person. There is a human aspect of development when it comes to skills training which is often overlooked. Christ understood this as he prepared his apostles, Sacerdos works to instill this, and Elevare has stepped up to collaborate in that mutual mission as well.
As students of leadership, we found that most businesses or parishes develop their potential leaders based on philosophical ideas rather than concrete steps or proven methods. Many will ask how? Yearning for a clear picture of the way something works and left to figure it out with no more guidance than their own interpretations of a book. There’s a disconnect. The idea of leadership has been widely accepted, however, the practice of it has been left wanting. Our questions how? And what does it look like? Are more relevant than ever. So where do we begin?
Like we emphasized through the workshops we facilitated for our friends in Rome, it starts with self-reflection and self-improvement. Then, as we dive into team development and the principles and practices of leadership, we must turn the focus onto service rather than the outdated mindset of the role of authority. We accomplish nothing alone, so why isolate ourselves along with our good people who hold so much potential? We must build up others around us; empower them so they may do the same. Empowerment being the pivotal point in leadership where an administrator, a priest, or a business owner, can hone in on the strengths of an individual, then expands the effects of influence exponentially. Vision takes shape beyond the one person and can be adopted by many, calling them to take ownership and providing a greater return on the investment of their time, talent, and treasure.
This can only take place if we build relationships with them and walk alongside before sending out. Get to the heart of the people in order to solidify faith in them and make positive use of their hands and feet. This is how we water the seeds, nurture them rather than leaving them to be choked out by thorns or wither in the sun. This is how an idea, a program, a mission, leadership itself takes root and spreads across centuries.
But these are not new concepts. In fact, they are reiterated time and again throughout scripture and Sunday sermons. The idea is sound. It is action that must follow, and that’s how our 3 days with the participants of the Sacerdos course were constructed. Here’s what it looked like:
getting to the core
A leadership evaluation assessed each person’s leadership abilities in order to define the gap between where they were and where they wanted to be. Personality testing followed to get a better understanding of their own communication styles as well as that of others.
A leader’s duty to his or her followers requires an investment to know them in order to grow them. The coaching model is a very useful one especially for those leaders working to guide discernment and spiritual formation. In this model, it is not for the leader to instruct or give answers; those have their place in training and mentorship. Rather, a coach will ask questions guiding self-reflection to bring that person to their own realizations and ultimate decision.
This is where the previous work of leadership assessment and exploration of personality becomes applicable. Our team development sessions focused on collaboration for the purpose of solving a problem within the group’s seminary college and then for their archdiocese. They implemented skills in critical thinking, conflict resolution, S.W.O.T. analysis, and strategic planning to bring their ideas to life.
One participant shared his appreciation for the opportunity to put these ideas into practice. Paraphrased from our French translator, he said his approach to a problem had always been to dig away like a miner in search of gold, no real method to the digging but exerting all energy to get it done. He found himself alone and exhausted at the bottom of this hole, no closer to the solution than he started. But now, using this experience, he has the tools to make a plan so he can be strategic with his effort and rely on others to help where he is weak.
communication and connection
The teamwork gave a real time example of how communication works to connect us. Participants had to learn to listen, not so as to give a response or correction, but to understand the heart and intention of the other. True listening – undivided, unconditional, and understanding – builds the trust and respect necessary to form a healthy relationship. This is the start of positive influence, which has the power to effect change and growth within homes, businesses, seminaries, and parishes. This is what real servant leadership looks like.
Exhausted and yet overwhelmingly fulfilled by the third and final day of workshops, it was clear that God allowed us to accomplish the message we went to share by living it. We shared hugs, laughs, and tears. Though for some this was foreign, it was found refreshing and well received. We listened and learned about their lives, struggles, and dreams! It allowed us to customize our approach in equipping them for their mission back home.
One priest from Australia taking the course allowed us to dive into his own situation, and after spending some time coaching him through it he said, “I feel like I now have an effective plan that I didn’t have before and steps to execute servant leadership with my students.”
We were direct with our intentions to change and support, and they met us with mutual respect. To seal our bond, we prayed with them and they collectively said a blessing over us. That was probably the most powerful moment our team, Elevare International, has experienced together.
Now, having returned home, we feel as though our hearts have been taken and dispersed throughout the world, into the lives and homes of these men we were so privileged to work with, and consequently the people they serve whom we have not met. This experience seems to be the closest we have gotten to understanding the way the love of Christ works. And we couldn’t be more ready to serve again.