What a good book and what a different sort of leadership book than I normally read! Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney examines and draws leadership principles from the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits. The Jesuits have been around for over 450 years and Lowney attributes much of their success to the four pillars that guide their leadership: self-awareness, ingenuity, love and heroism.
I was struck by the principle of “indifference” practiced by the Jesuits, which encourages the freedom from inordinate attachments. If you’re free from the things of the world that hold you back, then you’re free to go anywhere in the world the Lord might take you. So unlike most teachings on leadership that I read and a teaching rarely heard today.
The Jesuits focused on finding and developing “as many as possible of the very best.” They worked at finding great young leaders and then putting them in challenging situations to further hone their leadership skills. They forced people to stretch and grow, all the while pushing them to live like Jesus and to treat people like Jesus would treat them.
I was also struck by the Jesuit’s Latin motto, “magis” or “more.” This does not refer to accumulating more money or stuff, which would put it in conflict with the principle of indifference, but rather magis represents the reality that there are new places to go. There are unexplored regions that have not heard about the Christian faith, there are more ways to improve the educational experience of the students under their care, things around you can be better. I love the push that results from aiming high.
Lowney does not sugarcoat the Jesuits and there are issues to be found in their work, but his insight into their leadership culture is rich and worthy of your time, especially if leadership is something you’re trying to live out. May we all be captured by the principle of magis!