To Be a Leader

By Sister Sallie Latkovich

Having recently been elected to the leadership team of the Congregation of St. Joseph, I have been thinking a lot about leadership. When I search “leadership” on, there are 60,000 entries! That’s not a typo: 60,000!!!

It seems there is a blur between the understandings of leadership, administration, and management. And, indeed, there are some blurry edges, where leaders do exercise administration and management. But, my own reflecting has been about the role of the leader. And, I keep coming back to who a leader IS, rather than what a leader DOES.

Thus, I share the fruit of my reflection: a leader is. . .

. . .a team player. When a child first enters into preschool or kindergarten, one of the evaluations is: “plays nice with others.” I once knew a parish music director who encouraged his choir members to “play nice together.” The more sophisticated word is that a leader is collaborative: shares responsibility for consensus building with others and among those who are led.

. . . a model. I have long been an observer of leaders in various domains. I once had a student who did a research paper on pastoral leadership in various denominations and came to the conclusion that “as the leader was, so the congregation was.” If the pastoral leader was present, engaged, and joyful, so was the congregation. The opposite was also true: if the pastoral leader was withdrawn, unavailable, and crabby, so was the congregation. Thus, the model of leadership sets the tone for those who are led.


. . .person of wisdom/life experience. When I have taught courses on the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Scriptures, I ask the students to describe a wise person. Their responses always come down to “someone who has integrated their life experience.” Thus, a wise leader is one who has life experience and evokes and respects the wisdom of those who are . .person of vision. In the Gospels, the healing of blindness may be a metaphor for coming to believe. As such, a person of vision is rooted in a strong belief system which allows them to envision a future full of hope. Such vision is the motivation for actions in the present.alphabet-creativity-cube-462353. . .”leads” the dance of life. It seems that every culture has a particular dance for life celebrations. And, when people are dancing, they are usually smiling. I’d suggest that a good leader actually leads the dance of life enjoyed by those who are led. Whether or not they are physically able to dance, one can still dance in heart and spirit. In times of life when there is loss and sadness, it is also important to express grief, in the dance of mourning.people-2588899_1920So, these are some suggestions of the “is-ness” of leadership. Rooted in these qualities, the leader can approach various tasks that they must accomplish. I see these qualities in the members of the team with whom I am privileged and happy to serve. I look forward to teaming together in these qualities.

About the Author

sallie-sized-for-useAfter nine years at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Sister Sallie Latkovich was elected to the Leadership Team of the Congregation of St. Joseph. The new team takes office on August 6.




12 thoughts on “To Be a Leader

  1. Maria Hill says:

    I am hopeful as I look forward to experiencing a new leadership team who views leadership as you have described it. And let me also say that even before I read your reflection on leadership, I anticipated that you would be such a leader! Thanks for your “yes!”


  2. Peg Burton says:

    Thank you so much Sally. I wish you many blessings for accepting the challenge of leadership.
    Interesting that your meditation concentrated on the word “leader”.
    I am a person who usually starts a book reading the last chapter. Thus I began thinking more about the “ship” you will be responsible for attempting to navigate through both rough and calm waters over the next 5 years.
    I wish you every blessing and promise you remembrance in prayer.


  3. Brigetta Slinger says:

    Thank you so very much for your beautiful reflections on leadership. I’ve never seen you, Sallie, without your gorgeous smile. How fortunate we are to be blessed with leadership qualities as you mentioned.


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