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 Amazon.com, 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 The opposite was also true: if the pastoral leader was withdrawn, unavailable, and crabby, so was the congregation.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 led.. . .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.. . .”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.So, 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
After 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.