Leadership coach asserts Catholic work ethic – as means toward leisure
Though many have heard of the “Protestant work ethic,” Dr. Paul Voss, a renowned leadership speaker and executive coach, presents a Catholic alternative.
Voss, 53, president of the Ethikos consulting firm, discussed the “Catholic Work Ethic” as a speaker at the 2018 Legatus Summit. Where American culture tends to idolize the workaholic who puts in 80-hour work weeks, Voss says a Catholic perspective sees work as a means to leisure, which affords people the opportunity to spend time with family and reflect on life’s deeper meanings.
Voss, who also teaches literature at Georgia State University, expounded on the Catholic Work Ethic in a recent interview with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.
What is the Catholic Work Ethic?
The 2,000-year-old Catholic understanding of work is formulated in a couple of different ways. Work is not an end in and of itself. Work is a means toward an end, and that end should be leisure. Only leisure time is going to give us the opportunity to pray, to love,and to explore the good, the true and the beautiful.
At the Summit, I spoke of five different “awakenings” that should supplement and support our working lives, and then pointed to St. Homobonus, who is the patron saint of Catholic business leaders, for inspiration to give the members.
What are the five awakenings?
They would be love, beauty, philosophy, prayer and death. For example, when someone dies, it can be a profound philosophical moment to reflect on your own mortality but also to say, “Okay, what are my priorities?” Nothing shapes our priorities quite like death.
Can a Catholic Work Ethic be implemented in today’s American economy?
To be Catholic means to be countercultural. How do you live the life of a fully authentic Catholic in a culture dedicated to materialism and keeping up with the Joneses? The Catholic Church does call you to a higher standard, and I do think the old saying that nobody’s tombstone says, “I wish I spent more time at the office” is pretty true. I think a reevaluation of “getting and spending” is very possible. There are lots of people, whether they’re Catholic or not, who are a little fed up with the rat race, the burnout, the quest for material excess, and they’re looking more for meaning.
What are some things you enjoy in your leisure time?
I’m a passionate and addictive reader. I read 3 or 4 books at a time. I love traveling. I’ve been to 40 different countries. I love studying languages. I have five children so I spend a lot of time with them and at their various sporting and academic events. I have no shortage of leisure activities that compel me to get my work done quickly so I can get to my leisure activities.
How can a Catholic Work Ethic benefit family and married life?
Men especially can get in the habit of working hard and rationalizing the long hours by saying, “Ultimately, I am doing this for my family.” Well, maybe there is a point of reflection where the Catholic Work Ethic helps them to see that sometimes the greatest investment for the father is to simply be present with his family for dinner. Families that eat together, pray together, travel together, have a better chance of staying together than those that don’t see each other.
Is there anything else Legatus members should know?
I’m not anti-profit. I’m a free-marketer. I think there is good profit and bad profit. I advocate working really hard, but working really smart too. Working really hard doesn’t mean you have to work 60 hours a week. It means that while you’re working, you have to have incredible focus and laser vision to try and get those goals done. Working smart and taking time to recharge your batteries is very profitable.