Tag Archives: leader

Staying true to our Ultimate Leader

When many of us come to the mature realization that prioritizing our Catholic faith and God’s will for our lives is paramount, we don’t envision the pending fallout.

But the quiet seeds of opposition and pushback await – even among our ranks. As spiritual

Christine Valentine-Owsik

reading expands and prayer life deepens, we naively feel we’re ready for anything. The excitement and intrigue of learning more about God and the faith begun by Christ – perhaps accurately for the first time in our adult lives – blind us to certain potholes that can puncture our resolve.

Life is still comfortable – we’ve got businesses and careers humming along, enjoyable friends professionally and locally, plenty of hometown involvements, and a busy family – even a few grandkids. Heck, life is good.

Why not help more at the parish? RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) – for those converting to Catholicism – had sounded good. Our parish advertised for additional teachers, and the deacon running the program accepted my offer straightaway.

And then…

On the night of my overview of Catholic sacraments and what each means, one of the catechumens asked why the Church doesn’t sanction cohabitation before marriage. “I lived with my husband before marriage, and I don’t feel guilty about it. We just need our marriage blessed in the church,” she decreed. I began to explain, until I was sawed off mid-sentence by the sputtering deacon.

“Oh we don’t worry about that so much these days,” he chattered. “We see all kinds of couples in all kinds of situations.” He chuckled and told her not to sweat it, and said “we’ll get ya through, God embraces all,” and nervously motioned for me to continue on. Say what? 

I sensed he didn’t want me to explain why Catholics should approach marriage in the state of grace – to receive the intended benefit of the sacrament. I studied his expression, now contorted and disturbing. Since I’d just introduced Confession previously, I pulled a fast one and went back to it – reviewing the importance of receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony worthily. Now he was red-faced and scowling. Was this guy for real? 

And then I got it … this class wasn’t about imparting full truth of Catholicism. It was the bring-‘em-on-in-to-the-parish-in-numbers game. Make hard truths softer so they don’t prick sensitivities. And keep things moving. 

But I hung in for years. Every time I presented a provocative topic for which the Church had settled teaching – homosexuality, same-sex ‘marriage,’ gender identity, etc. – the deacon drove a tank through it. He was in greater opposition to Catholic doctrine than those attempting to learn it. One evening, one of the catechumens, a Lutheran attorney, stopped me afterward and said, “What you’re putting forth is interesting and astonishing, yet he won’t let you finish your sentences.” So I distributed detailed multi-page handouts to every person for each lecture, with full text as insurance (including a reading and reference list).

It was tempting to try and get along with him. But I opted for staying on the thinning team of Truth instead.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

When a leader has soul

We work with varying types of leaders – in business, parishes, neighborhoods, schools, and professional groups. Some succeed, some slide.

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Like a strong business plan, a good leader’s strategy assures attainment of his objectives. It doesn’t mean he seeks to dominate the team, or steal credit for their ideas, or run his ship like a tyrant. He hits the home run when he effectively inspires the group — they want him to succeed, and he mentors them — and his team puts forth whatever it takes. Surprisingly, they’re not envious of his money, stuff, or stature. They love him, and find joy in working with him.

In almost four decades of professional work, I’ve come across very few leaders I’d categorize like that. But one stands out.

In the ad agency business, almost anything goes. They’ve been known to employ ‘creative moral constructs’, shortcuts, deceptions, idea-lifting, and employ any vice to get clients and make big money. Fresh out of college at my first big agency job in the early 80s, I excitedly wrapped an ad-strategy book I’d give at our lunchtime pollyanna at a swank hotel Christmas party that day. They’d have a live big-band, I’d wear my new velvet dress, get up early and fancy my hair and makeup, and catch an earlier morning train into Philadelphia. After ogling over endless tables of ice sculptures, cocktails flowing from multiple bars, disco lighting effects, and designer hors d’oeuvres, it was finally time for the blind gift-exchange. As each staffer’s name was called, he or she was presented a name-labeled gift from a large grab-box holding them all.

I couldn’t make sense of it. A number of senior staffers were unwrapping little bags of what looked like sugar or flour. Did they bake after-hours? Huh?

My supervisor, a middle-aged, very orthodox Jewish man, signaled me over to the lobby door.

“Listen, I know you don’t know what you’re seeing here…but they give ‘substances’ as gifts.” Then he said, “You need to move on from this place. I hate to lose you on the team, but will give you a glowing reference. Just don’t waste your time here anymore.” And he helped me get my next position as a legal writer and researcher.

What I remember most about him was, he put in a full day (almost no one else did), and he won many awards for his terrific work, but the agency wouldn’t promote him. He’d always say just the right – but wrong – thing. He’d blurt out the truth about duplicitous co-workers, crooked clients, invoice- and timesheet gouging, hushed office affairs, ‘situations’ that everyone else accepted.

But he told the truth. And he wore his integrity and faith on his sleeve. He prayed before eating lunch at his desk, and took Jewish holidays off to go to synagogue. He was a gentleman and a devoted dad and husband. He coached me in writing tactics, on making winning business pitches, and approaching media executives.

Much of what I learned about my craft – and owning my integrity – I learned from him. We keep in touch to this day.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

The soul of the boardroom

We hear people refer to companies as moral or not moral, good or bad, honest or dishonest. It seems as though people perceive organizations to have a soul. Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that the soul is made up of the intellect, the will and the memory. Of course, an organization can’t actually have a soul, but it does have a culture and that culture will often emulate the soul of its leader. So the leader has the power to influence the intellect, will and memory of the business.

I will always remember a strange subplot that occurred during a consulting project I had with a Fortune 100 client. A very talented and wellrespected executive, who we will call Bob, told me that he was being transferred to a different division because he was in the “dog house” with his GM. Bob had the highest employee satisfaction rating of all the leaders in the division. He developed more talent than any other executive in the division and his productivity was among the best overall. So why was Bob in the dog house? It was all because he was aware that his GM was having an affair.

Bob didn’t confront the GM, and he didn’t talk to other employees about the situation, but both he and the GM knew that Bob was aware of the situation. Bob was not prone to gossip and his track record proved it. He had seen many unscrupulous things in his day but didn’t talk behind the backs of his co-workers.

Despite that, the GM was willing to trade his star player, which would immediately reduce the quality of his core staff. Considering all the facts available to me, it appeared that the GM wanted Bob out of the picture simply because Bob’s presence sparked something in his conscience. He knew Bob did not approve, not because Bob was preachy, but because he quietly lived out his faith. The irony was that both Bob and the GM were Catholics.

This story demonstrates that a weakened soul leads to irrational decisions and limits a leader’s ability to form rational outcomes. Once he turns himself over to his sins, he will often protect himself from guilt by attracting only people who he assumes would not be offended by his immorality. Soon he surrounds himself with a team of moral relativists and things start down a precarious path.

It will likely follow that the GM will begin making decisions that are actually designed to alleviate his guilt rather than build the business.

He will lose his ability to solve future problems effectively, and he probably won’t admit that fewer people in the talent pool and lower productivity are his fault. So he will need to find alternative reasons, which will not be fully accurate because they are predicated on a false assumption.

Medically speaking, a diseased heart reduces a person’s physical activity and has symptoms such as shortness of breath and overall weakness. If you want to regain endurance and strength, then you go to the heart of the matter (no pun intended), and you fix the heart.

When the soul is tarnished by sin, especially serious sin, there are severe daily consequences. The intellect of a sinner is dulled, the will is weakened and the memory confused. How many millions of dollars are spent on psychotherapy, nutritional supplements and self-help courses that could be solved by a single contrite confession? Clearly nutrition and psychotherapy have their place, but if you compare the length of the lines at the confessional with those at the doctor’s office and health food stores, you can see that most people overlook spiritual opportunities for healing.

There is a strange biological phenomenon that researchers have recently discovered. They have observed a part of the brain which promotes imitating the actions of leadership at an unconscious level. Of course, any experienced leader would not be shocked by this, but it highlights the point that the culture of an organization is a magnification of the leader.

A leader with a clean conscience is the greatest asset to any company … by far. Leaders must live their faith every day and everywhere, the board room included. When your team sees that you are not willing to compromise your integrity to advance your own career or the company objectives, then that will soon become the culture of the organization as well.

Leaders who are dissatisfied with their organizational performance far too often fail to consider that the true source of the problem may be the status of their own soul. Personal issues like an affair, some people claim, have nothing to do with a person’s ability to lead.

But timeless wisdom teaches that you can only give what you already have. Therefore if you lack integrity, you can’t pass it on professionally or personally. So before you bring in outside consultants, seek spiritual direction and go to confession. The problem may be closer to the vest than you have ever considered.

Dave Durand is best-selling author of “Perpetual Motivation,” executive of a $250 million company, and trainer of well over 100,000 individuals in sales, marketing and business management. He writes a regular column for the National Catholic Register.