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Heroic leadership in a time of crisis

Guided by faith and experience, Legates prioritize taking care of business and people amid a languishing pandemic.

Crises are times for heroes, and during the COVID-19 pandemic it is often requiring heroic leadership on the part of executives to keep their businesses afloat and their employees secure while continuing to serve the public good.

Manny Montanez, Dr. Rudolph “Rudy” Moise, and Tony Sarsam are three Legates who have responded with judicious courage. Montanez and Moise drew in part from their military experience, while Sarsam continued to revitalize a company that was struggling financially even before the coronavirus struck.

Here are their stories.


Manny Montanez told his story of faith and combat in the July 2015 issue of Legatus Magazine, from his devout upbringing to the serious leg injuries he suffered in the Vietnam War courtesy of a strike from a rocket-propelled grenade.

“My faith has always been a major part of my life,” said the Orange Coast Legate and former Legatus West regional director. “Sometimes I’d wander, but I was always rooted in my faith.”

His war injuries left him with grim reminders in the form of constant pain and a limp these past 51 years. But his ability to work and succeed despite difficulties no doubt empowered him to handle unanticipated obstacles to running a business — like in a pandemic. 

As CEO and president of his Irvine, California-based general contracting business, EG Montanez Construction, Inc., Montanez made some timely adjustments to keep his projects progressing while safeguarding the well-being of his employees.

There was initial disruption, as they were nearing the final stages of a project in San Bernardino and anticipating a new project in Los Angeles. The San Bernardino project continued with some tweaks to the timetable, while the Los Angeles job was delayed due to directives from the mayor’s office. “In the construction business, schedules are critical and sometimes difficult to balance,” said Montanez, “but in this instance, everyone was affected and understanding of the need to reassess.”

The key to working through the pandemic, he said, is to communicate well and to ensure that “everyone involved, directly and indirectly, is well versed and on the same page as it relates to the project, personnel, and communities where we have exposure.”

That’s where faith and war experience kick in.

“As a combat-wounded veteran, my first instinct is to stress how this pandemic is affecting everyone, and give peace of mind to all our staff and their families that we will be all right, God willing,” Montanez said.

Employees experienced the expected uncertainties — about their own health and that of their families, as well as job security. But with communication and understanding, Montanez believes everyone has risen to the occasion.

“You realize early on when you hire, work, and interact with someone their level of maturity and calmness during challenging times,” he said. “As a seasoned CEO, you always want to be prepared … [It’s] a challenging time personally, emotionally, and professionally for all, but there is no time for ‘woe be me’ attitudes.”

Instead, Montanez emphasizes that “we are all there for each other.”

The guiding principles of his company are faith, family, community, and career. The fact career comes last “doesn’t imply we don’t work hard, but it is to remind us what is most important,” he said.

And faith is at the top of the list

“I make sure early on in any business and working relationship, that I am grounded in my faith and a true believer. Every day is a gift,” Montanez said. “I call it ‘Faith Under Fire’ — stay calm, and pray earnestly.”


Dr. Rudy Moise, an osteopathic physician who specializes in general practice and pain management, is president of Comprehensive Health Center, a full-service primary care practice in North Miami, Florida. With a prepandemic load of 100 patients a day, decisive steps had to be taken for the safety of both patients and staff.

“To avoid our 45 employees, and patients, from being infected, we are starting to use telemedicine, contacting our patients via video call,” said Moise, a Miami Legate. “For the walk-in patients, we screen them outside, checking their temperatures to see if they have any symptoms. If they do and they are stable, we send them home for 14 days. If unstable, we refer them to the local hospitals.”

That protocol was preceded by in-house meetings to educate staff about COVID-19 and establish safety rules including full-body protection. After Florida’s governor issued a stay-at-home order, daily patient flow dropped to the single digits, and some employees feared they might lose their jobs. “But I kept every single employee, though it was very challenging for the company,” Moise said. “With a lot of prayers, we survived, and all employees were extremely grateful.”

His experience as a U.S. Air Force flight surgeon gave Moise plenty of crisis training — including the investigation of the crash of a fighter jet, which required collecting the pilot’s remains and breaking the news to his family. He also received extensive training for dealing with mass casualties with chemical or biological warfare. “I utilized some of this knowledge for my own office as well as for giving advice to community organizations,” he said.

 As a Haitian American, he also was part of a panel of physicians and bioscientists that advised the Haitian government on how best to prepare for the pandemic before it struck their nation.

 And in a generous outreach to the local community, Moise used his professional connections to donate 12,000 N-95 respirators to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, 1,500 to Miami Dade Ambulance, and 2,000 to the Orange County Fire Department in Orlando.


 When Tony Sarsam took over as CEO in March 2018, Borden Dairy was staggering in debt, largely due to the lingering impact of aggressive acquisitions made three decades before. Already sporting an impressive track record as a C-suite executive in the food industry, he set to work rebuilding the Borden brand and business, from renegotiating with lenders to giving a face-lift to the iconic “Elsie the Cow” logo.

But with raw milk prices rising and thousands of dairy farms going out of business, the Dallas-based company filed for debt reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2020.

Then along came COVID-19 and the lockdown.

“The pandemic brought an immediate and serious threat to Borden,” said Sarsam, a Dallas Legate. “In addition to the concern for ensuring the safety of our 3,300 team members, we instantly lost most of our school and restaurant business, which is one-third of our revenue.”

Sarsam favors a “people first” management style, so it was natural that he’d take care of his Borden family first. “Once we were satisfied that we had a plan to keep our employees as safe as possible, we were faced with adjusting our business to meet the realities of this incremental profit loss,” he explained.

 Furloughs were issued only to those who lost all their work, such as school-route delivery drivers — around 100 workers. Others were invited to volunteer for time off, and a “significant number” accepted that option.

Then came adjustments to manufacturing schedules to match reduced product demand. “When we presented the idea of adjusting factory schedules to our employees, they readily understood the need and flexed to accommodate,” Sarsam said. “I believe the work we did to communicate openly and Tony Sarsam honestly with our team went a long way toward ensuring a quick transition to this ‘new normal.’”

It was a leap of faith. The pandemic was going to force Borden Dairy to burn cash even in the midst of bankruptcy. “We simply had to have faith that the other side of ‘new normal’ would come in time to right the ship,” said Sarsam. 

On the bright side, as a food producer, Borden Dairy is considered an essential business and could remain open without interruption. But it was something more than that. 

“The Borden team, like most in the food industry, saw its work as a matter of vocation — to keep America fed,” Sarsam said. “We are proud of the fact that we never missed a beat during this difficult time.” 

The company still needed saving, however. Sarsam sought a merger with Dean Foods, a rival that also was going through bankruptcy, but Dean was bought by another interest. Then Sarsam and Borden found a lifeline: a major contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide 700 million servings of milk over 30 weeks to nonprofits throughout much of the nation. 

“When the USDA program was announced, we saw this as a great opportunity,” he said. “Our team went right to work on the extensive application process.” Borden’s contract was the largest of any dairy, he added. 

Following the sale of Borden Dairy in a June bankruptcy auction, the company enters its next phase of recovery — but you can bet Sarsam will continue to let faith be his guide.

“My faith provides critical foundational principles that inform the way I lead at work and have allowed me to ‘act on instinct’ during this two-fold crisis,” he said. “I believe it has made a big difference.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine editorial consultant.

A servant’s heart

Borden Dairy CEO Tony Sarsam summarizes his guiding faith principles for leading his company:

Love your neighbor as yourself.
How would I want to be treated in this crisis? My concerns and fears are not much different than those I serve. 

Jesus is the ultimate model of servant leadership.
My role as a leader is to perfect my service to the organization — and to model the “servant’s heart” I expect from others.

Speak truth.
I try to communicate directly, openly, and acknowledge my mistakes and ignorance. It is often a challenge to remain ever-charitable, but that choice has never let me down. Expressing positive expectations.

Seek to do more.
We gave instruction to our team to not only provide flawless service to our customers, but to look for more opportunities to serve in the community.

Adding value(s) to work

Researchers tell us that a happy workforce is a productive workforce. They also tell us that good management practices are critical to creating such an environment conducive to employee satisfaction and company success.

In brief, treat employees well, and they will not only get the job done, they will realize personal and professional fulfillment in the process.

“Healthy and satisfying relationships in the workplace are at the intersection of performance and dignity,” said Kevin Twomey, principal consultant for The Table Group and an expert on organizational health.

When dignity is not valued and performance is emphasized, employees can feel managed through control and fear, resulting in massive stress and burnout, Twomey explained. And excess emphasis on dignity without regard to performance may leave employees tolerated and protected but leads to mediocrity and stunted progress.

But “with performance and dignity together, leaders are calling their people to be the best versions of themselves,” Twomey affirmed. “To get to this intersection though, leaders must develop trusting relationships with their employees so that everyone understands that the leader has their best interest in mind.” Legate business leaders often find it effective to lead through values gleaned from faith.

Servant leadership

Vern Dosch rose through the ranks to become CEO of National Information Solutions Cooperative, a 50-year-old technology business providing electricity and broadband to rural, difficult-to-reach communities. The company is built on the cooperative model: it is customer-owned, and so NISC employees and board members are highly engaged not only with the organization itself but also with seeking the customers’ best interests first.

“It is our job to serve others and improve quality of life and economic opportunities for rural America,” said Dosch, a Bismarck legate.

Many business leaders feel they must “always be the smartest person in the room, the center of attention, the one with all answers,” he added. “They feel that their position on the organizational chart grants them certain privileges and status.”

That’s not the best model for ensuring happiness and productivity among the workforce, however

The real answer, Dosch believes, is servant leadership. He has co-authored a book on the topic: Wired Differently: How to Spark Better Results with a Cooperative Business Model, Servant Leadership and Shared Values, published in 2017 by Milner & Associates.

For Dosch, servant leadership “includes a sense of humility, acknowledging that my job is to serve your employees, to create an environment and a culture of respect — not intimidation, an environment that allows them to grow.” A servant leader’s job “is to guide, mentor, counsel, creating a consistent example so that each employee has an opportunity to reach his full potential.”

The technology, utility, and telecommunications industries are some of the fastest moving and evolving segments of the U.S. economy. “We literally have to reinvent our organization and retrain our employees about every five years,” Dosch explained. “That pace of change can create stress and volatility.”

But what doesn’t shift despite changing times are the cooperative’s core principles. These are embodied in NISC’s “Statement of Shared Values,” which was developed by employees from every division of the company. These values – integrity, relationships, innovation, teamwork, empowerment, and personal development – provide inspiration and guidance for how the business of the organization is carried out.

“We asked [the employees] to identify values that would make them proud to work for NISC,” said Dosch. “That statement has been our compass, unchanged since the day they were developed, providing consistency and stability for our employee base.”

The shared values become a form of mutual accountability and are reflected in customer relations, annual performance reviews, and NISC’s ethics program.

“A guiding principle of our organization is to ‘do the right thing, always,’” Dosch said. “We use that phrase as a way to guide our decision-making process.”

Although it is a simple phrase, as a lived principle it creates “an ethical, consistent, and predictable decision-making process with ethical, consistent, and predictable outcomes,” he added.

Leading by example

For Joe Micatrotto Sr., successful business management is all about living the Golden Rule. Founder and former president/CEO of the Buca di Beppo chain of Italian restaurants, he is also a co-founder of MRG Marketing & Management, franchise partner for Raising Cane’s restaurants in Nevada and Arizona.

“Building relationships in the workplace is no different than in your life,” Micatrotto said. Leaders must realize that while company policies can be universal, people have differing skill sets and must be treated as individuals. To allow employees to make use of their unique talents and gifts within their role constitutes a “win,” said the Las Vegas Legate.

The key to a harmonious, healthy, and productive workforce, he stressed, is motivation. And that’s up to the business leader to generate: he or she must affect employees’ outlook in order to shape their attitude.

True faith-based values are infused into the work environment through the leaders’ example, he stated.

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care,” Micatrotto said. “As a leader you must walk daily in the Faith to which you entrust your eternity.”

Although he never planned for his sons to enter the restaurant industry, both Joseph, Jr. and Justin did exactly that. They co-founded MRG along with Joe Sr. and his wife, Connie. He believes his own example and consistent values may have inspired his sons. “They witnessed a happy and fulfilled person that so many wanted to be aligned with, and that was and is a huge appeal,” he said.

Joe Jr. has referred to his father as his “mentor” for instilling within him “the values of leadership and community service.” Such outreach also serves as a means to bond coworkers in a worthy cause.

“We believed in the three C’s – charity, cash, and corporation,” Joe Sr. said. They mobilize employees to use both paid work and free time to assist in such works as distributing meals and clothing through Catholic Charities and other assistance centers. “We ask our team to tell us where we should be assisting and why,” he said.

It all goes back to leading by example – just as Christ did. “The example of Jesus’ life needed few words for His followers,” Micatrotto said. “I believe the example of His quiet, contemplative moments were the loudest examples we have.”

Chaplain at work

Tulsa Legate Greg Kach has taken the introduction of faith into the workplace to another level. He keeps a corporate chaplain on staff to meet the spiritual, emotional, and mental wellness needs of some 250 team members serving his three area Jackie Cooper Imports auto dealerships.

“We’re trying to create some balance in life,” Kach told Tulsa World when he instituted the workplace chaplaincy several years ago.

He compared the program to other employee benefits companies offer, such as health plans or gym memberships. “We thought maybe the next step should be to help people spiritually,” he said. “Everyone has problems in life, deaths in the family, problems with their children, their marriage.”

Tim Sullivan, a permanent deacon of the Tulsa Diocese and former executive director of Catholic Charities in Tulsa, was the first corporate chaplain at the dealerships. Kach said Sullivan was a nice fit for the company. “We made it really clear from the beginning that his job is not to try to convert people, but just to be there for them when they need it,” he said.

Sullivan left last year to assume a full-time ministry position at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Parish in Tulsa. Succeeding him is Peter White, who now facilitates the monthly newhire orientation to introduce employees to the company culture.
Kach also has fostered strong workplace relationships through company-funded social events, hiring qualified friends and family of current employees, and encouraging friendships among co-workers.

“Our philosophy is that employee turnover is a bad thing, and the way to combat it is to make people look forward to coming into work here,” he said in an interview. “You’ll look forward to coming into work every day if your friends and family are there.”

A mission focus

Organizational health consultant Twomey agrees that the application of faith-based principles and servant leadership are assets in nurturing a happy and productive workforce.

“We must love our employees,” said Twomey. “For leaders to reach the hearts of their employees, they must first be vulnerable with their employees and reveal their true humanity.”

Paradoxically, he added, leaders must create a vision in which employees readily see themselves as valued contributors, as collaborators in “something bigger.”

After all, in the Catholic tradition, “every single saint was called to fulfill a mission,” he pointed out.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

When a leader has soul

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

Christine Valentine-Owsik

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.

Recognizing the epiphany of midlife crisis

According to the Latin text Labentibus annis (c.1280), St. Omobono of Cremona, a very successful merchant, experienced an existential crisis after the death of his beloved father. Shortly after the burial, Omobono began to reflect on the brevity of his life and the fleeting attraction of his work. While pondering the ephemeral nature of life, “his formerly calloused preoccupation with increasing his wealth began to cool, and he began no longer to follow his associates, not do his job, with his usual craftsmanship.” In this document, we have one of the earliest depictions of a “midlife crisis.”

The term “midlife crisis” was first used in 1965 and made popular in the 1970s. When considered rationally, the phenomenon is not really a crisis at all. Rather than a sudden moment of intense panic and desperation, the common malaise more accurately exists as a predictable dip in satisfaction and joy brought about by the recognition of mortality and the realization that a career—even a successful one—often resembles a series of endless projects with no final resolution or larger meaning. As such, people often talk about getting stuck in a rut or hitting a wall. Research suggests that this afflicts about 75 percent of people and generally occurs after working for about 30 years.

Most successful people tend to work very, very hard. This work ethic generally produces positive results and economic well-being. But an excessive attachment to work can also contribute to stress, tension, and detachment from family, friends, and faith. The famous philosopher Josef Pieper offered five “awakenings” that can provide a counter-weight to the demands of work and relief from burdens.

Philosophy: reason unaided by revelation. Philosophy entails the search for truth, meaning, and beauty. Philosophy activates reason and the life of the mind. Find ways to read and think more deeply about the essential aspects of life.

Beauty: Beauty does not command; it can only summon. Strive to inculcate the beautiful into your life through art, music, and nature. One must actively cultivate beauty or it may remain invisible.

Love: The emptying of oneself for the sake of another. Do yourself a favor and read (or reread) the classic examination The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis. In this short book, Lewis defines and explores friendship, affection, romantic love, and charity in simple but compelling ways.

Prayer: Genuine prayer, the real you in conversation with the real God, cannot be phony or artificial. It requires the combination of intellect and will. In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the usurping King Claudius tries to pray, seeking divine pardon for the murder of his brother. Yet Claudius realizes that neither his soul nor his heart actually desire forgiveness, and he abandons the attempt: “My words fly to heaven, my thoughts stay below / Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” Death: Nothing has the power to prioritize life as quickly as death. Those who suffer from a “midlife crisis” are likely to be of an age when death of friends and family members becomes far too common. The moments of sadness also afford opportunities for reflection and redemption.

Omobono Tucenghi experienced his awakening after the death of his father. He retired from the active world of business and dedicated his remaining years to works of mercy and a life of prayer. His commitment to service and philanthropy earned him a reputation for holiness and sanctity. In 1199, Pope Innocent III canonized Omobono for his heroic vesture toward his faith, family, and community. This incredible story began with the passing of a father, leading to a midlife crisis, and saved by an awakening.

PAUL J. VOSS, PH.D. is an associate professor at Georgia State University and the president of Ethikos, a management consulting firm.

Virtuous leadership is key to energizing workforce

According to Gallup’s World Poll, many people hate their job and especially their boss. Only 15 percent of employees worldwide are enthusiastically engaged in their work – the rest would rather be doing something else. If we could successfully engage the remaining 85 percent, imagine how much more effective businesses would be.

Brian Engelland

Here’s the problem. Bosses often treat employees as a cog in the wheel of production rather than as unique human beings created in the image of God. Bosses mistakenly look past the individual person and instead look at the job he or she is performing rather than the incredible potential that the employee can offer. Employees respond to this myopic view by giving minimal physical effort while parking their minds and hearts elsewhere.

But people, not equipment, are the lifeblood of any business. Some time ago, my company invested in an expensive state-of-the-art production line. We treated that equipment with great care, established shop rules and procedures for its protection, and doubled our maintenance efforts to keep it operating in pristine condition. That machinery was accorded better treatment than any employee! But in just three years, it was obsolete, and sold for scrap at the junkyard.

As Saint John Paul II taught, the worker is significantly more important than capital, and human labor is not merely one factor in production. The great untapped source of economic growth is not physical capital, but human capital leveraged by the creativity and dedication that workers can bring to work each day. Unlike capital equipment, employees can adapt to changing conditions and, through training, be continually refreshed. People really do count.

So, how can we reflect that difference in our businesses? Virtuous leadership has the ability to bring out the greatness in others. The secret to obtaining the faithful collaboration of employees is for the boss to exemplify the two most important leadership virtues, magnanimity and humility. Magnanimity is the realization that individual talents are a gift from God and are only valuable when they are used to help others become better at what they do. Humility is the conviction that everyone is important and Christ is present in the least of us.

Virtuous leadership creates enthusiastic followers. The teachings of Pope Paul VI explain why. When employees perceive that the boss is offering the opportunity to help them perfect their own individual capacities, to engage in work that is both useful and profitable, and to contribute according to their abilities to the service of the company, they respond favorably. Employees feel compelled to adopt some of the boss’s same energizing spirit.

A restaurant run by my “bring out employee greatness” friend doesn’t open on Sundays. Why? He explains that his restaurant concept requires a high degree of personal service, and that means hiring and retaining good employees. But none of his really good employees want to work on Sundays – they’d rather spend quality time at home with their families. By implementing his “closed-on-Sunday” policy, he helps bring out the greatness in his staff. His employees are happier, his service quality is higher, and his training and retention costs are lower than his 7-day-per week competition.

A boss who exemplifies magnanimity and humility can help employees understand that work is an essential expression of our human nature as created in the image and likeness of God. Be that virtuous boss! Understand the potential of each employee, and help each one reach their potential. Help them learn new skills, gain insights, make friends, enhance self-esteem, and become more than they were before the work began. Employees who experience this type of boss will engage, and become the outstanding workforce we all desire.

BRIAN ENGELLAND is the Pryzbyla chair of business and economics in the Busch School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America. His latest book is Force for Good: The Catholic Guide to Business Integrity, published by Sophia Institute Press.

What your discipline says about your leadership

The chafing that we feel when leaders demand on-time arrivals only to make excuses for their own routine lateness is palpable. These leaders send mixed messages by demanding something from their teams that they themselves are unwilling to provide.

Dave Durand

Dave Durand

Is the leader who is late a hypocrite? Not necessarily. A hypocrite is one who promotes an idea or value that he doesn’t actually believe. It’s safe to assume that any leader worth his salt knows the value of being on time, along with other basic practices of success. It could be that he has a double standard, but it’s likely that he simply lacks discipline.

The gap between what we believe and preach by way of professional practices is something that few are willing to explore. Sales managers often expect things out of their teams that they would never attempt to do. It’s not that all leaders must do all things they promote. A general who sends his troops into harm’s way isn’t obliged to enter the battle on the front lines. It isn’t that he’s unwilling but because it isn’t his role.

The same holds true for teachers who give assignments and coaches who require physical discipline from their players. What’s important, however, is that the standards — which are different from activities — are consistent. In other words, the coach must be disciplined in the activities of coaching. The general must be willing to make the sacrifices relative to his role.

The way we adhere to discipline says much about who we are and plenty about our spiritual lives. Certainly we can use our natural efforts to be disciplined. We see this in people who are professionally successful yet not religious. However, given enough pressure, human limitation will rear its ugly head. That’s when God must be allowed to take over our lives. The Holy Spirit, through the gift of fortitude, often powers discipline.

Leaders who take inventory of their personal disciplines excel. They find ways to improve day after day, year after year. Ultimately their discipline becomes so engrained as a habit that the discomfort of not following through is greater than the pain and effort it takes to be disciplined. This pattern is something we all experience from a young age. Children aren’t naturally disciplined to brush their teeth, clean their rooms and shower. Parents fill in where the child lacks discipline by training the child until, at some point, the child goes from fighting these disciplines to being unable to imagine starting a day without them.

This is a testament to the Catholic concept that grace builds on nature. Where we drive our behaviors into habits, we increase our muscle to do what is good and right, therefore making the effort, well, effortless. The problem is that when the parent is removed from the circumstance, the individual must take over. The initial push to initiate a self-inflicted reward and punishment in order to create a habit or discipline is where most people fail.

I have studied, with inspiration, the disciplines of great people. To be disciplined is to be a disciple. The question is of what or of whom? The word “disciple” can mean student, penitent, sufferer, and even martyr. People often fail to see what I call negative disciplines. The 35-year-old man who lives, unemployed, with his parents, yet masters a video game, is disciplined. Sadly, it’s only to get the high score in a meaningless virtual world. If only he would understand that his disciplines can, in fact, translate to a meaningful life.

Let’s now turn our attention back to leaders who send a mistaken but understandably perceived message of hypocrisy. The weak leader weakens strong people and cripples weak people by failing to demonstrate discipline in his own life.

Coworkers and subordinates value working with smart, creative and resourceful people. However, if polled, most will tell you that all the smarts, creativity and resourcefulness mean nothing without reliability. This is where the rubber hits the road.

It’s impossible to prosper and to inspire for the long term without discipline. Lacking discipline is the kiss of death for life in the world and hope for life in the world to come. That’s why I love being Catholic. It’s God’s mercy, love and intimate knowledge of your soul and mine that has Him provide the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives when natural efforts fall short.

The Holy Spirit is the ultimate giver. When we ask, we receive, but we must be willing to accept and participate in the gift. A gift unwrapped is never enjoyed, and a gift given back insults the giver.

DAVE DURAND is an author and the CEO of Best Version Media, LLC.

What glass ceiling?

Legatus’ female executives are helping break new ground as savvy business leaders . . .

cover-march15When Joseph Illig founded his construction company in 1919, he probably never imagined that his granddaughter would one day run the family business.

“I’m sure he never thought that. In those days, it wasn’t even fathomed. Now it’s the grandsons and granddaughters that are taking over,” said Rita Liebelt, Illig’s granddaughter and the current president of Ilig Construction, a Los Angeles-based general contractor that is still family-owned.

Liebelt, a member of Legatus’ Pasadena Chapter and former Legatus board member, said she sees a “natural progression” with more women owning businesses and assuming leadership roles in the boardroom.

“Women are breaking that glass ceiling; more are becoming CEOs and presidents,” Liebelt said. “There’s a still long way to go. The percentage of women on corporate boards may still not be very high, but it’s improving.”

Changing demographic


Rita Liebelt

Female executives comprise one of the fastest growing demographics in the workplace and in Legatus. Whereas there were only about a dozen female executive members 10 years ago, today there are more than 150 women among Legatus’ 2,400 executive members.

More than 9.1 million firms in the U.S., employing nearly 7.9 million people and generating $1.4 trillion in sales as of 2014, are now owned by women, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners. However, statistics also show that women executive are still a minority on corporate boards of directors.

Today 24 female CEOs lead Fortune 500 companies — more than at any point since Fortune started tracking executive gender in 1998 when only one woman made the cut.

“I think much of the data suggests the role of women in business, in terms of numbers, hasn’t moved dramatically in the past decade, and you get into why is that? It’s a complex and nuanced issue,” said Sarah Elk, a partner in the consulting firm Bain & Company’s Chicago office and a member of Legatus’ newly chartered DuPage County Chapter in Illinois.

Sarah Elk

“I think it has nothing to do with a lack of qualified women, but I think it has a lot to do with how you break through, and there is not one easy answer as to why.”

Work-life balance

Luanne Zurlo, a visiting professor of finance at the School of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America, said the number of female executives varies quite a bit from industry to industry, and even firm to firm within industries.

Zurlo, a former Wall Street securities analyst with Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs, however said she expects opportunities to continue growing for female business professionals in the coming years — especially as a younger generation emerges that prioritizes balancing career with home and family life.

“I think creating that work-life balance and improving the ability for women to raise their children well — and to have successful careers in which they really move to the top — I think that is critical and very important,” Zurlo said. “But just as important is that we validate women who choose not to do that — women who choose to devote their energies for large parts of their lives to raising children.”

Luanne Zurlo

Several female executive members of Legatus discussed with us the challenges of balancing demanding professional careers with their roles as wives and mothers. Many of them said they had excellent support systems in their husbands and extended families. They also credit their Catholic faith with keeping them grounded and providing perspective in their unique vocations.

“Men and women complement each other; we both bring something to the table,” said Suzy Kelly, an At-Large Legatus member and chief executive officer of Jo-Kell, an electrical distribution, engineering and solutions company with locations in Virginia and Florida. “I look at that as such a great gift that God has given to both genders.”

Kelly, an elected city council member in Chesapeake, Va., also co-founded Catholic Passion Ministries, an apostolate devoted to deepening Catholics’ spiritual lives. Kelly, 59, has accomplished much in her professional and political careers while being married for 37 years and a mother of four grown children.

“Whether I’m with my family, the business or the city council, my faith is always there,” Kelly said. “I always make my decisions through the lens of my faith. I don’t separate it.”


Suzy Kelly


Elk agrees. Balancing work and family life is rarely easy for any active mother or father, she said.

“In any given day, week or month, there are always too many demands versus the time you have. You try to allocate your time as best you can to meet the needs of everybody,” said Elk, 38, who is married with three children, ages 4, 7 and 9. Elk added that she is less inclined than others to stereotype women executives as being more nurturing and empathetic than their male counterparts.

“I’ve definitely seen that, but I’ve also seen men with those same skills and characteristics,” Elk said. “I think all diversity is helpful. Whether it’s gender diversity or other forms, it will lead to better decision-making and outcomes for the company.”

“It’s hard to generalize that women bring a softer side to business,” said Kimberly Boudreaux, 37, executive director of Catholic Services of Acadiana in Louisiana. “Many times, I’m far from soft in my business practices.”


Kimberly Boudreaux

Boudreaux, a member of Legatus’ Lafayette-Acadiana Chapter, said she believes women professionals, especially those with families, are adept at multi-tasking. She also credits the Catholic Church for long recognizing that women have the capacity to be leaders.

“My career is a reflection of my faith,” explained Boudreaux, a married mother of three young daughters, ages 2, 4 and 7. “I believe we are all called to imitate the life of Christ, and for me, I have found that my life is most aligned with Christ when I among the poor and forgotten.”

New perspectives

Stephanie Anderson, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, La., said women often bring different management styles and perspectives to the workplace.

“While women are very driven, results-oriented, and possess a strong work ethic, we also have characteristics that set us apart,” said Anderson, 52, a member of Legatus’ Baton Rouge Chapter.  “We’re very nurturing. We possess strong and effective communication skills. We’re very good at multi-tasking and establishing priorities.”


Stephanie Anderson

Married 25 years with three sons, Anderson said she begins every day with prayer, a special intention, and thinks of three things she is thankful for. On her computer screensaver at work, she has scripture verses and a popular quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi to “preach the gospel always, and when necessary, use words.”

“My faith helps keep me grounded and focused on what’s important in life,” Anderson explained. “I see work and business as additional avenues to living out my faith and being an example to others.”

Liebelt, the owner of Illig Construction in Los Angeles, also said the Catholic faith “permeates” her work. She said her grandfather, his brothers, and her father were all faith-filled businessmen. “Faith is who we are,” Liebelt said. “It’s how we live.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer.

Leaders, liars and letting go

DAVE DURAND writes that truly effective leaders need to exercise the cardinal virtues. Leaders find themselves in the midst of all sorts of people — some great, some who will be great, some who lie, others who don’t, some who exhibit virtue, others vice. The challenge dealing with the fact that  most people are a combination of all those things . . .

Dave Durand

Dave Durand

Leadership is complex. It’s filled with paradoxes. On one hand, standards are important. On the other hand, allowing mistakes to happen creates a thriving team.

On one hand, leaders must treat everyone fairly. On the other hand, treating everyone fairly does not mean treating everyone the same. On one hand, servant leadership is crucial. On the other hand, leaders may need to be served from time to time.

These paradoxes (and many more) trouble inexperienced leaders and even confuse mature leaders. How can they be reconciled? The answer can be derived from the age-old adage: “Any idea taken too far becomes a bad idea.” Ironically, even that statement has limitations. Clearly, intrinsic evils and moral absolutes can’t be taken too far. However, the saying’s essence is applicable. In an overarching sense, this challenge is what makes some leaders great and others fail.

Leadership is an art form, not a science. If the lifetime of a leader were tracked with the same graphs used to measure the stock market, you would see ups and downs in rapid succession. However, you would also see the overarching rise or decline over the lifetime of the leader. This longterm rise or fall, illustrated by the metaphorical graph, will be the pass or fail indicator for a leader. For great leaders, the trajectory remains the same but the rapid ups and downs begin to stabilize. This represents learning from experience.

Experience is the best tool for forging great leaders. However, the cardinal virtues are the greatest accelerator for growth. The word “cardinal” comes from the Latin word “cardo,” which means “hinge.”

The cardinal virtues are different from the theological virtues because they are God’s gift to anyone who desires good. In other words, they can be acquired or infused by God whereas the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are only infused. The cardinal virtues are the hinge from which all natural virtues hang and are used by all great leaders regardless of religious affiliation.

The cardinal virtues — prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance — are the ticket to understanding the paradoxes of leadership. Prudence has an intellectual component and allows a leader to judge correctly. It’s the mother of all virtues because the other virtues cannot contradict it. It therefore drives a leader to seek counsel and understanding. You know you have prudence when you demonstrate open-mindedness, a non-distorted picture of events both past and present — and the ability to foresee the goal and consequences of an action. In business, “thought leaders” often use the analogous term “alchemistic” to describe people with the virtue of prudence because alchemistic thinkers can see how all parts fit together.

Justice allows leaders to make proper judgments as they pertain to individuals, groups and the relationship of an organization to individuals. Oftentimes leaders develop policies that are meant to produce a positive outcome but create injustices. Great leaders understand that a policy for policies’ sake is destructive. Signs that you exhibit justice are seen in attitudes such as obedience, gratitude, equity and friendliness. Justice builds trust in an organization and trust creates speed, which is a tremendous strategic advantage.

Fortitude allows you to stand firm in the midst of challenges while pursuing what is good. You will exhibit fortitude when you move ahead despite being afraid. You will see it in persistence and perseverance which often result in great works.

The cardinal virtue of temperance allows you to keep emotions and passions regulated by reason. A practical way to practice temperance is to “tame your want to’s and fuel your ought to’s.” You know you have temperance in your life if you desire to avoid shame while having a sense of honor.

In order to reconcile the paradoxes, you need to exercise the cardinal virtues. Leaders find themselves in the midst of all sorts of people — some great, some who will be great, some who lie, others who don’t, some who exhibit virtue, others vice. If it were that easy, everyone could lead. The challenge is that most people are a combination of all those things.

However, if you develop the cardinal virtues, you will see things at a deeper level, allowing you to know where to hang on and what to let go. While the cardinal virtues can be acquired, the greatest way to maximize your ability to lead is to live in a state of grace (see page 30 for a related article), which permits the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be infused into your life allowing you to lead supernaturally.

DAVE DURAND is a best-selling author on personal development topics and the CEO of Best Version Media LLC.

The ‘feel’ of ethics in leadership

Dave Durand writes that leaders can inspire a range of emotions in others — both good and bad, some on purpose and others inadvertently. Even though leading is more important that inspiring positive feelings, leaders should be aware of how they make others feel in order to be fully effective. Ultimately, he says, leaders should lead with humility . . .

Dave Durand

Recently my friend and mentor passed away. He spent 62 of his 88 years in life as an entrepreneur. He taught me many things over two decades. Some lessons were complex, yet others simple.

One primary lesson he shared with me summarizes what he stood for, and I’ll carry it with me for the rest of my life. He often said, “People will not always remember what you said. They will not necessarily remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

The “feel” we convey to others may be the most powerful tool for creating results or destroying possibilities for leaders. In many cases, the way people feel about you actually classifies the way in which they perceive your ethics. People often claim sales people who pressure customers are unethical. However, everyone has a different threshold for feeling pressured. In many cases the sales person is not trying to apply pressure, rather he is just being enthusiastic. So how can such a subjective thing as sales pressure be perceived and labeled in such an objective way as to be called unethical?

The answer is that it doesn’t really matter why because, even though feelings are an unfair evaluation of ethics, they are the primary driver of perception. Most people perceive “your ethics” based on how you make them feel. So paying attention to the way you make others feel is essential. This reality doesn’t mean that leaders should attempt to sugar coat all situations, appease followers, or lead only after taking a poll. It does, however, mean they should be intentional about what feelings their words and actions will convey. It’s tragic when a leader makes an ethical decision but communicates it in a way that weakens his organization’s morale.

Leaders inspire a range of emotions in others — some intentional, others inadvertent. The four primary emotions that produce action or apathy are: importance, empowerment, being belittled or feeling hamstrung. Take note that these feelings are personal feelings, not opinions about the leader. It’s often said that it’s better for leaders to be respected and unpopular than it is to be liked and not respected. This is true but it’s also a distinction that misses the point of leadership and distracts a leader from a better objective. A mature leader pays much less attention to whether or not he is liked or respected and way more attention to how the people he leads feel about themselves, rather than about him. By default, a leader who makes people feel empowered and important will be respected and, in most cases, liked. But those are secondary benefits to the primary goal.

On the other hand, a leader who makes people feel hamstrung can actually, and ironically, be well liked. Consider politicians who tell the message of doom and gloom while promising to “give” help to the helpless. The purpose of such a message is to make followers feel helpless and dependent on the leader. Such leaders intentionally weaken their followers in order to increase their own personal perceived power. On the opposite side of the spectrum, leaders who don’t desire popularity but fail to equip their followers with the tools they need to help themselves, also conjure up the feeling of being hamstrung. Either way, being hamstrung is a feeling that never produces results.

As Catholics, we are taught from a young age that we should know our value because we are children of God who loves us. Obviously, if God loves us we must be important. In addition, the gospel tells us that we can do all things though Christ who strengthens us. God our Father is the perfect example of leadership so we are wise to inspire these feelings in the people we lead.

On the other hand, the evil one can make us feel falsely important — or he belittles us and causes fear and doubt. He attempts to make us feel hamstrung by stripping from us the gifts of the Holy Spirit. His greatest weapon is despair, the ultimate dagger in the back of our thighs. Leaders who emulate him can be popular with those who don’t know better. But given enough time, that leader’s true colors come out and even the deceived become aware.

Key to leaders’ inspiring positive feelings in others are truth and humility. Humble leaders who adhere to the truth empower their followers with feelings of independence and strength. When leaders lead in truth and humility, they have greater odds of being ethical and of imparting feelings that build trust.

Dave Durand is the best-selling author of “Perpetual Motivation” and “Say This, Not That.” He is a business executive and trainer of over 100,000 individuals in sales, marketing and business management. An abridged version of this article appeared in the October 2012 issue of Legatus magazine.

Servant leadership

Editor Patrick Novecosky says there’s more to Jesus than meets the eye . . .

Patrick Novecosky

I’ll never forget a couple of years ago standing at the spot where Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. I was there for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Jordan, and the group of journalists I was traveling with arrived a few hours ahead of the Pope.

While I was waiting, I reflected on why Jesus chose to be baptized at all. John the Baptist himself pondered this question. After all, we’re baptized to wash away original sin. We’re baptized into the death of Christ that we may one day rise as He did. Jesus had no need of those things.

As it turns out, there are many reasons why Jesus wanted to be baptized — to be obedient to the Father, to make the water holy and to elevate baptism to a sacrament. But what struck me as I gazed at the humble structure erected over the Jordan River is that — like many things Jesus did — he was baptized as an example for us to follow.

Jesus led by example. He didn’t ask his followers to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself. In fact, one of the first things he said when building his team of disciples was, “Come, follow me.” He wasn’t only asking them to go for a walk, he was beginning a process of formation — forming men who, empowered by the Holy Spirit, would form the Church.

The older I get, the more I’m inspired by Jesus’ leadership style. A lot has been written about “servant leadership” in the last decade — and for good reason. It’s modeled on the type of leadership that our Lord lived perfectly. Jesus made it clear that “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28).

Likewise, we are all called to serve. As a husband and father, I’m trying to follow Christ’s example. In confession many years ago, a priest told me that the first thing I should do when I come home from work is ask my wife, “What can I do for you?”

I’ve failed to do that more times than I’ve succeeded, but it’s still my goal to have that servant-leader attitude at home — and at work. It’s a high standard, but one worth striving for.

Similarly, Catholic CEOs set the tone in their workplace. If the boss sets a high moral standard, everyone will soon understand that they’re expected to meet that standard. However, if a leader demonstrates that a low moral standard is acceptable, most of those in his charge will lower their own standards of behavior.

Studies have shown that companies with a high standard for ethical behavior flourish, so leading like Jesus — servant, shepherd and steward — in our homes, businesses and community will not only lead to a flourishing of our faith, but also our companies, our communities and our families.

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus Magazine’s editor.