Ignatius Loyola's model needed in financial crisis

By  Catholic Register Staff
  • October 10, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - Who should Wall Street look to as a model for corporate leadership in this time of economic crisis? Warren Buffet? Bill Gates? Steve Job? Or what about St. Ignatius of Loyola?

For Chris Lowney, a one-time managing director of American financial giant J.P. Morgan, the 16th-century saint and founder of the Jesuits offers an example of what it takes to lead a modern business enterprise.
“The early Jesuits had to solve the problem that many of us have to solve,” said Lowney, author of the best-selling Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-year-old Company that changed the World, on Oct. 3 to a group of about 150 Catholic business people.

“Can we be in the world working but not of the world?”

Lowney said the early Society of Jesus, founded by Ignatius in 1540, had four key formula for creating a successful enterprise. These virtues — self-awareness, ingeniousness, heroic courage and love — can form a valuable model for modern corporate leadership.

A former Jesuit himself, and graduate of the Jesuit Fordham University in New York, Lowney explained how each of the virtues can be applied to today’s management.

The Jesuits trained themselves in self-awareness through the Spiritual Exercises, a 30-day intensive retreat program that forced aspiring Jesuits to come to deep awareness of who they really were. Those leaders best equipped to steer their enterprises skilfully through turbulent times are also very aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, Lowney said.

Usually, this awareness comes through some early experience of surviving a personal crisis. However, it can also be gleaned through retreat programs, he explained.

Ingeniousness is simply the ability to adapt to changing times and circumstances, Lowney said.

Heroic courage is the ability to free yourself of personal enslavements such as status, ego, wealth and power that prevent a leader from putting the interests of their company ahead of themselves.

And love, expressed as an intense desire to do what is right for a company and its employees, is essential if one is to inspire employees to give of themselves for the betterment of the company as a whole.

Lowney offered the example of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, two of the American investment banks that fell victim to the economic crisis of the last month. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt when its chief executive officer wouldn’t countenance any other alternative solution to its financial woes. But Merrill Lynch was absorbed by the Bank of America because its CEO, John Thain, decided it was the best option to save the company.

“When John Thain was asked what corporate role he would play in the new arrangement, he said, ‛I don’t know; we didn’t talk about it’ ” Lowney said, suggesting that such willingness by Thain to set aside his own career shows an example of love in leadership.

Lowney also said love can be shown in the way leaders treat all those around them each day through simple respect and kindness.

“The primary way we make a Christian impact is the human way we treat each other,” he said.

Lowney spoke at St. Paul’s Basilica for the third in a series of meetings for Catholic business people hosted by Archbishop Thomas Collins and organized by Regis College and Salt+Light TV. The next one will be at St. Paul’s on Dec. 2 and will feature Julian Fantino, chief of the Ontario Provincial Police.

The events start with Mass at 7:15, followed by a light breakfast and talk.

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