The Oxford dictionary offers three definitions for leadership: 1) the state or position of being a leader, 2) the ability to be a leader or the qualities a good leader should have, 3) a group of leaders of a particular organization, etc. In other words, the dictionary is of no help. It describes the destination but offers no map for the journey. I tried the RAE too; the definitions were almost identical in Spanish.
Meanwhile, in the corporate world, leadership is often thought of as effective management or result-oriented guidance from one or a few enlightened—perhaps gifted—individuals. If you ask anyone about leadership in the Catholic world, they are sure to point out to the highest ranks in the clergy. But still, most are only thinking of positions, not the set of skills that define a leader or how to acquire them.
This is why today leadership has become an industry in itself. Every day there is a new book about it, and dozens of organizations claim to have the ultimate leadership conference, program or pathway to transform someone into a leader. But that is a monumental promise considering there is a lack of consensus to describe leadership, or what a leader is. So, we can agree that there is more than one way to define leadership. It really is this thing that most of us can instinctively recognize but many have a hard time defining.
I subscribe to the Virtuous Leadership Institute’s (A partner of Tepeyac Leadership) definition of a leader, “someone who accomplishes great things by bringing about greatness in others.” So, there we have it. A leader—as we see it—is a person who makes the most of the human capital at his disposal to achieve great objectives, which I will define as anything that safeguards or guarantees the dignity of the human person. These objectives can be achieved in the realm of health, education, government, business, or any other area of human interest.
If you begin to see the silhouette of what a leader looks like, we still need to know how someone becomes him “who accomplishes great things…” And we inevitably find ourselves searching into the wisdom of our Mother Catholic Church. You see for someone to inspire greatness in others, that person must have first taken on the life-long commitment of shaping his or her character by growing in virtue. It is not a matter of arrival, it is a matter of taking on the journey with intentionality. That is what the rest will distinctively recognize and be immediately attracted to. When others appreciate the great journey a leader has undertaken, they cannot help but to want to embark on it themselves too.
We are now in year three of our own growth journey as a young Catholic organization. Tepeyac Leadership wants to ignite in lay Catholic professionals the thirst for greatness. Our program participants’ journey starts by identifying a series of issues of concern in society today, studying them from the Catholic lens. It is here where the Holy Spirit will usually plant a burning desire in their hearts to act in a specific area. Then, each of them must enter a 5-month discernment to recognize the concrete ways in which God is calling him or her to lead. Towards the end, each of our graduates present in front of God and the local bishop an individual leadership commitment to be undertaken immediately after graduation. It’s a beautiful process that I have now had the blessing of witnessing a few times.
So, this is how we at Tepeyac Leadership define leadership: our graduates roll up their sleeves and serve, allowing God to work on each of them first, so they can then go out to accomplish great things for God’s greater glory. Some might think of our vision as idealistic. We prefer to think of it as faith-filled, for the source of our graduates’ leadership ultimately comes from their identity as followers of the greatest leader of all, our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Great is the LORD and worthy of much praise, whose grandeur is beyond understanding.
One generation praises your deeds to the next and proclaims your mighty works. They speak of the splendor of your majestic glory, tell of your wonderful deeds.
They speak of the power of your awesome acts and recount your great deeds.
They celebrate your abounding goodness and joyfully sing of your justice.”
How do you define leadership? And how would you say a leader is made? Please share your comments below…