What is as hot as a Red Sabina Habanero and badly needed in the world today? More effective Catholic leaders! It has been said that the most important religious event of the 20th century was the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. In its formidable document on the laity, the Council loudly proclaimed that we must "broaden and intensify the work of the laity, create powerful proclaimers of the faith, (and) penetrate, perfect, and totally renew the temporal order of society…" No wonder our United States bishops have said that laymen must be leaders in the Church and in society.
To engage in this challenging and crucial act of penetrating, perfecting, and totally renewing the temporal order of society, we need more effective Catholics willing to stir up their baptismal anointing and leadership potential. In this article, I will define leadership, provide a few fundamental ideas on leadership, and enumerate seven practices of effective Catholic leaders. If you apply these practices, you will surely be a Catholic who penetrates and perfects our world.
A Definition of Leadership
Leadership is positive and creative influence on and in the service of others, which focuses on developing their God-given potential and gifts for the common good. Vital: The main focus of leadership is others, not the leader.
Some Fundamental Ideas about Leadership
The following ideas are accepted principles in the academic and practical study of leadership. First of all, leaders are made with practice, discipline, love, and patience. Second, a "formal position" of authority does not make anyone a leader. No one turns magically into a leader as a result of being named a "ministry leader" or a "manager." Third, the true and effective leader is not the one who thinks, "Now I’m the leader, so everyone must think like I think and do as I do, or else." Such a mindset is selfish and is effective leadership’s worst enemy.
Seven Practices of Effective Catholic Leaders
1. An effective leader has a disciplined prayer life
A solid, continuous, and disciplined prayer life is the key to being an effective leader. An effective leader spends time with his Lord and Savior daily, without failing, and without excuses ever to miss the conference. This is a sacred duty: meeting with the Friend par-excellence. The effective leader knows too well that disciplined prayer is a vital part of God’s "guiding business."
2. The effective leader has a clear mission as a Christian
Jesus had a clear mission Himself: "I have come that you may have life… and have it in abundance" (John, 10:10). He also said that with His anointing the blind could see, the deaf could hear, and slaves became free (Luke 4:18). Like Jesus, the effective leader has a passion for helping others see the light, hear the truth, and become free from the pestilence of a life without God, burdened by relativistic nonsense.
3. The effective leader sees himself as God sees him
I taught literature for many years and I can assure you of one thing: the effective leader knows he is no "sheep"; that is just a metaphor, not a fact. The effective leader sees himself or herself primarily as a human being created in God’s image and likeness with awesome potential to change the world now. The effective leader understands that to mean he is a leader. Period. Of course, he knows he is a disciple as well, but nonetheless a leader. This explains why John Paul the Great called the laity "the sleeping giant".
4. The effective leader loves to empower others
It is absolutely crucial to understand this and live by it. This practice lies at the heart of the effective leader and he knows it is not a breeze. This wise and smart practice takes love along with conscientious and tactical determination, and, with the grace and power of Almighty God, it is doable. The first sentence of the amazingly successful bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life is, "It’s not about you." The smart, effective, leader recognizes and lives by the tenet that leadership is about focusing ardently on the gifts and talents of others.
5. The effective leader evangelizes without fear and promotes Catholic culture with integrity
The effective leader studies, knows, analyzes, defends, and profoundly believes and promotes the Catholic faith. He knows faith is power and wisdom. He walks and actively leads others to walk in the brilliant, illuminating, exciting, smart, and effective Christian path (a.k.a., sainthood). He studies Scriptures and is familiar with enough illustrious Church documents that clearly, skillfully, and persuasively elucidate what we believe and why we believe it.
6. The effective leader knows that a mature faith is lively, explicit, and bears fruit
The effective leader gets excited about the faith. How in the world could he not? He knows that faith means not only love but amazing power and responsibility which frees his mind and spirit. Having a lively faith is not only a feeling: it is also an extremely clever decision . Faith must be explicit because as Vatican II teaches us, the effective leader must be able to share his magnificent Christian lifestyle not only with actions, but with words as well. Faith must also be productive and bear fruit or results. The effective leader continually asks: Who’s getting better because of my work as God’s active partner?
7. The effective leader has a special relationship with the Mother of Our Lord
All the saints had it: St. Francis, St. Benedict, St. Ignatius, and John Paul the Great. The effective leader has it, too. There is something sweetly mysterious and supernaturally healthy about this relationship. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican would throw a beatification or canonization case out the window if the candidate was not close to Mary. In the heavenly court, she stands majestic as the beautiful Queen of it all. The Son listens to her attentively: the effective leader does the same.
Every Catholic has the potential to be a leader or to become a better one. Your Christian duty is to exert more loving influence over others so that you can totally penetrate and transform the world.