My MBA was in “Applied Leadership.” It took an enormous amount of time and sacrifice to complete, yet I’m still not sure that I could provide a concise definition of exactly what “applied leadership” means.
Thankfully, I know it when I see it.
One of the most head-spinning times in my life was right around my 40th birthday. First came the birthday itself, complete with far too much hand-wringing on my part. Then I was offered a terrific promotion to Senior Vice President of my employer. A few days later, I officially graduated with the MBA. Finally, a couple days after that, our eighth child was born. This all happened within a ten day period. It was an incredible time, full of excitement and high expectations.
Several years later, I continue to be fascinated with leadership and its application. In a sense, my book Faith at Work: Finding Purpose Beyond the Paycheck is a reflection on Christian leadership and how we can grow in our faith and our work acumen simultaneously by living the virtues in the workplace. As a result, I’m grateful for the Church’s efforts to better articulate the essence of leadership in timeless terms.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Lk 12:48). Businesspeople have been given great resources and the Lord asks them to do great things. This is your vocation. In this young century alone, many businesses have already brought forth marvelous innovations which have cured disease, brought people closer together through technology and created prosperity in countless ways. Unfortunately, this century has also brought business scandals and serious economic disturbances, and an erosion of trust in business organizations and in free-market institutions generally. For Christian business leaders, this is a time that calls for the witness of faith, the confidence of hope, and the practice of love. (Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection #1)
So the question is, how can we best apply this in our daily lives? Regardless of our perception of the relative much-ness of our resources, we know there are those who have come from little and built a lot (think Tom Monaghan and Domino’s Pizza). Likewise, we’re all aware of a growing list of organizational catastrophes (think Enron) where the lot became little—very quickly.
We are often tempted to think in purely financial terms, since those types of things are easy to measure. But take the same concept of rags to riches or its reverse, and apply it to the spiritual life. Presto—we all have an opportunity!
When we go to work, or when we seek to better ourselves in our work or profession, we are serving God. The beauty (and the challenge) of our humanity is found in applying the individual gifts we have been given in accordance with our calling… our vocation. There is no single way this is accomplished, rather it’s done through the infinite permutations of skill sets both within individuals and teams of individuals. Although we know there are many pitfalls, by living our faith we can be instruments of innovation… cure disease… bring people together… create prosperity… in short, serve human need in a profound and effective manner.
To the extent we live the virtues in our work, and embrace “the witness of faith, the confidence of hope, and the practice of love” we establish fertile ground for both individuals and organizations to flourish. Maybe that’s one example of “applied leadership” for those who seek more than a paycheck.
The Lord is asking you to do great things in your work, by living the virtues and being completely faithful to Him. Are you ready?