I want to share the top three leadership lessons I learned after reading St. Ignatius’ biography. If you are not familiar with him, Ignatius was born in Azpeitia, Spain, in 1491. He founded the religious order called the Society of Jesus and became its first Superior General. By the time of his death in 1556 and after only 15 years of being founded, there were close to 1,000 members of the Society. Five centuries later, the Society of Jesus continues to grow, with Pope Francis being its best-known member of our time.
What leadership lessons can we extract from Ignatius?
- You cannot lead others until you can lead yourself. Ignatius said, “To conquer himself is the greatest victory that man can gain.” He advocated to “wage war against his predominant passion and not retreat until, with God’s help, he has been victorious.” Is there an area in your life that may not be fully under control?
- Do not act in haste. He always acted based on reason and made sure his choices were well-thought-out, sometimes taking his time and in others acting swiftly. To me, the lesson here was that speed of decision did not seem to be his biggest priority, but rather the depth of his reasoning. Do you see an opportunity to improve in this area?
- Nurture important relationships. Ignatius went out of his way to stay connected with his followers across Europe, India, northern Africa and the recently discovered Brazil. Despite the precarious mailing system of his time, he managed to both send his letters and share transcriptions of the correspondence received by him so that everybody would be updated on the situation of his fellow members. Do you go out of your way to proactively nurture the professional and personal relationships important to you?