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Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-year-old Company that Changed the World.

Loyola Press. 2003
RRP $35.95

For those familiar with the many “7 steps”, “12 techniques” and “irrefutable laws” of leadership books out there, who value their message yet sit somewhat uneasy against their ‘leadership idolatry’, here is a book for you.

In a break from the standard approach to the genre, Chris Lowney takes the Jesuit ‘company’ as his case study for Heroic Leadership, turning up some counter intuitive ideas as well as giving holy credence to some ‘usual-suspect’ leadership principles.

Heroic Leadership at once confronts some of the modern assumptions about leadership; “What often passes for leadership today is a shallow substitution of technique for substance”, “Leadership is not reserved for a few Pooh-Bahs sitting atop large companies”, “We’re all leaders and we’re leading all the time, well or poorly.” He then offers a different perspective based on four pillars; self-awareness, ingenuity, love and heroism, and does a great job arguing for them.

Lowney discusses Jesuit history and leadership lessons in equal measure to bring a sometimes compelling, sometimes confronting, but always inspiring read. The Jesuits he describes as a ‘450-year-old company that changed the world’ which elevates them above virtually all commercial enterprises.

This is not a theological or Biblical treatise on leadership. His understatement of the religious underpinnings of the Jesuits and use of business language is intentional, yet the connections are clear to one in the know.

While concentrating on the ‘Company of Jesus’ (Jesuits) as his model (he was both a Jesuit and JP Morgan Banker) I suspect we would find the same principals and practices in play in our own Methodist past. We would do well to consider the wanderings from these principals that caused the Jesuits peril, that seem to afflict our own denomination.

Personally I was drawn to contemplate and consider my own calling, to check again my Christian commitment, and to dream big for the future of the church. It was truly a continuing education experience that I would encourage anyone to undertake who is serious about leadership and the church.

Reviewed by Rev Paul Clark, a minister with the Burdekin Uniting Church