Contemplation in the process of leadership

Our Loretto president, Pearl McGivney, sent out a book as a Christmas present to some of us who serve on our Loretto Forum, a consultative body for the community. The book, Transformational Leadership: Conversations with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, edited by Annmarie Sanders, LCWR Director of Communications, describes leadership as it is practiced today in some communities of sisters in the United States.

LCWR has developed a strong bent toward contemplation within what I would call the process of leadership. I say process because I just read a typically long New Yorker article on leadership titled “Shut Up and Sit Down,” not a title that would evoke either contemplation or process. But the author, Joshua Rothman, says the choices are dictatorship and a practice of decision making that rises up from the grassroots.

Rothman, of course, assesses the attraction of Donald Trump. He says when things are bad, we choose an outlier and sometimes it works while sometimes it doesn’t work. The most successful outlier in Rothman’s opinion was Abraham Lincoln. 

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But the other option is a communal process, enhanced in religious communities -- according to most of those interviewed in Transformational Leadership -- by contemplation. In chapter three, Nancy Sylvester says, "The contemplative posture is one that opens us up to ambiguity, paradox and the unknown because it releases for us a lot of our preconceived ways of being and thinking and it releases us of our ego. As we try to get in touch with the God within and become open to the spirit, we are doing some of the very difficult inner work so essential if we are to respond in new ways." Now there’s a serious challenge to The Donald.


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