The Soul of Good Leadership

“When I said that you must be unwavering as to the end and gentle as to the means, I am describing to you the soul of good leadership.”  Vincent de Paul (CCD, 2:403)

Checklists, systems, and metrics can serve important purposes in ensuring the consistency and effectiveness of our performance. However, if we consider the “soul” of good leadership, we recognize that these things can only get us part of the way there. There is more to good or soul-full leadership than simply following a prescriptive recipe. The soul of good leadership includes an ability to intuitively discern the signs of the times, the flexibility to adapt to circumstances beyond our control, the courage to take risks while remaining committed to guiding principles, and the grace to relate to others as human beings in a way that exhibits compassion and concern. How do you engage with the “soul” of good leadership in your life’s work, and how do you help others to do the same?

Indiscreet Zeal

“The spirit of God urges one gently to do the good that can be done reasonably, so that it may be done perseveringly and for a long time.” Vincent de Paul  (CCD, I:92)

Vincent seemed to be aware that he and others often falter by pursuing passions uncritically. Rather, he advised his followers not to rush into new ventures, aware that “indiscreet zeal” can at times lead more to harm than good. He advocated for a more discerning approach, rooted in experience. In his regular Tuesday Conferences, he would often invite the input of others with different perspectives, reflecting a way of proceeding in which discernment was dynamic and dialogical, open to various viewpoints, and aware that one person does not hold all of the answers. What regular practices of discernment can help to provide a healthy balance to your zeal and enthusiasm? How do you invite diverse and even contrary perspectives into dialogue with your own thinking?

Reflecting Our Values to the World

…we are as it were a mirror for the world on which it pauses to look and easily does what we do. St. Vincent de Paul The world of Vincent de Paul seems a distant mirror to us today. Yet these words he shared with his community in 1654 are worth pondering even now. Occasionally, it is good to reflect on the way in which we live our lives. What comes to mind if you imagine yourself as a mirror to the world? How do your actions reveal the values that are important to you? What are your favorite Vincentian values? Does your work at DePaul mirror those that mean the most to you?



On Scandal. Conference of October 9, 1654, Conferences of Vincent de Paul to the Daughters of Charity

Love is Inventive to Infinity

“Love is inventive to infinity” – Vincent de Paul

In the year 1617, in Châtillon, France, the new pastor Vincent de Paul preached about a sick and impoverished family who were in need of assistance. Vincent’s appeal proved so persuasive that it led many more people to respond to the family’s needs than was necessary. In witnessing such an overwhelming response, Vincent became convinced that if good works are to be effective they need to be well organized. This incident was the catalyst that led Vincent to found conferences of charity to care for the poor and marginalized in parishes throughout France, and eventually all over the world.

Vincent’s experience in Châtillon helped him see the need to make substantial changes to the way charity was administered. In the good work being done at DePaul, how do you see ways that might help us fulfill our mission in a more sustainable or effective way?

Praising Others

“They will not forget to say a good word to them occasionally…”
– 12. Service of the sick poor, in Common Rules of the Company of Sisters of Charity

Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac created the Common Rules of the Sisters of Charity as a seventeenth-century “code of conduct” for their community. When discussing how to care for the sick and poor, Louise and Vincent encouraged the Sisters to intentionally compliment or share words of appreciation with those that they serve. Louise and Vincent recognized that it is easy to become caught up in our daily tasks and work, and that we can forget to share kind words with those whom we see on a daily basis. This week consider intentionally complimenting or appreciating a student, peer, or colleague as a small way of contributing to the Vincentian legacy today.

The Value of Relationships

“So then, gentleness and forbearance are necessary among ourselves and for our service to the neighbor.” — Vincent de Paul (Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, 12:249)
By the end of his life, Vincent was known for his gentleness and approachability. However, these characteristics grew over time and were part of Vincent’s long, slow transformation. He spoke of being “firm and unchanging with regard to the end but gentle and humble as to the means.” (CCD, 1:290) Vincent understood that the way we interact with others can have a ripple effect on a whole network of relationships, and therefore might influence the long-term effectiveness of a mission shared with others. With this in mind, how, then, might you make such gentleness and care evident in your interactions with others this week?