Over the past few weeks, we have been looking at “Leadership in the Augustinian Tradition.” One of the Scripture passages that St. Augustine found most helpful and compelling are The Beatitudes which are found in chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel.
I must admit, the Sermon on the Mount, aka The Beatitudes, is not one of my favorite Bible passages. Maybe it is because I have heard it proclaimed so many times at weddings, funerals, and other occasions that I have grown weary of hearing it. Maybe it’s because, in spite of the many times I have heard it proclaimed, I have heard very few truly inspiring talks or homilies on the content of the Beatitudes. Maybe it’s because I’m simply afraid to admit how difficult it is to live up to the standards presented in these teachings of Jesus.
Nevertheless, St. Augustine described the Sermon on the Mount as “the perfect measure of Christian life.” In examining what Augustine can teach us about leadership, the beatitudes provide a sound foundation as outlined before.
Be Humble (Blessed are the poor in spirit) – being truthful and “poor” about ourselves is the opposite of being “rich” in pride. Don’t get caught up in your own achievements but put the goals of others in the organization/team/family/team before you own. Give other people the credit, and also don’t be dependent on the generosity and praise of others.
Demonstrate Deep Concern For Others (Blessed are those who mourn) – One root of the Greek word penteo (“to mourn“) is an active verb that implies a continuation of action and includes the characteristic of deep concern for another and their situation. Effective leaders empathize with others, pay attention to the feelings of others, care and are concerned for the people who report to them.
Practice Self-Control (Blessed are the meek) – Aristotle once described someone who is meek as one who is angry on the right occasion – with the right people – at the right moment – for the right amount of time. “Beatitude leadership” does not mean to extinguish passion but to employ it for noble purposes. It also implies a sense of self control over one’s emotions when any untimely outburst might make the situation worse, rather than better.
Do The Right Thing (Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness) – This deals with the issue of personal integrity, ethical behavior and building an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. This sometimes comes at a cost but righteous leaders do what is right, knowing that this is “more acceptable to the Lord that even sacrifice.”
Be Merciful (Blessed are the merciful) – in his book, Be A Leader For God’s Sake, Bruce Winston says that merciful leadership “requires that an understanding heart that is applied to a situation requiring a judgment.” In challenging situations, “beatitude leaders” are able to exercise self-control and mercy which encourages open communication, improves the situation and moves performance forward. It also sets an atmosphere where self-analysis on the part of all members, and a willingness to implement behavioral corrections, can occur and are, in fact, even encouraged.
Maintain Focus (Blessed are the single-hearted) – Effective leaders stay focused on the overall purpose of the organization, the value of an individual team in achieving the goal of the larger group and the roles and responsibilities that individual members of the team have towards the success of the endeavor. “Beatitude leaders” also guard against destructive actions and values that might permeate the organization and lead to destructive tendencies.
Promote Peace (Blessed are the peacemakers) – The Greek word for peacemaker is eirenopoios. This means one who causes quiet and rest. “Beatitude leaders” know that peace is not merely an absence of hostilities. Peace is fragile and takes work, requires intervention, courage and action. They also recognize that this requires wisdom, practice, humility, experience, integrity and purposefulness
Anticipate Resistance (Blessed are those perfected for the sake of righteousness) – If you are a leader, some people will praise your efforts; others will criticize you for the very same decisions. You will be misunderstood, disliked, resented and even persecuted for trying to improve the situation. Nevertheless the virtue of fortitude, combined with prayer and the counsel of others, will help build perseverance in a beatitude leader.