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Thanks to Dr. Raul Nidoy, one of the top officials of the Parents for Education Foundation (PAREF), we can learn from St. Josemaria Escriva, Founder of Opus Dei, about how to be effective leaders in modern times. Dr. Nidoy extracted from the abundant writings of St. Josemaria “leadership wisdom” which can be useful for anyone in authority: business executives, government officials, parents and teachers. The following are the characteristics of effective leadership according to St. Josemaria:
Making others great. Mediocre men, mediocre in mind and in Christian spirit, surround themselves with stupid people when they are in power. They are falsely persuaded by their vanity that in this way they will never lose control. Sensible men, however, surround themselves with learned people who live a clean life as well as possessing knowledge, and can become, through their help, men who know how to really govern. They are not in this matter deceived by their humility, for in making others great they themselves are made great.
Filling the training gaps. Don’t get annoyed. Irresponsible behaviour often denotes poor formation or a lack of intelligence rather than want of good spirit. Teachers and directors should be expected to fill in those gaps with the responsible fulfilment of their duties.
Delegating responsibility. Ask for an account. A fundamental rule for good management is to give responsibility to others without this becoming for you a way of seeking anonymity or comfort. I repeat, delegate responsibility and ask each person to give an account of how his job is going, so that you can “render an account” to God; and to souls, if necessary.
The best is the enemy of the good. People have to be taught how to work, but their preparation need not be overdone, for actually doing things is a way of learning too. They should accept in advance their unavoidable shortcomings—the best is the enemy of the good.
Demanding with affection and flexibility. Governing often consists in knowing how to draw good out of people, with patience and affection. Good governance knows how to be flexible when necessary, without falling into the error of not asking enough of people.
Practising collegial leadership. Decisions of governance taken lightly or by someone on his own are always, or nearly always, influenced by a one-sided view of the problems. However good your training or talents might be, you must listen to those who share with you that task of direction.
Not becoming indispensable. When you are not around, other people should be able to go ahead with the work you have in hand, thanks to the experience you have generously passed on to them and to your not having made yourself indispensable.
Seeing the positive too. Try to be properly objective in your work of governance. Avoid the inclination common to those who tend to see rather—and sometime only—what is not going well, the mistakes.
St. Josemaria, who practised all human and supernatural virtues heroically, excelled as a leader of men and women. I am fortunate to have benefited personally from the outstanding example of his leadership qualities. Among many other institutions, the Center for Research and Communication that later became the University of Asia and the Pacific, would not be what it is today without all the prodding, training, delegating, affection, and encouragement that those of us who started this educational endeavour received from St. Josemaria from 1964 to the day that he went to heaven on June 26, 1975. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.