CICM SERVANT LEADERSHIP*
By REV. FR. RAMON R. CALUZA, CICM
CICM Philippine Province
“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. . . . The greatest among you shall be your servant.”
Matthew 20: 26-28; 23:11
Dear student leaders of Saint Louis University (SLU), in essence, we are gathered today to gain insight into your mission, as I see you as our CICM Young Leaders (CYL). That makes this event for which I am personally pleased, the CICM Young Leaders Forum.
Relevant leadership seminar such as this one aims to help you develop your unique human potential, by enabling you to recognize your leadership competencies. And I would underscore: unique human potential … unique because there is no other like you for you are the product of God’s handiwork; human because you are grounded in the web of men and women who are immanent beings with a transcendental range; potential because there is so much life in you and so many possibilities to be explored and promoted within you. Do not look far and beyond to find he or she who might have that unique human potential. Just look at yourself, put your hand on your chest and there you will feel and catch the signs of a living wonder created by a loving and lovable God.
As you may know, leadership is one essential life skill intended to help us succeed in life. But what makes a leader? Are the conventional leadership qualities of intelligence, determination, and vision, though undoubtedly crucial, enough to make one a leader? Is charm enough, or is there more? Is eloquence or entertaining verbal gymnastics enough, or is there more? What do you think dear student leaders of SLU? Is there more? In other words, for what are these necessary leadership attributes that we need to have all about? Tough question, indeed! Undoubtedly, we are here to look for answers. Certainly, I am here as your keynote speaker to help you find some answers, because if not, I would be standing here before you this morning, like a musician without a score, like a magician without tricks, like a preacher without a message!
Our Lord Jesus gives us his unequivocal standard: leadership is service. Voila – that is the “more” we are looking for!
It is therefore our hope that you become servant leaders, where you use your God-given talents to serve others especially the weak and the abandoned in society. In a very recent message which Pope Francis delivered, during his recently concluded visit to the United States of America, he said, and I quote: he or she who does not live to serve, does not serve to live.
In SLU, we would like to see you adopt and develop that orientation. We would like to invite you to cultivate and preserve that orientation in you, as an integral part of your identity as Christian youth leaders. Under no circumstances will we impose this orientation upon you. Absolutely not! We should not! It should grow in you, starting now and hopefully would last for a life-time.
Looking forward, through you, our CICM young leaders, SLU will be known and distinguished later on in the world as Servant Leadership University (SLU).
LEADERSHIP AND MISSION
The relationship between leadership and mission is one of dynamic unity, of convergence, that strengthens the foundation of an organization, or a church, or of society itself. Leadership without mission can influence but cannot convince the other to follow suit. Leadership with mission can make a difference. Linking leadership and mission allows us to formulate the following characteristics of servant leadership. I will mention four (4) items for easy reference and recall, abbreviated by C-I-C-M.
- C – Servant leadership is Christ-centered.
- I – Servant leadership is committed to building an inclusive society.
- C – Servant leadership is compassion in action.
- M – Servant leadership is missionary in orientation.
- Servant leadership is Christ-centered.
Jesus Christ is the model of servant leadership. He is the focal point of the responsible use of authority. Read the Gospels, and learn from his life and example.
“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve
. . . The greatest among you shall be your servant.”
Matthew 20: 26-28; 23:11
For that reason, the power to direct other people and the organization we represent must be anchored in integrity, where integrity means the overall capacity of leading a good life. The integrity that every leader must possess is definitely the result of a career led clearly in responding to the needs of others, instead of blindly pursuing one’s interests. Integrity as wholeness of character more importantly suggests a life work dedicated to contributing to the common good, where one’s talents and resources are conscientiously and consistently put in the service of those in need.
On occasions you find yourself in a dilemma, where you have to make an important choice, ask yourselves the question: What would Jesus do? This is in order to help you align your decision and action according to the Gospel principles and values of leadership. And what Jesus did, has passed the test of time, more than twenty centuries now. And his influence and He being the Good News of Salvation will last forever.
Very recently, I read somewhere this thought: the test of leadership is how your followers do when you leave! Leadership is about making others BETTER as a result of your presence and making SURE that impact lasts in your ABSENCE. Well said, right?
- Servant leadership is committed to building an inclusive society.
The life and example of Jesus Christ revolved around the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, characterized by the reign of justice and peace as an alternative to competitive lifestyles. Competitive lifestyles tend to glorify fame and wealth at the expense of social justice. Competitive lifestyles tend to idolize profit at the expense of the wonderful and irreplaceable resources of God-given creation. The Kingdom of God is a radical challenge to a cutthroat society that neglects the weak and the poor. The Kingdom of God calls for the establishment of an inclusive society, where no one should be left behind (or left out) from the goods derived from genuine social development. Pope Francis’ explicit examples of care for the abandoned and the marginalized in society are suggestions for inclusion. In the eyes of God, everyone is unique; hence, no one should be excluded! Even the least productive is an asset for he or she has a message and purpose, in one way or another. It is a matter of recognizing his or her intrinsic value and dignity, as a child of God. Inclusion is the foundation of a just and humane society; it is the vision of God’s Kingdom.
Servant leaders are in a position to make this happen, in spite of the seeming impossibility it poses, in spite of the obvious challenges it faces. As a famous saying goes: “an arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward … when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming”.
- Servant leadership is compassion in action.
Compassion is a virtue that makes human beings distinct. Feelings of solidarity with others, in particular with those who are suffering, are the bonds that unite us together as human beings. In the Gospels we see how Jesus would feel a deep sense of sadness for people’s suffering and how he would even weep for his friends. In the Gospels, the original Greek word σπλαγχνίζομαι (splagchnizomai) is used, meaning: to feel compassion, to be moved in the nobler inward parts (the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys); or in other words, to be moved not superficially but rather from your entrails, from there where your whole life is.
Empathy is one mark of a true leader, of one who can understand and bear the heavy burdens of people. To speak then of working for people’s needs is to be willing to experience the pains of the people one intends to lead. There is nothing rhetoric about being servant leader; it is about the ethic of affirming what it means to be human in the presence of the poor and the socially excluded. Our option for the poor is not a sentimental feeling towards the poor, but rather is a permanent and protracted struggle to eradicate poverty by changing the socio-economic and political structures that produce poverty and inequality.
The leadership model of Jesus then and of Pope Francis today is profoundly rooted in the compassion for others. It is a kind of leadership that risks the criticism of society, of going against the current, in the interest of being a courageous companion to those in need. Servant leadership inspires expressions of concern for others. In the end, it creates a sense of belonging through compassion that results in communion (or, in an effective organization).
- Servant leadership is missionary in orientation.
The statement “The greatest among you shall be your servant” directs us to the spirit of volunteerism as an essential leadership trait. A true leader does not back off from challenges, because he or she believes that he or she can make a difference. A true leader then is guided by a missionary compass of servant leadership. A true leader takes initiative to effect change because he or she is convinced that it is attainable. Greatness is not measured by obsession with power, but by the orientation of one’s mind and heart towards the purpose of power. In this case, the purpose of power is to bring about a positive influence on others. The only valid and authentic power is the power of service.
That is why, to cite a timely familiar anecdote, public service is public trust, because the idea is to use the power entrusted to our public officials for the good of society at large. I cannot stress this point enough, since we are fast approaching the election year. Let it be said at the outset that the core of leadership is a mission to serve society above one’s own interest.
“Called and sent to serve others” therefore is the missionary orientation of servant leadership. As Louisian student leaders, you are invited to embrace and build on the CICM tradition of service to the marginalized. Historically, the CICM was founded to bring hope to those neglected by society. The CICM has been sending its missionaries to the rest of the world for more than 150 years to improve the lives of the poor, with the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ and social transformation.
I have been working as a missionary religious priest, with the poorest of the poor in the Dominican Republic for more than thirty years. I have done my best to collaborate in many actions to alleviate the suffering of the poor and excluded in that society. There were moments of joy because of many small or great victories. But there were also moments of deep frustration because with my own eyes I have seen and experienced the power of the greedy and arrogant prevailing over the best intentions and prayers, over the best actions of the poor and suffering for change.
But this I can tell you, there has not been one day that I have regretted being one with the poor and victims of injustices, for this has given me a deep sense of joy in my heart, a profound satisfaction that cannot be bought in any store the world over, that my little contribution to make this world a better world to live in was done out of unconditional service for others, based on love. God has loved me first, and I cannot but love and serve others.
I have no financial reserves. I have neither properties nor a big name to boast of. But I am overwhelmed with joy because I know that God, with a smile over me, is saying: well-done good and deserving servant, YOU HAVE DONE MY WILL!
I am very grateful for the religious and academic formation I have received from the CICM Schools I have attended in the earlier stages of my life. Those years were foundational years, in different levels and dimensions: personality formation, character building, awareness of local and world affairs, academic excellence and discipline, love for nature and readiness to serve others, among others. What I am now, had humble but solid beginnings, thanks to the Louisian dream and spirit.
As future leaders of this country, I pray you keep the faith entrusted to you by your CICM-inspired higher education here at SLU. Only in that way you can negotiate with your head up high with the complex affairs of the world.
Persevere and be cheerful, for you have “a good and beautiful mission,” to quote the consoling words of our CICM founder Reverend Theophile Verbist, CICM. So, dear student leaders of SLU, dear CICM Young Leaders, your mission, should you choose to accept, it, (and I ask you to accept it!), is to develop and achieve your unique human leadership potential in the service of others.
Congratulations to the organizers and staff for this effective capacity-building event of SLU student leaders. It is my wish that from now on, your gathering will give a new dimension to the abbreviation CICM.
I would like to propose then that for your purposes, CICM uniquely stands for Convergence Inspired by Christ’s Mission.
Thank you and God bless you all!
* Conference given during the Louisian Convergence, with the theme: “Leadership and Mission,” 16 October 2015, Maryheights Campus, Saint Louis University, Baguio City. Around 120 student leaders of SLU were present, representing 60 student organisations of the University