Leading with Spirit

By Ben Swick

I have been asked to reflect on the presentation Susan Ferguson and Toni Moore shared at the annual Marianist Administrators Conference in St. Louis on October 22-24.

What is the difference between being a leader and being a manager? Can you be both a leader and a manager? How can we be a leader in our faith as school administrators in Marianist schools?  Susan Ferguson and Toni Moore address these questions in their presentation “Leading with Spirit”. Toni talks about the differences between being a leader and being a manager. In terms of the ways both of them think, a manager is usually a rational thinker and assesses the risks, while a leader challenges thinking and has an intuitive thought process. A leader will challenge the current ways of thinking to promote change and new ideas while a manager would like to maintain the status quo. Both a manager and a leader have different ways of handling relationships with people. A manager supervises and supports people while a leader motivates and encourages. A manager will allocate and monitor resources while a leader will identify and seek them out. A manager focuses on the details while a leader focuses on the big picture and the direction in which they are heading.

As we can see, not all of these differences are contradictory; they are just different. It seems to me that there can be good managers who are great leaders. You can both think rationally while challenging your own and others thinking. You can supervise and support people while being motivational and encouraging at the same time. You can monitor your resources while seeking out new ones. In this way of thinking, that a manager can be a leader at the same time, we find that you do not have to be one or the other. You might argue that the best managers are great leaders. Look at your boss at work who manages you and many other employees. It is also possible for them to lead you and your company in the right direction.  A good boss will demonstrate leadership in everything they do. This becomes motivating for employees and promotes hard work and positive thinking. Every great sports team has a leader, whether it is the coach or one of the players.  A good leader of a sports team will know how to manage the players in a way that promotes unity and winning. The team comes together for a common goal. In this sense, you can be both a good manager and a great leader.

So how do we apply this way of thinking to our faith? One of the things Mrs. Ferguson and Dr. Moore talked about was leading by example. This means being committed to the “right thing” at all times.  Whether we are leading a workforce, sports team, religious community, classroom or any group for that matter, a good leader models the expected behavior. Pope Francis is a living testimony of this thought process. He preaches about taking care of the poor and lowly. We see him in the streets of Rome spending time with the poorest people. He talks about promoting and respecting life, and we see him spending time in hospitals with newborn babies as well as with prostitutes and people suffering from drug addiction. He doesn’t specify that we only care for those people who live honorable lives. He says to respect ALL life and ALL people. Pope Francis leads by example.

We can do the same in our faith. We can go out and march on Washington to end abortion in America. We can feed a homeless person on the streets of our own town. We can visit the sick and imprisoned in our local hospitals and jails. Our Catholic identity revolves around serving others. How often do we put this into practice? I know I can be doing much more to better serve the suffering in our community. In this way we are being a leader of our faith. In this way, we are leading with spirit.


Edited by Barb Miller and Susan Ferguson

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