October 28, 2015 — Recognizing St. Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus, as an innovative leader is nothing new, but combining his spirituality with the theories of modern leadership practice is.
Ron Dufresne, associate professor of management at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, has done just that, creating the Ignatian Leadership Model for his students, in collaboration with Karin Botto, executive director of organizational development and Ignatian leadership, and E. Springs Steele, associate provost for mission.
"St. Ignatius was essentially the CEO of a multinational corporation — he was inhibited by the lack of communications technology but driven by a very strong guiding principle," said Dufresne.
The model has extended from the classroom to the workplace, forming the backbone of the SJU Ignatian Leadership Program (ILP), the first and only program of its kind integrating Ignatian ideals with traditional leadership development for employees.
Botto first established the ILP in 2008 and developed it with Steele. “A faith-based leadership model is effective because it puts people in touch with not only the deepest parts of themselves, but also others, as well,” said Steele.
The ILP is currently offered to two groups, administrators and faculty, who meet monthly during the academic year. Both groups participate in facilitated learning, discussion and reflection, but each group has a different overall focus based on their professional needs. While the administrative cohort learns how to lead more effectively, the faculty group examines teaching, research and scholarship from the Ignatian perspective.
“The goal of the ILP is to develop authentic leaders on campus who really understand the Jesuit mission and feel empowered to carry it forward,” said Botto. “We work to create a community of leaders committed to a common purpose."
ILP participants are enthusiastic and say the program helps them find value in their work. “It’s important to find meaning in what I’m doing each day,” said Aimee Terosky, assistant professor of educational leadership, who completed the program in 2013. “It helps my vitality at SJU and as a professor.”
Increasing external interest in the leadership model has also encouraged the team to examine how it could be customized for a variety of audiences with different leadership needs. The team hopes to develop a workbook that could be used for high schools, business organizations or other groups.
Botto believes that people respond strongly and positively because the program allows them to reflect on their entire lives — “from their work experience to their personal life to their connection with the divine,” she said. “All aspects of a person’s life are relevant to how he or she leads and affects others.”