The Four Principles of Leadership

Posted on 20. Sep, 2011 by tom in Leadership

In a recent post “The Monk and the Knowledge Worker” Donal told an old story about a Buddhist monk. Now it’s time to tackle some leadership lessons from another “old company,” this time the Jesuits.


In his book Heroic Leadership, Chris Lowney analyzes what he calls the four pillars of success:

  • Self-awareness: understand your strengths, weaknesses, values, and worldview
  • Ingenuity: confidently innovate and adapt to a changing world
  • Love: engage others with a positive attitude that unlocks their potential
  • Heroism: energize yourself and others with heroic ambitions and a passion for excellence

As you might expect from an author who is both a former Jesuit and investment banker, the lessons from the book manage to be both manifold and on-point for the challenges we face in business today. If you think cracking China is hard today, imagine how hard it was four centuries ago? But using their core leadership principles, the Jesuits managed achievements that were truly heroic.

Stripping away any positive or negative biases, the lessons of the Jesuits can be seen in the works of experts as diverse as Peter Drucker or Daniel Goleman. Drucker on the knowledge economy and worker, and Goleman on managerial self-awareness (his 5 core competencies: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill).

Working in a world with lots of everyday distractions (aka information overload) awards a high value to those who can effectively tune out those distractions and focus on the key goals at hand. One way to make ambitious goals manageable is to break them down into smaller goals. Lowney even invokes the challenge of kicking a smoking habit, the same metaphor captured in the title of David Maister’s wonderful book “Strategy and the Fat Smoker.”

We spend so much time looking forward in business today that sometimes we forget that there’s still much to be learned by looking back. Clearing the clutter – understanding clearly what you need to do and what you need to know – can free you to be more productive, and perhaps even heroic.

Reading list:

Thanks for reading

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Photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

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