Jesuit Values in Leadership

The current electoral season is a good time to reflect on what it means to be a leader. Is a person born with a natural capacity to lead others, or does a person develop leadership aptitude over time?

The answer is likely “yes” to both.

Theodore Roosevelt believed he was born to lead. He was confident, driven and excelled at many pursuits despite having asthma and poor eyesight. Mahatma Gandhi, on the other hand, was restless, self-conscious and a mediocre student. Despite each man's different self-assessment, each had the capability to inspire others to follow him.

It would seem confidence in one’s ability to lead is a good start toward being a leader, but it is not all that is required. The ability to lead, like other human traits, can be learned.

Value-driven leadership

A foundation for real leadership - that is, moral leadership based on solid values - is desperately needed today. In the corporate realm, leadership is often thought of as a destination, an executive-level position achieved after climbing a series of ladder rungs. But unless a person has a set of core values and a clearly defined mission that inspires others to follow in a shared pursuit, that person is not a leader, only a manager.

More than 450 years ago the Society of Jesus, the Roman Catholic order commonly called "the Jesuits," blazed a trail of encouraging leadership scholarship. Founded by Ignatius Loyola, who experienced a religious epiphany after being wounded in battle as a Spanish soldier, the Jesuits built their notion of leadership on four values - self-awareness, ingenuity, love and heroism.

Ignatius and his followers taught students: to appreciate their strengths and weaknesses, understanding that everyone has limitations; accept and not fear change, since change is constant; think creatively, because old solutions may fail to address new problems; treat everyone with love, especially those in greatest need; and take on seemingly insurmountable tasks with courage.

These values stand in sharp contrast to the usual principles of leadership taught in most business schools, which focus on strategies and philosophies of great warriors, modern management theories, how to produce more with less, and how to maximize profits.

Jesuits would argue that a real leader achieves business success by leading through example - the person’s value system is the engine of their management system.

Tomorrow’s leaders through education

Creighton University is committed to teaching students in the Jesuit tradition, helping them identify their personal strengths and weaknesses as well as the strengths and weaknesses among their colleagues and within their teams. This unique style of social leadership has sustained many great leaders in their personal crusades to make a difference in the world.

The morals, attitudes and behaviors forged by this centuries-old system of education coalesce into personal values that generate inspired leadership, promote successful workforce practices and develop positive societal and industry change.

Leadership begins not at birth, but with self-awareness - being at peace with who we are as human beings. By striving for excellence in all we do, sharing our gifts willingly and enjoyably and having true concern for others, especially the poor and underserved, we emerge as leaders.


St. Ignatius Loyola.
Jesuit Leadership Style.
Leader Tips.
Jesuit and Ignatian Traditions.