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All Things Jesuit

Heroic Leadership

February 12, 2013

ChrisLowney_ATJChris Lowney, author of Heroic Leadership, is coming to SU to talk about the application of Ignatian principles in the 21st century. He will speak at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 25, in Pigott Auditorium.

Lowney is a former Jesuit and former managing director of J.P. Morgan & Co. In Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World, he details how the Jesuit approach to molding innovative, flexible global thinkers worked in the past and has resonance today as leaders wrestle with rapid change and limited resources.

The event is supported by the Endowed Mission Fund for Advancing the Jesuit and Catholic Mission and sponsored by the Institute of Public Service, Albers School of Business and the MFA Arts Leadership Program.

From the archives

Following are excerpts from an article on Chris Lowney and his book that appeared in the July 7, 2008 edition of Broadway & Madison, the printed precursor of The Commons:

On a Friday in 1983, Chris Lowney dropped out of a Jesuit seminary.

The following Monday, he started a career at J.P. Morgan. He went from owning little more than a black suit to working for one of Fortune magazine's favorite investment banking firms, where one boss promised to make recruits "hog-whimperingly rich." He rose to managing director in New York, Tokyo, Singapore and London.

So much for the vow of poverty. Yet much of Lowney's Jesuit education stuck, and he began to ponder ways in which Jesuit thinking and organization might be applied to the business world. The connections grew even clearer as he began to write what would become Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-year-old Company that Changed the World. First published in 2003, the book has since been translated into more than a half a dozen languages and has gone through four hard cover printings.

As he thought of the early Jesuits, Lowney went on to write, "I became convinced that their approach to molding innovative, risk-taking, ambitious, flexible global thinkers worked.  In some ways-dare I say-it worked better than many modern corporate efforts to do the same."

When it comes to risk-taking, ingenuity and adaptability, Lowney believes, Ignatius of Loyola and his small band of Jesuits had it all over today's business elite, launching an extensive education system and the largest religious order in the world.

"What's more," says Lowney, "in a world that sometimes seems to believe that the only way to become successful is to shun principle, their approach to living and working shows how we might be principled people and be successful in our efforts."

As Lowney explains it, Jesuit recruits succeeded because self-awareness helped them understand their strengths, weaknesses, values and worldview. Ingenuity helped them innovate and adapt to a changing world. Heroism energized them and others.

And love, says Lowney, let recruits engage others with a positive attitude that fostered trust and a desire to see people grow. For all its potential workplace benefits, love is something that Lowney says is rarely spoken of in management literature. "It's fine to love a candy bar and it's fine to love your wife and kids," he says by phone from New York, "but the one thing you can't love is the people you work with."