Speaker says church, like companies, needs good leadership, management

PHILADELPHIA – Effective organizations need good leadership and good management, but because “individuals frequently are much better at one than the other,” successful organizations make sure both skills are well represented on their leadership team, said business leader Frederick Gluck.

He spoke during the annual meeting of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management June 26-27 in Philadelphia.

Gluck, a member of the round-table’s board of directors who is a former managing partner of the international consulting firm McKinsey & Co., told the meeting’s 90 participants that while leaders and managers in the church might sometimes wish they could escape their responsibilities “there is no escaping them.”

One can, however, take steps to define “leadership” and “management” to create a balance between them that works for a given individual.

Participating in the Philadelphia meeting were 10 U.S. bishops, along with business and financial leaders, pastors and lay pastoral ministers, philanthropists, educators and others. They discussed ways to promote excellence in the leadership and management of Catholic dioceses and parishes.

The leadership round-table was established in July 2005 to promote “best practices” by all serving in the church workplace. Its founding came not only at the time of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, but at a time when the church was facing numerous other significant challenges in a changing culture.

“As a church, we face a daunting mission and a tsunami of challenges in the decades ahead,” said Francis J. Butler, commenting on this year’s meeting. Butler is president of the Washington-based Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, known as FADICA.

Much of the challenge “is related to our demographics – aging congregations, lack of clergy, costs of operations, new immigrant populations, the diminished connections with younger people, and so on,” said Butler.

Against the background of the challenges today’s church is facing, participants at the Philadelphia meeting spent time in small groups discussing a parish ministry assessment tool and other projects of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management.

A group of round-table members was charged with producing a working paper on hope and trust in the church that calls for “the promotion of a culture of excellence where Catholic institutions commit themselves to the highest standards of stewardship, ethics and accountability, with clear performance indicators.”

Father J. Bryan Hehir, the Archdiocese of Boston’s secretary for social services, said during one session that a discussion paper on trust “confronts a major, complex challenge that touches the very fiber of the church.” He said that one cannot minister without trust.

Lawrence A. Bossidy, former chairman and CEO of Honeywell International, delivered a major speech on the principles of good leadership in organizations, drawn from his expertise and long experience in business.

Good leaders take steps to keep growing, he said. Among other things this requires listening to the views of others, he said. And good leaders can change their minds in the face of new facts; otherwise they stop growing, Bossidy said.

Good leaders “embrace realism,” according to Bossidy. “The sooner you recognize reality, the more options you have.”

Bossidy believes the “core of a good organization is to assess and develop people.” This requires identifying strengths and development needs – a process that does not have to be conducted in a negative manner, he said. But “this is a way organizations get better,” he said.

He encouraged leaders to affirm staff members. Otherwise, he said, the good people leave and the mediocre people stay.

Bossidy also urged that the church take steps to learn why people leave the church. He suggested conducting “exit interviews,” asking people why they left. Maybe then the church can “come up with programs to prevent the next person from leaving,” he said.

In a luncheon address, John J. DeGioia, who seven years ago became the first lay president of Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington, talked about the leadership of a Catholic university today.

As a new president, he said, he faced the challenge of sustaining the university’s Jesuit and Catholic identity in the new millennium, and needed to ask, “What would enable us to do what is needed to be who we are?”

He described efforts undertaken to seek out new talent “that might not ordinarily” be sought, along with new ideas and institutional structures that might “enable you to do some things differently.” Attention was given to tapping into old resources such as Ignatian spirituality in new ways, he said.

DeGioia, responding to a question from the audience, said he thinks that after Pope Benedict XVI’s U.S. visit this year “a number of us will feel a sense of confidence and empowerment.”

Among the other speakers was Father John J. Wall, president of the Chicago-based Catholic Church Extension Society, which aids dioceses and parishes in U.S. mission regions. The church is not “member-driven”; it is “mission-driven,” he said, and it constantly creates experiences oriented to mission.

As the former pastor of Chicago’s historic Old St. Patrick’s Church, a downtown parish with a big young-adult population, he also stressed the need for the church to reach out to young adults in parish life.

Jim Lundholm-Eades, director of parish services and planning for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, introduced a resource titled “An Assessment Tool for Parish Ministry and Management,” developed by a round-table subcommittee he chaired.

Using quantifiable measures of parish effectiveness, he said, it identifies a parish’s strengths “in areas of best practices” and its potential for improvement.

Butler said in an interview that he believes the challenge at the parish level “is getting both the leadership and management working together.” The FADICA head said that if an organization has leadership without management things may not get done, but “bureaucracy and immobility” may result from “management without leadership.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.