I am struggling over what it means to be a Catholic striving for meekness and humility while also being a business leader. It seems that meekness does not get results — and pride definitely fuels assertiveness and, thus, success. How do I reconcile these competing character traits?
The answer to your question is more about the connotations of these terms than about resolving a real conflict. Being meek is often perceived as being weak because meekness carries with it the assumption of submissiveness. However, being submissive is one of the greatest signs of character and strength in a leader.
The saints, who could be considered the strongest people ever to live, were submissive to all righteous authority — even when it was inconvenient, or worse. Their meekness allowed them to engage only in consequential battles and to stay focused on what is important. Without meekness people get caught up in irrelevant bickering and tend to engage in fruitless debates. These can lead to resentment, envy and even revenge.
Strong leaders avoid those negative characteristics with meekness as a shield.
Christ said that he is meek and humble of heart, yet he turned over the tables in the Temple and called the unrighteous a brood of vipers. It was certainly not pride that inspired those actions. It was his loyal submission to — or, if you like, his meekness toward — his Father that motivated his decisive actions.
Being meek also assumes being compliant. It has been my experience that compliant leaders who have solid business acumen are excellent delegators. Most people, rightfully, think of compliance as a top-down issue. But leaders who delegate their authority to key team members should be compliant to the decisions those people make.
Christ delegated his authority to the Church, and every pope has had a slightly different approach to using that authority. They all differed somewhat on how to best communicate the truths of the faith, but they haven’t wavered on the content of faith and morals. The sort of accommodation that Christ offers the leaders of his Church is a great model for all people in authority. Leaders can follow Christ’s example by never accommodating an immoral act or even a morally neutral act that stands in opposition to the organizational mission, but they should accommodate specific unique and individualized ap-proaches to solutions whenever possible.
You say that pride fuels assertiveness and, thus, success. I believe that is half true. No doubt there is good pride. To take pride in your work is a markedly Catholic trait. We should do all of our work to glorify God; therefore, having pride in what pleases him is righteous. On the other hand, the personal pride that we have in ourselves is the root of all sin. It is not something that accelerates success in any way. In fact, it does the opposite.
Pride always comes with an equal dose of blindness. Leading with pride is like driving with a mirror as a windshield. It prevents you from seeing where you are going because the focus is on yourself. This causes you to run over things and people on your way to an inevitable crash.
Humility is the antidote to pride. It keeps your windshield clear because it is precise truth about oneself in the eyes of God. There is no greater strength than truth.
To achieve the right balance, I suggest you meditate daily on these words of St. Paul the Apostle, from his Second Letter to the Corinthians: “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
consultant Dave Durand
is online at DaveDurand.com.