This past weekend I offered a breakout session at my diocese’s biennial adult enrichment conference entitled “Administration as Service: Practicing Leadership in the Light of Christ.” I had planned to record the talk; unfortunately my laptop zonked out on me the day before and, while dealing with an unfamiliar machine, I forgot to start my audio recorder.
Instead of recording the talk in my office, I’ve decided to offer the major talking points as a series of posts.
I began the presentation by offering a story told to me by Barb Rossman, the first CEO I worked with in Catholic healthcare. Like many other hospital administrators, Barb started as a nurse. She enjoyed having her “hands on patients,” helping them to get better. She eventually became a manager and finally entered administration.
When she became an administrator, however, she had a difficult time understanding how her role fit into the mission of the hospital. As a nurse it was clear: her job was to help treat patients in a very direct way. How did her new role contribute to the health of patients? She no longer had her “hands on patients”; what was her new role about?
What she eventually came to realize is that, while she was no longer a direct caretaker, her role was now to be a “caretaker to the caretakers.” Her role was to ensure that those working for her had the tools, resources, and knowledge to do their jobs well. This was the spirit that Barb took to her role: to help those who help the patients.
Barb’s story is a perfect example of Christ’s admonition in the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel: “[T]hose who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mk 10:42-45)
In fact, this sort of leadership can lead us to holiness! As the Council Fathers stated at the Second Vatican Council:
[I]n the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification.’ However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others. (Lumen Gentium 39)
In other words, no matter what your station in life, you are called to live it out in holiness!
As those baptized into Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we do this by participating in the three-fold ministry of Christ: priest, prophet, and king. In the next three parts I will outline how administrators participate in these ministries through their work as leaders of their organizations.
Photo: Br. Lawrence Lew, OP / Flickr