St. Thomas Aquinas is considered by many to be the Catholic Church’s greatest theologian and philosopher. Among the many great works he created, Aquinas wrote about the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. As I was reminded of these gifts during a recent Sunday church service, I thought it would be relevant to take them out of the spiritual realm and bring them to the workplace. I’ve renamed the list the Seven Gifts of Great Leaders.
1. Wisdom: Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” The free encyclopedia defines wisdom as “The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.” Leaders who can take these two ideas and blend them into their philosophy of leadership will avoid desperation by being excellent judges of the truth. Wise leaders always deal with the truth and will always act on that truth. Their judgment is always consistent and while their choices may not always be the most popular ones, they are always the best choices.
2. Knowledge: One certainly must possess knowledge in order to grow wisdom. Aquinas writes that the gift of knowledge perfects a person’s practical reason on matters of judgment about truth. As a leadership philosophy, one uses practical reasoning to decide how to act, i.e. how you will undertake a task. From a cognitive position, strong leaders ignore the unproductive possibilities in favor of productive ones. The more leaders gain knowledge, the better they are able to find the truth and make decisions consistent with that truth.
3. Counsel: We might also call this being able to provide the “right judgment.” Those we lead look to us for guidance on how things should be done. And, they expect decisions to be properly weighed before made and then made in the best interest of all people affected by the decision. That process is prudent and perfects a person’s practical reason I talked about in the previous point.
4. Fortitude: This is the expectation everyone has for their leader. They want to see courage and firmness of mind to accomplish what is right and ward off what can be detrimental to the welfare of people and the organization. Having the “intestinal fortitude” to do the right thing is a common description of a leader who uses this gift properly. The more difficult the decision, the stronger the fortitude needed to finish in the proper place. No one ever said leading was easy.
5. Understanding: Last month I wrote about “Common Sense” leadership. Possessing understanding makes one a “common sense” leader. Being able to exercise the right judgment; possessing the ability to follow the right principles of leadership requires understanding. Wisdom creates understanding thus allowing the right decision process to take place.
6. Piety: For me, piety in a leadership role means possessing goodness. In this sense, a pious leader would be one that always seeks to exemplify good and always seeks to bring out goodness in others and in the entity they lead. Does this always work? I wish I could say a resounding “yes” to that question. But the truth is that even the best of leaders will fail in achieving the goodness they seek. That however doe not mean a strong leader gives up on the idea of piety or goodness in the workplace.
7. Fear of the Lord: In this religious continuation, the word “fear” really means wonder and awe. So translated to leadership this means having the people you lead thinking the job you are doing is the best. They are in awe of the wisdom, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, understanding and piety you possess. When you’ve established this step in the leadership model, you’ve created great followship. And, as you know, if you have no followers, you are not leading.
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