There are many vital challenges that still test great companies today including forging seamless multi-national teams, motivating inspired performance, and remaining "change ready" and strategically adaptable. Many of the behaviors modern companies value today include the ability to innovate, remaining flexible and adapting constantly, setting ambitious goals, thinking globally, moving quickly, and taking risks. Now these ideas sound textbook ready but, believe it or not, many of them find their origin in the "Society of Jesus" or the Jesuits – the largest religious order in the Catholic Church launched over 450 years ago by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Some of the aspects of Jesuit-style leadership carry the uncomfortable and even kooky ring common to provocative new ideas. But that is just it – they are not new ideas. For example, St. Ignatius of Loyola and his colleagues were convinced that people perform their best in a supportive, encouraging, and positively charged environment. Therefore he exhorted his "managers" to create environments filled with "greater love than fear." The thought or idea of a loving work environment may take some time to sink in. The Jesuit principles make a company better because they make individuals better, are rooted in the notion that we are all leaders, and that our whole lives are filled with leadership opportunities.
Leadership is not reserved for a few "pooh-bahs" sitting atop the corporate pyramid. Nor do leadership opportunities arise only at work. A person can be a leader in everything he or she does at work – or in daily life. This means that we can teach others and learn from them as well. If you think about it, leadership is something you can do in the ordinary course of your day.
Now you may be thinking that St. Ignatius was a Catholic priest in a males-only organization and that these are not beliefs you hold in any way. The Jesuits did not become leaders simply by adhering to particular religious beliefs but more so by the way they lived and worked. Their belief was that you should work as if success depends on your own efforts – but trust as if it all depended on God. This was stated more bluntly by St. Ignatius' successor, Diego Lainez, when he said, "While it is true that God could speak by the mouth of an ass, this would be considered a miracle. This would certainly be the case in a man who lacks common sense but hopes to be a success by merely praying for it."