by Tara Wengronowitz
Fr. Casey Beaumier, a beloved Jesuit at Boston College, presented a talk on leadership in the Jesuit tradition Tuesday, November 11, in Devlin Hall. Warmly welcoming the dozen or so students who attended, Fr. Casey introduced himself and expressed his desire for the talk to be an interactive discussion with the students. He asserted that anticipation and influence are two important and distinctively Jesuit aspects of leadership.
By anticipation, Fr. Casey referred to leaders who are able to anticipate needs of others before they have been articulated. In order to develop this skill, leaders must reflect and come to know humanity. Fr. Casey acknowledged the leadership style of Jesus Christ, who was able to be a leader to all people – sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. Jesus was able to meet people where they were and did preliminary work to anticipate what people’s needs would be before he met with them.
Fr. Casey emphasized a strategy for Jesuit leadership: Enter into other people’s doors so that they can come out ours. Like Jesus, we must be able to meet people where they are in order to be good leaders. We must be willing to enter into another’s door. We can’t be afraid of anyone because of who they are, where they’ve been, where they’re going, or what they represent. We need to be open to all of humanity.
This acceptance of humanity is taught to us through our Jesuit education at Boston College. Exposure to literature, philosophy, history, and more, from a variety of different cultures, opens our eyes to more than ourselves. Only by entering into other people’s doors, can we lead them to something greater.
Next, Fr. Casey turned his attention to the idea of servant leadership, another important aspect of Boston College education that helps students become men and women for others. Father Casey defined servant leadership as being other-centered, as overcoming oneself in order to be present for other people. The paradox of this outlook is that the more a person gives away his or her leadership, the more than person rises up as a leader. This idea ties closely to the Christian belief that the more a person gives to God, the more he or she will receive from and be blessed by God.
Fr. Casey told the story of a beggar who is asked by a king what he can contribute. The beggar gives the king three grains of rice. The king returns to the beggar the same three grains of rice covered in gold. The beggar realizes that if he had given more, he would have received more.
In our culture, it can be hard to give ourselves away; it can be hard to be humble. Father Casey provided three distinctively Jesuit suggestions to help us in this journey to be good leaders.
The first is mentorship. College is a crucial time in spiritual development and it is highly important to have a spiritual mother or father, a conversation partner, with whom one can be completely vulnerable. This person should be outside one’s normal circle of friends. This should be a person with whom to discuss visions, successes, and failures. Through this conversation partner, the capacity for leadership emerges. Fr. Casey spoke candidly of his mentor when he was in college. He was able to open up to this spiritual father, and their relationship allowed him to grow into the person he has become. Only after sharing this story did Father Casey reveal that his mentor is none other than Fr. Leahy, the president of Boston College.
The second recommendation is availability. Fr. Casey noted that BC students are strivers, over-extenders, willing to throw themselves into anything and everything. This leaves them very little time for reflection on their activities. According to Fr. Casey, if there is no reflection on what these activities cultivate in the heart and mind, they are for naught. Availability was defined in the talk as carving out time to not be programmed, to not be scheduled. Fr. Casey asked the following question that left the students silent: If you have a desire or a need, do you make time for it?
The third proposal is self-care. Fr. Casey explained that the person is the temple of the spirit, and as such, should be cared for. Fr. Casey delineated five specific areas for care: spiritual, intellectual, physical, social, and aesthetic. He said aesthetic is the most neglected pillar of our temple. He asked the students: “Have you noticed that Fall is going on right now…Have you seen the ocean?” He expressed that we need to take time to appreciate the beauty of the world around us and that when we live near the ocean, it is not right for us to only see it when we are flying into and out of Logan.
Fr. Casey said he loves to spend his life. “I would rather burn out than rust out,” he said. If we were to die tomorrow, would we like the way we spent our lives?