September 11, 2009

Program offers opportunity to learn to ‘lead like Jesus’

By Mary Ann Wyand

Learn from the Master.

Described as “a chance to learn powerful leadership skills from the greatest role model of all time,” this unique administrative skills-building program effectively and creatively expands upon the popular slogan “What would Jesus do?”

Owen Phelps, a Ph.D. and director of the Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute in Durand, Ill., will present the first ever “Catholic Lead Like Jesus Encounter” on Oct. 10 at St. Therese of the Infant Jesus (Little Flower) School, 1401 N. Bosart Ave., in Indianapolis.

The program is based on his new book, The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus, which is published by Our Sunday Visitor.

Phelps developed the Catholic version of this countercultural leadership concept based on the ecumenical Lead Like Jesus movement with permission from co-founder Ken Blanchard, the co-author of The One Minute Manager, a best-seller, and Lead Like Jesus.

By studying Christ’s examples of discipleship as a shepherd, servant and steward, Phelps said, participants will acquire principles of sound leadership to help transform their business practices and outlook on life.

“Modern research shows that servant leadership really, really works,” Phelps explained in a telephone interview on Sept. 2, “and the notion of steward and shepherd follow right along. Servant leadership is ‘It’s not about me.’ Steward leadership is ‘It’s not mine.’ Shepherd leadership says ‘People are precious.’ ”

He said Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, researched hundreds of companies, developed five levels of leadership, and found that the best Level Five leaders are distinguished by humility and a focus on mission.

“If I were teaching this material in an MBA program, we would be talking about the same principles,” Phelps said. “The only differences will be the language and the model. In Lead Like Jesus, we can talk about the greatest leadership model of all time.”

An adjunct professor at Cardinal Stritch University’s College of Business and Management in Milwaukee, Phelps has taught this ecumenical concept for six years, and felt called by God to create the Catholic vision of these best business practices.

“We talk about how we are the Body of Christ,” Phelps said. “You’ll hear people say, ‘I want my organization to work like a well-run clock.’ We tell people today that, ‘You want your organization to work like a healthy body. … Think of an organization as a [living] organism.’ ”

The Catholic version of the program is based on Scripture, specifically on the Gospel teachings of Jesus, he said, as well as on Church teachings, Vatican II documents, papal encyclicals and statements from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Stop and think about this,” Phelps said, using the Last Supper as an example.

“What would you talk about if you knew you were getting together with your friends at dinner tonight and that tomorrow you would die?” he asked. “Would you talk about the weather? The Colts? How is [Peyton] Manning doing? … What is really important to you?”

In his address to the people of the Americas, Phelps said, the late Pope John Paul II talked about the role of the laity.

“What does the Church teach us that our role, our vocation, is in life?” he asked. “What are we here for? It’s to sanctify the world.

“At the end of Mass on Sunday, when we’re thinking about how much time there is before the kick-off, we’re also hearing the priest say, ‘Go and love and serve the Lord,’ ” Phelps said. “We have that commissioning [from God], and that’s how we sanctify the world, mainly through our example, but from time to time through our words as well. I’m not sure that a lot of laity really have the sense of the importance of this [call to mission] in God’s plan, but the Church has been teaching it for a long time. We’ve got to help people get back in touch with that.”

Every person is called to be a leader in various life situations, he said. “Leadership is something we all are doing all the time. In fact, many of the best examples of Jesus-like leadership today are found in the home.”

The Oct. 10 program at Little Flower Parish costs $25 per person, and includes lunch and materials.

Father Robert Gilday, pastor of Little Flower Parish, said a former parishioner, Charles Finkbiner of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., is underwriting a portion of the program, which normally costs $100 per person, to make it available to more people.

“Chuck is a member of the Lead Like Jesus board of directors, an active Catholic and an ardent supporter of this program,” Father Gilday explained. “He introduced me to the book Lead Like Jesus [written] by his friends, Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges, and I was really touched by its message. He’s been the driving force in trying to bring a ‘Lead Like Jesus Encounter’ to Indianapolis, and we’re grateful that his support makes it possible to offer the program at a fraction of the ordinary cost.”

(Advance registrations for the “Catholic Lead Like Jesus Encounter” are required by calling Tom Costello at Little Flower Parish at 317-357-8352, ext. 30, or sending an e-mail to before the Sept. 25 reservation deadline. Payment can be made by check or credit card. Space is limited, and reservations will be filled as payments are received.)

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