in the spirit of St. Augustine


Characteristics of  Leadership in the Spirit of Augustine


Leadership is an attitude rather than an office or a role

All are called to exercise leadership, both in terms of good example and of healthy initiative; leadership, is not, in other words, to those in positions of authority. Those with responsibility for more than themselves may bear greater burdens in some ways, but that is a way of pointing out the value of mutual awareness and respect.


Leadership is essentially collaborative: it works with rather than just for others 

Learning together with others was a lifelong experience for Augustine, as student, as retired rhetor, as priest, and as bishop. He was always building a learning community; where all are learners, collaboration moves beyond ‘working together’ to sharing in the building of the common good.  



Responsibility and accountability - not "one-way streets"

For Augustine, one cannot love what is not known; leadership, then, was seen in a relational way; responsibility and accountability were set within human relations. Knowing the impact of choices/decisions on others leads to more lasting decisions because they are not imposed on relationships but arise from them. 



Trust is both basis and result of working together 

All sorts of moral dimensions might fall under this caption. When it characterizes a workplace or a relationship, it is a prize. When it is absent, that is usually a sign of some deeper issue.




Respect for that which is intangible

The spirit of any human endeavor can be more or less defined or definable. Augustine was always reaching for "something more" - whether it was about God, faith, human dignity, interpersonal respect or truth. This phrase, in other words, is simply meant to caution against the merely legalistic or rule-based attitudes that often get in the way.

Why talk about  Leadership in the spirit of St. Augustine?

At this time in the history of Villanova University, legal, administrative and social changes have led to significant adaptations in the way the university operates – a normal and necessary process. Villanova is now seen as a national research university that is founded on a rich, liberal arts education. While changes can be challenging, they also afford an opportunity to take  another look at how to fulfill its Catholic and Augustinian mission.  

The following comments do that from the point of view of the spirit of St. Augustine which affirms the good and the beautiful in others as gifts from God.       

Underscoring the essentially collaborative dimensions of Augustine as a leader in his time will allow us to re-claim in a conscious and explicit way the best of Villanova's past and present. Augustinian leadership, in other words, seek to build the future on the basis of having faculty, staff and administration attuned to one another’s deeds and difficulties, thus allowing all to forge a thoughtful balance between the academic, research, and business needs of the university.

What is  Leadership in the spirit of Augustine?

Augustinian leadership is an attitude, not just a way of defining someone’s role or position. The Augustinian way emphasizes being with others, even when serving them: “I am a bishop for you; withyou, I am a Christian.” By seeking to cooperate and collaborate with friend and foe, Augustine was a leader in his time. How does his example inspire what we do well and challenge renewal as well – not just in formal contexts, but in the day-to-day realities of university life?

Some reflections from the point of view of Augustine’s inner disposition and on his practice will provide a good basis for discussing today’s challenges.


  Allan Fitzgerald, O.S.A.     
The Augustinian Institute