Leadership
in the spirit of St. Augustine

 

Augustine's Leadership

Augustine lived in a world and at a time when leadership “required re-envisioning” (Kaufman) – and he joined with the North African episcopate (a fiercely individualistic group of men) to shift the focus from ‘fighting the enemy’ (whether pagan or Donatist) to building up the Catholic community. He was rarely alone, but he always acted and interacted with a deep sense of his own weakness, that is, in truthful and unpretentious ways.  

“Servant leader” is an oft-used expression that can appear to say that leadership is the work of a single person – one person who serves others. Augustinian leadership, however, is more than that. Augustine’s focus was on working with others, not on the work that they  did for him or that he did for them. Leadership, in other words, cannot just be about the one who happens to be in charge. 

“I don't want to be saved without you.” – Sermon 17, 2

 

We all have one Master, after all, and we are fellow learners (condiscipuli) in the same school.” – Commentary on John 16, 3

 

“What terrifies me is what I am for you; I am comforted by what I am with you. I am a bishop for you; with you, I am a Christian. … If I find greater pleasure in having been redeemed together with you than having been placed in charge, then, as the Lord has commanded, I will more fully be your servant, grateful for the price which makes me worthy to be your fellow servant (conservus).” Sermon 340, 1

Augustine invited others to see the need to move in a very particular direction, trusting that the people were thoughtful enough to see in their own hearts what he was saying from the pulpit. Trust, therefore, was an essential part of his work – even in cases where it was misplaced (see but one example below: the case of Januarius). 

“Listen with me; I am not saying listen to me, but listen with me.” – Sermon 261, 2.

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