These Times Call for Virtuous Leaders

By Kathryn Jean Lopez Published on December 5, 2015

Did you know that you are created for greatness?

My friends at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, want to make sure you do. They’ve established an MBA program in “virtuous leadership” to help remind people who they were created to be — and that their habits could transform a humanity seemingly drowning in loneliness, despair and fear.

The university is teaming up with author and lawyer Alexandre Havard, who founded an institute on virtuous leadership after writing a book of the same name. Based in Moscow, he shares his message with business executives and university students.

Havard’s book, subtitled An Agenda for Personal Excellence, begins with the principle that leadership needs to be rooted in the classic virtues.

“Virtue is a habit of the mind, the will and the heart, which allows us to achieve personal excellence and effectiveness,” he says. Leadership is intrinsically linked to virtue. Why? Because “virtue creates trust,” and “because virtue … is a dynamic force that enhances the leader’s capacity to act. Virtue allows the leader to do what people expect of him.”

Havard explains in his book: “It was my happy lot to be born to and raised by people of exceptional virtue. That may sound corny to people of modern sensibility, but it’s true. I refer to family members, beginning with my excellent parents and their parents — immigrants to France from the Soviet Union. They were people of heart who lived magnanimity, humility, prudence, courage, self-control, and justice as naturally as they breathed.”

He points to Joan of Arc, whose own martyrdom came because of people who had lost focus, who couldn’t see light when it was right in front of them. Havard quotes poet and singer Leonard Cohen, who wrote of Joan at the stake: “I saw the glory in her eye.” He quotes Joan herself: “Help yourself and God will help you.” Both parts count there. As Havard puts it: “She trusted fully in God, and fully in herself.”

I think that reflects some of the frustration you see on the cover of the New York Daily News, that declares that “God isn’t fixing” things. When blood is shed, prayer is important — but so are our efforts.

And our efforts can’t be confined to policy. We have to give our lives to the work of reformation, restoration, reparation, renewal. We need to see human life as the tremendous, incomparable gift that it is, and help people see it and believe it.

This is not empty self-esteem. This is being aware of your own shortcomings, weaknesses and mistakes and having the humility to seek that which is above, to see man as more than of this world. If a person sees life as a gift, he will start seeing his life-giving potential. He will want to create, not destroy. “He must also be aware of his own talents,” Havard writes, “and learn to rely on them.”

Beware, of course, of vanity. “Man in himself is pure nothingness,” Havard writes, whereas a man who sees himself as made in the image of God “understands that he is not just a material being but also a spiritual one. He can understand this through reason — through his rational intelligence and free will.”

But in a world that has stopped making sense to a lot of people, our lack of faith is exposed. Man, as Havard puts it, “is incapable of understanding himself by reason alone. He does not know who he is. Faith is essential.”

In recent days, there has been talk about rhetoric needing to be toned down, along with a simultaneous doubling-down on hardened ideology.

Daily News — and any prayer shamers — be cautioned. And believers, believe! Let it be seen.

Rhetoric matters. So does the way we live our lives. The best practices in the world won’t truly matter if they are not authentic.

“Magnanimity is the thirst to lead a full and intense life; humility is the thirst to love and sacrifice for others,” Havard writes. These things together give life. This combination is light. See how we need it?

Take the courses, get the immersion, read the books. Lead, already. Times such as these need it.


Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at [email protected].

COPYRIGHT 2015 United Feature Syndicate


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