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Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World Hardcover – August, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 101 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What can a 16th-century priest tell a 21st-century business executive about leadership? Plenty, believes this author, who points out that from a 10-man "company" founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in 1540, the Jesuits are now the world's largest religious order, with 21,000 professionals. In this absorbing, lucid book, Lowney, who left a seven-year stint as a Jesuit seminarian to become a managing director at J.P. Morgan, explores how the Jesuits have successfully grappled with challenges that test great companies-forging seamless multinational teams, motivating performance, being open to change and staying adaptable. As he takes the reader on an engaging romp through slices of Jesuit history, Lowney references four Jesuit pillars of success: self-awareness (reflection), ingenuity (embracing change), love (positive attitudes toward others) and heroism (energizing ambitions). Despite the emphasis on the four pillars, this is no formulaic "12-steps-to-success" tome. Rather than focusing on what leaders do, Lowney shows how the Jesuit approach focuses on who leaders are. His conversational voice draws the reader in as he unfolds leadership lessons from some unlikely Jesuit role models, including explorer Benedetto de Goes, linguist Matteo Ricci and mathematician and astronomer Christopher Clavius. Lowney's passion for history is appealing, and he is careful not to sugarcoat his historical role models. Professionals looking for a One-Minute type of business book won't find it here, but more reflective businesspeople of faith will find Lowney's insights a breath of fresh air.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“Entertaining and well researched, this is a must-read for any business leader, and an inspirational read for anyone who wants to be a better human being.”
—Walter Gubert, Chairman of the investment bank, J. P. Morgan

 “Lowney does a wonderfully engaging job of making clear the connections between our current leadership challenges and the principles employed so effectively by the Jesuits.”
—Edward J. Kelly III, President and CEO, Mercantile Bankshares Corporation

“In this absorbing, lucid book, Lowney... explores how the Jesuits have successfully grappled with challenges that test great companies. Reflective business people of faith will find Lowney’s insights a breath of fresh air.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This 450-year-old institution [seems] as current today as it was four centuries ago. Lowney shows us how every employee can and should be a leader and that love-driven leadership does work.”
—Richard K. Green, Former President and COO, Blistex, Inc.

 “This informative, fascinating book tells how Jesuits produced both outstanding individual leaders and a culture of leadership. This is a book to be enjoyed, pondered, and put into practice."
- John W. Padberg, S.J., Director, Institute of Jesuit Sources CIP

“In his book, Heroic Leadership, Chris Lowney uses the history and tradition of the Jesuit order to articulate a model for authentic, moral leadership.  As Governor of Colorado, Heroic Leadership helped me think about how  to lead better than any other book out there.”
Bill Ritter, Jr.
Former Governor of Colorado
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Loyola Press (August 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0829418164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0829418163
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #552,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A thought-provoking yet straightforward book of value to anyone interested in how to make an organization more successful. Whether or not you care for the spiritual aspects of the Jesuits, their extraordinary success from the earliest days and the principles which drove them apply directly to the modern day enterprise and offer lessons that counter many current management techniques. After all, a group that taught its members to be flexible in the face of rapid change, to set ambitious goals, to think globally, and to take risks seems to have had in mind the challenges facing many managers today -- yet those modes of thinking were developed more than 450 years ago. Not author's thunder, but any 10-person start-up with no experience in education which had 30 colleges up and running in a decade -- without modern day communications or transportation -- and then surpassed its competitors to become the largest of its kind, 450 years later boasting 21,000 professionals -- bears taking a look at in an era of 3 year wonders. How did they do it? Read the book.
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Jesuit high school and college. But then again I think just about every Jesuit school graduate would say the same thing.
Ten men, no money, no business plan and within ten years they had thirty schools established and running.
And not only has the Jesuit order survived for over four hundred years (after its abolition by the Pope everywhere but in Russia), but it has thrived. There is simply no comparable for-profit corporation with that same history of longevity and success.
Igantius Loyola set out some clear policies that survive and work to this day.
Almost thirty years out from high school graduation I value my Jesuit education more than ever. What I've found is that the ability to reason, calculate, write and think is much more rare than I previously thought. To this I have the Society of Jesus to thank. I really can't imagine my life without my Jesuit education.
The Jesuit high school course of study is essentially the same for my son's class of 2007 as it was for my class of 1975. But it should be noted that the Jesuits have adapted and requirements in Greek and Latin are no longer there. The key here is some foreign language is essential for a high school student.
Money can come and go but education lasts and that can't be taken away from you.
There were lots of things I didn't know about the Jesuits that I learned in this book. Looking back I can see where these principles were applied. Things such as "only the best teachers."
There is a definite Jesuit "way we do things" which is consistent at all Jesuit schools.
The references to "The Spiritual Exercises" were helpful and enlightening.
Some of the historical discussion about Paraguay, China and India was either unclear or slightly too long.
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Format: Hardcover
Leaders need followers, right? This engagingly written book warns us that it is precisely this kind of thinking that has produced the vacuum of leadership that has recently rocked corporate America. Lowney finds a profoundly different way to think about leadership in the early history of the Jesuits. Through fascinating stories about Jesuit astronomers, linguists, explorers, and high school teachers, he illuminates a kind of leadership in which "everyone leads, and everyone is leading all the time," and in which leadership consists of unlocking the leadership potential in others. Certainly this is a book for "professional" leaders, like corporate managers. However, it is equally, if not more, a book for those of us whose leadership will always occur in less conspicuous venues.
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Format: Hardcover
Chris Lowney has written a beauty of book bringing into focus leadership principles first implemented 450 years ago when Jesuit founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, established a leadership culture that led to one of the great organizational success stories in history. And along with the lessons on leadership, Lowney's readers also get a great story on several important chapters in world history.

Loyola builds on love driven leadership, an approach to leadership based on the notion that everyone has leadership potential, and true leaders unlock that potential in others. The how of unlocking potential is rooted in an orientation to "greater love than fear." This notion of leadership fits well with the growing trend of "people centered leadership" as evidenced by best selling books authored by Pat Lencioni, John Maxwell, and others. This is a welcomed change from former corporate speak where sports figures and a towel snapping, take-no-prisoners model took center stage

Lowney details Loyola's four pillars of success: self-awareness; ingenuity; love; and, heroism. The first step to leadership is self-leadership which springs from personal beliefs and attitudes. Throughout the book, Lowney highlights Loyola's belief that self-awareness is linked to leadership showing through example how leaders thrive by understanding who they are and what they value, by becoming aware of unhealthy blind spots or weaknesses that can derail them, and by cultivating the habit of continuous self-reflection and learning.

Loyola's spiritually based approach to leadership also identifies attachments in life as obstacles to leading. He also underscores how ingenuity disposes people not to just think out of the box but to live outside the box.
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