They were a learning community of the highest standards.
They were a community bonded together by the practice of the most rigorous spiritual disciplines ever developed.
They were a leadership group of the highest caliber.
And they were relentlessly "missional" on a global scale.
To be this kind of community, they sought after the very best candidates. Their pool of possible members would be from the top 1% of the European elite. Those who were spiritually devout, totally committed and highly motivated as self-starters and intellectually vigorous.
They would have to be equally at home teaching in the halls of academia and working in the wards of the leper hospitals.
They would have to be instantly ready to precisely obey orders given to them and equally prepared to innovate wildly in the moment.
Talk about BOTH/AND and a Level 5 level of leadership! The Jesuits were such leaders.
But, they weren't readily available. It was noted in their records, "Those who are good and learned are few." Even so, they did not relax their standards like so many Christian organizations do today. Warm bodies to fill empty positions was NOT the Jesuit way. They continued to recruit the
aptissimi (very best).
In fact, their recruiting motto/slogan was:
quamplurimi et quam aptissimi
As many as possible of the very best.
And when they weren't available or didn't excel, the Jesuit company came up with an obvious solution - train them, empower them, stretch them, educate them, raise them up ourselves if we can't find them elsewhere.
For the very HIGH calling and very HARD work of God in the world, we should seek after the very best we can find. If the very best don't exist or are not interested in what we invite them to, then we take those who are interested and available. Then, we provide rigorous learning and training and depth formation and turn them into the very best.
It takes time for organizations to do this. It requires a commitment of resources of time and money and personnel on the part of the organization. It needs major commitment to be a highly intentional, spiritually forming, learning organization. But that is what we need. That is what Jesus did for three years with the twelve. That is what the Jesuits have done for centuries.
Leaders - look for as many as possible of the very best. Train those you do have to be the very best.
And for all of us - let us seek to become the very best.
(The historic information in this post is from Heroic Leadership by Lowney. This is a study of Jesuit leadership and a core book I highly recommend.)
Leadership ConneXtions International