The need for good leadership is essential for any institution to be successful over the long term. In our current context, many months into a pandemic (Covid-19), the rising awareness, anger, pain and frustration of racial inequalities that are becoming more public and part of the national conversation, and the wide-ranging uncertainty of so many areas that make both short and long-term planning extraordinarily challenging, the need for good leaders is even more important. Leaders in Jesuit higher education face the same societal challenges as any other institution of higher education. Jesuit higher education, however, whose mission is grounded in the charism and spirituality of Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), has within its tradition an incredible resource for sound decision-making and leadership formation.
Ignatian discernment is a process that helps people make important decisions. Overlapping at times with many other well-established decision-making processes, it may appear to be just one more tool for the toolkit. For some who look a bit more closely, they find it also includes some spiritual and/or religious aspects to the process that could seem helpful for the decision at hand. For those who take still a deeper look, Ignatian discernment invites one into a way of living, of being, even in the middle of incredibly turbulent times when important decisions must be made. Ignatian discernment provides a continuous process for leading that happens before, during, and after decisions are made. Because leadership is about making the best decisions for the groups one leads, discernment can be a cornerstone for effective leadership.
This paper seeks to describe some principles of Ignatian discernment. It will also highlight some similarities and differences from other sound decision-making practices and techniques. In the process, it will apply some of these principles to a program called The Ignatian Colleagues Program (ICP), a program offered to faculty and senior-level administrators in the AJCU network.[i] ICP offers these leaders in Jesuit higher education a way to engage more fully the process of becoming discerning leaders in this Ignatian tradition, by exploring more fully their own decision-making process and considering how they might make this Ignatian style of discerning leadership their own.
DeFeo, Joseph A.. "Discerning Leaders: Forming Jesuit Higher Education Administrators and Faculty in the Ignatian Tradition." Jesuit Higher Education: A Journal 9, 2 (2020). https://epublications.regis.edu/jhe/vol9/iss2/5