In “The Courage to Lead” James Heft, S.M. explores the intersection of courage and leadership as it applies to Catholic school leaders with the goal of producing a theologically sound and professionally relevant approach to leadership. The author accomplishes this task using four categories of sources: scripture, theology, leadership theory, and modern culture.
Heft found that in the theological literature, courage is a virtue and cannot stand on its own; it must always be seen in the context of the rest of the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, and temperance, or it risks devolving into either cowardice or rashness.
All of the virtues ultimately take the form of courage and none of the virtues can manifest themselves without it.
Leadership, for Heft, is “the responsibility each of us has to be courageous persons who build the kingdom of God.” He ties this description to the theory of “servant leadership” (Greenleaf 1977) and later to Heifetz (1994) and contrasts it with the popular vision of leadership espoused by Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989). Heft finds the central contradiction between the two approaches centers on community.
The servant leader always sees individuals as embedded in communities,
whereas Covey assumes a radical form of individualism.
Heft concludes with his finding that there are two specific challenges Catholic leaders face today requiring the virtue of courage: issues of justice and diversity. Issues of justice include access and affordability to Catholic schools no matter a student’s socio-economic or geographical position and the necessity and difficulty of Catholic schools teaching the social doctrine of the Church in a polarized political environment. Issues of diversity center around the elevation of a false notion of tolerance to the highest virtue in much of modern American culture, a notion that avoids particulars and so can make no judgments about right or wrong, good or evil, and thwarts mature moral thinking and awareness.
Heft concludes without suggesting further avenues of research.