At the Yeshua Institute, we insist that “Leadership begins on the inside.”

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, had the same view. In his book Primary Greatness, he writes: “Everything starts with the individual, because all meaningful change comes from the inside out.”

We also share with Covey the sense that human development does not reach its ultimate expression in the transition from dependence to independence. Rather, it is found in the transition from independence to interdependence, which reflects the true nature of reality.

So the individual cannot be understood – indeed, the individual cannot even emerge – except in the larger context of a community. As my mentor Dr. Ray Stroik has noted, “We are one-anothered into existence.” We are also one-anothered into development, into maturity, and ultimately into eternity. The fact is that every one of us begins with two of us.

Nonetheless, the individual is a key piece of the interlocking puzzle of humanity – so building a better church and a better world, for that matter, has to be done one person at a time.

Only when a person commits to being a Jesus-like S3 Leader – and then recommits every day, indeed, every conscious moment of the day – is there reason to hope for anything better. Of course, as more individuals commit to becoming that kind of leader, hope grows exponentially.

That is why when we present the Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus Encounter we begin by asking people to read and discuss 1 Corinthians 12:4 through 13:13. It is just one of several places where St. Paul presents the notion that we are all organs in a single body. We are all living parts of a larger whole. And as systems thinkers would quickly add, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” (Indeed, while this may sound counterintuitive, it has been verified empirically time and again in a multitude of contexts.)

Then we immediately begin our exploration of S1 (Servant) Leadership by focusing on the Heart dimension – what matters most, or should matter most, to the individual person who wishes to be a Jesus-like Leader.

Thus, we are building a better church and a better world one individual at a time – even when we present to 25 or 50 or 100 individuals all together in the same room. Each must commit his or her heart to becoming a Jesus-like Leader or it will not happen.

That makes the task of nurturing Jesus-like Leaders daunting. In the Catholic Church alone there are about 1.3 billion members. That’s a lot of conversions.

Fortunately, we don’t have to get the job done by ourselves.

We are nothing if not tools of the Holy Spirit. And it’s encouraging to be reminded often that Pope Francis shares our mission, vision and goals. Since becoming the pontiff in 2013, he has spoken of the need for leaders in our homes, workplaces and congregations who aspire to model Jesus’ leadership and behave as servants, stewards and shepherds.

He has also affirmed the importance of leadership by the laity and he has warned of the dangers of clericalism and careerism within the clerical ranks. In all the relationships that inevitably arise in the church he has urged high trust, mutual regard and mercy across the board.

I get up every morning convinced that we are doing his work, the work of the Spirit, the work of Jesus and the will of the Father. It’s comforting to proceed with that assurance, bolstered so often by the loving words of this Holy Father.

But I’m the first to admit that we need more help.

The Yeshua Institute’s history is nothing if not a collection of miracles. Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t reach out to us to ask a question or express gratitude for a contribution we have made to their life.

We never know when or from where these interactions will come. But we are absolutely confident that they will come because they have been coming to us since the first week we reached out to fellow Catholics more than 10 years ago.

We need your prayers. We need your referrals. We need you to help connect us to your networks of fellow Catholics looking to enhance their discipleship in the days God gives them to grow.

Then there’s one more thing you can do: You can donate to help underwrite the cost of our work that is not covered by modest fees.

Whatever ways you decide to partner with us to help build a better church and a better world, please know that we are grateful for your support and we welcome you into our fold.

Best wishes for a grace-filled and growth-filled Advent.

Owen Phelps, Ph.D., Director

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