Photo: Opus Dei Communications office
Saints live integrated lives; they are masters at uniting spirituality with everyday life and sanctifying the ordinary moments of each day. Saints actively love God through everything they do and see Christ is the people they encounter. Because of this, Catholic often turn to the saints for spiritual guidance; yet, the saints can also offer much in the way of practical advice.
St. Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei, combines spiritual insight with a practical management philosophy. In the establishment of Opus Dei, he developed a style of leadership which combines virtue and efficiency – a leadership style which can greatly benefit other organizations seeking to unite faith and practicality.
About St. Josemaría Escrivá
St. Josemaría is a modern saint. Born in 1902, he lived in Spain and was ordained a priest in 1925. Several years later, he received a vision from God commissioning the foundation of Opus Dei, an organization dedicated to sanctifying everyday life. Consisting mostly of laypeople, Opus Dei supported holiness in all aspects of daily life and attracted many followers.
In founding Opus Dei, St. Josemaría had to lead both spiritually and practically. He shepherded his people in faith, but he also made organizational decisions and created a culture of mutual trust and openness with his fellow workers. His leadership approach both effective and personal, and he is a vibrant witness of holiness.
A Saintly Management Philosophy
Formation plays a foundational role in St. Josemaría’s management style. Personal integrity matters just as much, if not more, as professional capability. St. Josemaría viewed the human person with primary importance, which led to an emphasis on relationship and virtue in the workplace. With well-formed colleagues, he could entrust others with the important work of Opus Dei, always trusting in the value of collaboration.
St. Josemaría emphasized collegiality among all collaborators. To this day, Opus Dei operates on teamwork rather than individual projects. Through small teams, a variety of perspectives enrich projects, facilitate relationships, and provide empowering opportunities for mentorship and growth. Collegiality leads to the trust that enabled St. Josemaría’s management style.
In his leadership, St. Josemaría chose to macro-manage, not micromanage. By trusting in the capabilities of his companions, he gave them the freedom to creatively and effectively address the topic at hand. This approach allowed St. Josemaría to attend to the overarching mission of Opus Dei while others devoted their individual talents to the components required for enacting the mission.
A Multitude of Holy Leaders
St. Josemaría Escrivá is not the only saint with practical advice to give. Throughout the Church’s history, many holy men and women handled temporal affairs with prudence and faith. St. Benedict of Nursia understood effective organizational structure and culture, which led the Benedictines to flourish, largely thanks to his famous Rule. St. Teresa of Avila enacted institutional change, reformed the Carmelites, and founded over a dozen monasteries. Sts. Louis and Zelié Martin ran a successful family business and balanced finances with faith. And Servant of God Dorothy Day melded ministry, poverty, and mission-oriented structure in the Catholic Worker, which still functions as a unique witness to the possibilities born of faith. The saints lead us to holiness, often teaching us that the spiritual and the mundane are not distinct and separate, but are deeply intertwined.
The webinar “The Management Lessons of St. Josemaría Escrivá” (see below) explains St. Josemariá’s practical recommendations for management and explores the organizational culture of Opus Dei.