Lead With Virtue: The Cardinals

Virtue: behavior showing high moral standards.synonyms: goodness, virtuousness, righteousness, morality, ethicalness, uprightness

How often do you consider virtue in your leadership role or organization? Not a lot? Let’s talk about how it can actually build up the core strength of your culture by intentionally giving it a home. I’ll be revisiting the various virtues and their application overtime but for now I’d like to give a broad overview for you to consider beyond your old college ethics class. If you’ve taken a personality test like the Meyers-Briggs or Enneagram, you may find these virtues helpful in shoring up your shortcomings.

Let’s start with the Cardinals or “hinge” virtues, four prime virtues that all other virtue hinges off of. Prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. These four have long history starting with Plato, working their way through time being refined by great thinkers such as Aristotle and Aquinas. Fascinating reads of course but these classics are just as relevant in the 21st century as they did in antiquity. Why? They speak to foundational character that is timeless.

Prudence: In other words, wisdom, taking knowledge and using it correctly. Are you making wise decisions as a leader? Are you giving permission to your staff to make wise decisions? Better yet, are you allowing and showing patience to your team so they can grow in wisdom, even if they fail. One of the greatest teachers is experience. Are you allowing yourself and/or your team to make mistakes that come with earned experience? If we don’t have that permission, albeit within control, then outside of the box thinking and creativity can be stifled. We lose depth and can stagnate.

Temperance: How are you temperate or reasonable in your work flow. If you’re an Enneagram 7 like me, you can chase ideas on a whim and get scattered pretty easily. Maybe you can get angry quickly as a 4 or 8. Working on your temperance strengthens your ability to control outbursts and time. Staying level and having self-control is important to leading stability.

Justice: Think about your team. Maybe they are staff, maybe volunteers. How are you treating them? Naturally, you’ll like some more than others but are you being equitable? Are you giving fair time and attention to each or are you punishing someone with unfair demands or even dialog? Maybe a hard working team member needs a justifiable raise. Maybe that failing or toxic member needs to be released? Communicating expectations and working on how you deliver justice helps build respect from your team.

Fortitude: Be brave. Leaders are faced with tough and sticky decisions or actions everyday. Creating vision, large investments, hiring/firing, accountability, etc. Indecision can slow down your progress and make organizations clunky. Bravery is action, even when you are afraid. Sometimes you need coaching or practice to move forward. If you’re a Enneagram 9, you might want to think this through.

Using the Cardinals is an easy way to check yourself as a leader and gives a little scaffolding to work from. Add these to your planner and ask yourself, how are you doing with them. You’ll find that by building off of this foundation of virtue, you’ll be leading a healthier team and more important a healthier you.


 

Adam Jarosz is the founder of Righteous Co. His vocation involves loving his wife Ani and two babies, Isabella and Wyatt. He also loves writing, hitting the weights, and building people up. Need advice on how to use your skills? Shoot him a message AdamJ@RighteousCo.com

Church, Get In The Game

Church, we need to get in the game.

By Church, I mean you and me, the Body of Christ. This means the faithful of course but I specifically want to address the youth and young adults out there. You’re not the Church of tomorrow, you’re the Church of today. Here is the field we are playing in and we need to get at it…

2019 A.D. in Buffalo, NY, the Church is taking a beating. Of course the Church has been through worse in history. Christians aren’t being fed to lions or lit on fire to illuminate the roads. But we have been better. What’s more, we can be better.

A few decades of erosion have been working on our foundation. Lack of engagement, uninspired faithfulness, relativism, and scandal have given our Church a weathered attitude. This is not the story of being Catholic. It’s time to snap out of it.

The Church which includes our parishes and Diocese as well as charities, schools, and ministries are sagging under the pressures. I want to use this moment of your attention to call you to arms. We can’t run from the fire, we need to run to it. 

It’s time to get in the game. Ask not what the Church can do for you, but what you can do for the Church. If we are the hands and feet of Christ, how are we moving? If our Body isn’t in motion, then we don’t move forward. 

Here is how you can help us win the fight for a better Church.

1. Pray: Make the time to get back into the pews (or chairs if the church is under repair) on Sunday. Be a part of the community prayer in the Mass. Show up, participate, listen, sing, learn, and reconnect. Pick up your bible and start with the Gospels or visit Jesus in Adoration. Pray for one another.

If you’re not registered at a parish and young adults are notorious with this, go to a parish and commit to the community. Stop bouncing around or leaning on the coattails of your parent’s registration. Belong and commit

Get in the game.

2. Time: There are plenty of roles that need to be done that just require some time and not a lot of training. Find them, commit to a time slot in a ministry that needs help. Greeters, core teams, catechists, money counters, Eucharistic ministers, and so on. Follow your strengths. Pick up the bulletin or look it up online and see a role that could use some hands.

Try things out. Find what clicks and stay long enough to be a leader and make changes if needed. Just don’t go in like a bull in a china shop. Be humble and learn from the role and the leader in place. 

Get in the game.

3. Talent: In addition to roles that need to be done, the Church needs your talent. You have skill. You’re good at that one thing. What is it? How can you use it in the Church? Ask someone how you can plug it in. Can you donate that skill? Can you apply that full-time?

Are you in banking or finance? Marketing and design? Build websites? IT? Barista and can make a good coffee? Set designer? Corporate trainer? CRM specialist? Chef? 

Get in the game.

4. Treasure: Yes the Church needs money to run. It especially needs funds to grow. I know, I know, you don’t want to pay for the scandal but let me put your mind at rest. 

Your donation in the envelope doesn’t go towards that. Upon This Rock doesn’t go towards that. Catholic Charities and Fund for the Faith doesn’t go towards that. The bishop sold his residence and some investments to do so. We’re also covered in insurance. If you’re running from the fire, it’s giving people on the front line less to work with. That’s us going backwards. 

Give your first fruits and be regular. Can you commit to 10% of your income? Shoot, can you commit to $20 a week? Lights need to be on, youth ministers need budgets, and the Church needs tools and people.

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered” Proverbs 11:25

Roll up your sleeves, get in the game, and let the Lord use you and your resources. Come with a servant’s attitude. Take a bit of that drive you have for school and workplace and bring it to God’s House. Give your first fruits of prayer, time, talent, and/or treasure. 

Collections and participation are down around the Diocese by 10-20% this year alone. The older generation that has been supporting the Church is dying off. Imagine what we would look like if we brought our talent and resources back into the game? Run to the fire. Take this to prayer with you. Ask the Lord how you can help. He’s knocking. 

Stoke the Fire

Dreamers and doers, you know what is difficult? Maintaining the fire.

It’s been a tough month with juggling time and fatigue. The full time job has been consuming. The babies, not sleeping. Home projects falling behind. The entrepreneurial side-hustle? Coals cooling.

If I’m going to use the locomotive as a metaphor, you can’t pull a train when the coals are cold. As I’m looking at my train sitting on the tracks, I know what it’s going to take to get it moving. I need to re-apply myself. One-step at a time, picking up where I left off. While it’s important to break and rest, the train needs to get to it’s destination.

What’s going to get the steam moving? Fuel. What’s my fuel? My purpose. What’s my purpose? My faith and family. Both of those get me up in the morning. I wake up alongside my wife and the kids act as an alarm clock, at 4am, 5am, or 6am and anywhere in between. That’s ok. I know I’m here to serve my purpose, the rest is nuts and bolts. Sometimes, you just need to remind yourself of that to get the fire going again. All the other stuff that slows you down is smaller and inconsequential. You just need to get the fire going again to blow through to the next train station.

As we dig and build out our visions using the various tool belts at our disposal, it’s important to feed the engine that drives it all. What is your purpose and are you feeding it? Are you stoking the fire?

3Tips for Go-Getters

The 3Tips Series continues with financial planner, firefighter, and fellow former Disney cast member, Greg Smith. Greg joined me over good Mexican food and cerveza for a conversation about what tips he would share to leaders getting up and at it. As a go-getter himself, Greg provides some excellent tips to ground yourself with as a leader. Consider applying these to your routine. Here is what he had to say…

  1. Be mindful with your time. “Success does not sleep. When you look at the successful person, the day starts with a solid morning routine. Wake up early, hit the gym, eat a hearty breakfast all before getting into the office. That starts each day on the right foot so you can get at it.” After sipping a Corona he continues, “Be intentional with your time and plan out the day. You always need to be on too. You’re always on even outside of the office because you don’t know who you are going to meet and influence. Opportunity could be everywhere.”
  2. You are never too old to learn. “If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards. You need to make the necessary steps to grow everyday, be the best you can be; continuing education, counseling, podcasts, reading, etc. You are never too old to learn.”
  3. Always put others interests ahead of you. “Whether volunteering or working, God’s blessings keep coming. Good people put others interests ahead of their own. As a firefighter, we have a duty towards all of our brothers and sisters in the community. Whoever you serve, you have the duty to them. Remember, even as a leader, you still serve your team.” Stopping to chew on his burrito bowl and think, Greg looked around the busy restaurant. As if catching inspiration from the hustle he continued, “An example of this is from Luke where Jesus left the ninety-nine for the one. We can apply this in any role we find ourselves in. The most vulnerable can get lost and we should keep an eye for that individual and work to find them. We need empathy towards their situation. The fruit of this will show in your work. It’s habitual and that habit grows like a seed.”

To wrap up, we caught up over life, family, and jobs. Before we polished off our food and beer Greg had one final thought, “Sometimes you’ll slow down and be tempted to stop. When you have a bad day, keep going. When you have a good day, keep going. Not all bad days last, just keep going.”


Greg Smith is a financial consultant for AXA Advisors and a Williamsville, NY volunteer firefighter. You can catch Greg out doing what he does best, serving others. Interested in finding out how Greg can help your finances? You can reach him at his email here.

Run To The Fire

I was talking to someone last week about the type of person they wanted to be, he told me that he wanted to be the kind of man that runs towards the fire, not away from it.

That really resonated with me in today’s climate. That’s a rare person indeed. Of course we all imagine ourselves the hero but when the flames are pouring out of a window, are we that person?

I’d like to think I am too. I was driving down the 33 a while back and I saw a house bellowing smoke off of one of the ramps. It was close so I pulled off quickly and followed a couple side streets to a house on fire. No response team was there yet. The fire was moving along, flames licking out some of the windows with a lot of smoke. It wasn’t a great part of town, many of the houses looked abandoned, this one included. I called 911 and named the address. Help was now on its way. It weighed on my mind that someone could be in there, unconscious. I was torn about going in to check, even going up to the door to see inside. Would I be a hero or would I be stupid? I didn’t know what I was doing. With no apparent distress I decided against it and watched. Help did arrive soon after and I watched as the teams did their work. I didn’t stay long to see anyone pulled out but I have wondered ever since, was someone in there? Could I have made a difference? I’ll never know.

Maybe it’s fear and self-doubt that keeps us back. Self preservation? Complacency? Maybe something else?

There are all sorts of proverbial fires that call us to action; fire with the family, relationships, work projects, life purpose, emergencies, etc. Do you want to be the kind of person who runs towards the fire? Or from it?

3Tips for Emerging Leaders

I love learning from people in action. It inspires me to be better when people are out there killing it, doing what they do best. I sat down with Director of Youth Ministry and entrepreneur, Lydia Zielinski, over a good cup of coffee to talk shop.

Lydia and I travelled to Poland a few years ago along with a contingent from Buffalo for World Youth Day. I really noticed her emerging leadership skills as she navigated her group through the rigors of pilgrimage. As a leader working both in a ministry and as an independent contractor expanding her business, Lydia offers plenty of drive and experience for any leader to learn from. I asked her what three tips she would pass on to other leaders if given the opportunity. Here is how she broke it down…

1. Communication. “Communicate well. Communication is key with people who share your vision. You need to be clear and concise with your team. By sharing your vision clearly and tapping what you need from your team, you can execute your larger mission.”

“I recently had an event where I really needed to lean into one of our partners for help. By building a healthy relationship leading up to this, I knew her skills well. From there we were able to communicate in a way that would utilize her strengths. When the time came, I knew exactly what I needed and how to approach her. I was able to be clear and to the point and we got the event done right.”

2. Delegation.“Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of you and your team is important to fill gaps. You have to assess and have a relationship with your team to know what they are capable of. Same for you too. By recognizing your own limits you can build a team you can lean on to cover your weaknesses.”

“I can’t do it all by myself. To reach our goals, I need to recognize others gifts. God has given you people around you to go beyond what you are capable of. This broadens the organization’s reach. People are capable and want to contribute. Use their gifts and talents accordingly. “

“As a leader and a businesswoman, I need to be confident in who I am. It can be intimidating. Be confident that you can tap others into your vision and then do so.”

3. Network.“I spent a lot of time traveling recently. For example, I was in Florida for a national conference that was focused on the challenges the Church faces today. It was a great opportunity to meet people from around the country. My advice is to not be afraid to connect with people as much as possible. Be available to people who are striving in their life. You never know who you’ll meet or how you can help that connection, or vice versa in the future.”

“Build up a network of pros that can feed off of each other. I have been reaching out to the outer circle of people I may know and filtering out the people who are into the same goals and visions. I’m not going to spend the time opening up to people who don’t share that vision professionally. I have to identify people who have similar thoughts, goals, and dreams build off of them. It can be counter productive otherwise.”

Special thank you to Lydia for sharing these tips. If you enjoyed this, feel free to stay tuned for more tips you can apply into your role. Keep up to date by signing up for “The Climb” at RighteousCo.com for the latest happenings, resources, and content.


Lydia is the Director of Youth Ministry at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Williamsville, NY. She is also working hard as an independent contractor with Juice Plus, delivering quality nutrition an food to the people. Lydia has a passion to write about authentic femininity and masculinity in her own blog here.

From Draggin’ to Dragon: Burnout

Burnout is a very real scenario for leaders and if you don’t manage and deal with it, it can make your life toxic. When you find yourself really draggin’, you need to ask yourself why so you can get back to being that fire breathing dragon you are.

You know the feeling of being unmotivated, unproductive, on edge, dried up, desolate, etc. etc. We’ve all been there. There is a difference between the “I’ve been up all night,” to the “My soul has seized up”. That’s burnout. It’s claimed many from their mission and team. Recognizing it early is important so it doesn’t get out of control. On a spectrum from complacent to fried, I tend to ride the edge of the burnout wave myself. I push hard in my labor and it often gets me into mental/emotional trouble. I’ve come to know my limits well and when I need to throttle back.

  1. Break the streak: When your engine starts to seize up you need to take a break. Be honest with yourself. Get outside the situation and give yourself some air. Pray and take some time to get clarity. Open up to someone you are close with about it. Take a little time off if needed. Remember what it was like to be at your best and see what’s holding you back now. A. Do you need rest? B. Can what is broken be fixed? C. Do you need a new direction?
  2. Lay out a plan: Be intentional on your next steps. Use your break and clarity to set baby steps in either A, B, or C. Set your big goal and test out each step on paper to see what it looks like. Seek another voice for advice, like your spouse, a peer in your industry, mentor, or coach. Which direction gets you moving? Ask yourself “why?” and “how?” along each step.
  3. Get back to action: You have what it takes and it takes effort. Get started. Follow your baby steps and build momentum. Keep moving and digging at it. If you stall, give yourself a push or ask someone you can count on to keep you accountable. Assess along the way but keep your goal in sight, pivot if needed. Burnout will tell you a million reasons why you can’t. Build your discipline by acting even when you don’t want to. Yes, you can. Inaction will cause you more heartache and keep you down.

A great book I can recommend as a follow up is “Off Balanced” by Matthew Kelly. I’ve been through it 4-5 times and helped me gain perspective in a larger context.

I know, it’s not as easy as 1. 2. 3., there is no magic trick. It’s gritty. But you need to deal with it, so let’s go!

Let’s Go!

I love being a dad. Totally. I love being a husband too and I’ll share that journey with you in the upcoming book but I find fatherhood to be one of the most intriguing things I have ever done.

I have loved watching Izzy grow over the past year in a half for many reasons but one thing I have been dwelling on has been her sense of adventure. For being a year and a half old, she packs a “get up and go” attitude that I’m actually jealous of. She’s a bold kid and I love that about her.

Izzy says a lot of things that sound a lot like an Ewok but the words she has down in English, she nails. Of these, her proclamation to “Let’s go!” just wants to get you moving. It has lit a fire in my belly a little to grow this adventurous heart. This past year we started to tackle the 22 county parks around Buffalo, packing up the girls to go explore and marking off the map with tacks on the cork board. I’m already thinking about what’s next on the board, what experiences to share with the family, where to go, what to see.

One of the greatest tales of adventure ever written, in my humble opinion, is the combined works from J.R.R. Tolkien of, “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”. Reading the trilogy a couple of years ago and now going through “The Hobbit”, I’m just fascinated at the way Tolkien attracts the adventurous heart. It tickles a string that tells you, “Let’s go!”. I think when I get caught up in the ins and outs of life; paying bills, going to work, routine, we lose a little bit of that adventure imprinted on our heart. Sometimes all we need is a little hobbit to say “Let’s go!” to get you moving.

“I want to see mountains Gandalf, mountains.” – Bilbo Baggins

The Discipline Series: Interview with a Corrections Officer

“Without structure, you invite anarchy”

I sat down with Tom Ahearn, an active member of St. Greg’s parish, for a cup of coffee and conversation about discipline in his life. There are a few things you need to know about Tom. Tom is a solid guy. Physically and spiritually. Shaking his hand can be compared to grabbing a bear paw. As a retired corrections officer, he still has the means to flip you upside down. Instead, he uses his heart to make a difference in people’s lives.

All too often we banter back and forth around the cafe with double or triple helpings of sarcasm. You can hear his lighthearted laugh from a mile away.

A: Thanks for joining me today Tom. Tell me about your career working in corrections.

T: I worked at the jail for 20 years. It was a tough role and there was a lot of peer pressure that leaned on my conscience. How did I get to that point? My father was a Buffalo firefighter and we grew up on the East Side. My neighbor, Mr. Simpson was a police officer and was a huge influence on me. I looked up to these guys. They served people everyday and saved lives. I first signed up as a young man to take the civil service exam but the blizzard of 77 canceled it that year. In the meantime I had to buy my time and worked as a manager at a shoe shop.

I took the test for correction’s officer in 1982, I didn’t study and earned a whopping 70%. That’s low but the demand for the position ended up scooping me in. I started in the academy and then completed four weeks of on the job training. Spent the majority of my career at Attica jail with some tough guys. The pay was low but the benefits were very good. It really helped me take care of my family.

Sometimes I see my life as a contradiction. There are times when I think about the things I’ve done at work where I have slipped. As I’m sure you can imagine, prison life is not easy. I’ve been hard on people. Sometimes I would say, “the ends would justify the means and the means justifies the end,” just to get through. It’s difficult to be in a toxic work environment that challenges your faith. I would go to my priest and ask, “how can I do some of these things and be a good person?”

I was injured a number of times, broken nose, knuckles, two total knee replacements. I always went back to work after because I needed to take care of the family. My family is what keeps me focused. Eventually the injury’s finally caught up with me and was officially retired by HR.

A: What keeps you on track?

T: 1. My wife.

I had a great career. I learned a lot about politicians by being the vice president of our union. There are honest ones, fair ones, and liars. I could have gotten into politics and was tempted to. I was invited to run for office a number of times but my wife always said “over my dead body”, and she meant it. So that was that but I found later that it was her disciplining me. I listen to her and trust her judgement. Janet has always encouraged me to keep going through law enforcement but when it came to politics she saw something else. The saying is true, behind every good man is a great woman. She keeps me grounded. She actually brought me back into the Church when I was younger. I found that I was straying but when I met Janet, she kept me on the straight and narrow.

From there I kept getting involved with the Church in various roles from parish counsel to helping with the Eucharistic Ministers. Janet was always behind the scenes but was stronger and smarter than I. If discipline is a backbone, Janet is my backbone. It’s important to get each others back when we are running short. To keep each other disciplined. That’s marriage.

“If discipline is a backbone, Janet is my backbone.”

2. My father.

My father’s discipline in prayer was instrumental in showing me how to be diligent. Being Irish Catholic was unbelievable. We knew how to have a good time but you wouldn’t mess with the faith. He would have us go to church every Sunday and build prayer into our routine as we grew up. This stayed with me as I grew up. Before he passed, he had a Catholic prayer book by his side in the hospital room while waiting for his surgery. I’ll never forget that he carried this faith to the end.

A: What would you want to share with people about discipline?

T: You can look at discipline through a variety of ways. Life, family, church, and prayer. Without structure, you invite anarchy. Prayer is a great way to build that structure. I love the liturgy of hours, a discipline where you pray at certain hours with those around the world. I grab a cup of coffee in the morning and sit down for my prayer time.

If I can give one piece of advice, live your life with Jesus at the head of it. The rest will fall in place.

My Declaration of Independence

At age 10, my brother and I wanted new bikes. My dad said we could earn our way to one, so he fronted us a few cases of pop and dropped us off at a golf course to sell them 75¢ a can. Being little kids, most of the golfers had us keep the buck. We smoozed, we earned. I still have that bike, worse for the wear, but still have it.

At age 17, I needed money for prom and didn’t have a job. So a buddy and I started a lawn mowing business in the neighborhood, charging $10 a lawn, splitting 50/50. We undercut the big guys and took customers. Having a sheet of customers we had to attend to each week, we hired a friend with a tractor to help us get it all done. We ended up firing him because he didn’t finish lawns correctly. Earned prom plus some.

At age 25, after working in the hospitality business and doing event internships, I couldn’t find a worthwhile full time gig as an event planner. So I figured I’d get started myself. This was the start of the Righteous idea with Righteous Events. Lost a bunch of money and realized I needed to know how to run a business better. So I went for my second degree, this time in Entrepreneurship at Canisius. In this year of quarter-life crisis, I made a personal declaration of independence for myself. I swore off normal for greater.

At age 28, I presented a plan for a social media company at the New York State Business Plan Competition. It was terrible.

At age 30, I had to develop a business for my final project. Having a better eye for developing market research, Righteous Co. was born to help ministries and non-profits market themselves to their communities. Got an “A”. Well I wasn’t that good yet at market research and ultimately saw that it wasn’t a feasible/scaleable model in practice. Plus, I didn’t want to build websites all day.

Today at age 33, I’m repurposing the Righteous Co. brand and tying all of my strengths together in one platform to help others. I’m basing the idea around virtue and valor, a core need and hunger for people. By using my ability to connect with people, tell a story, along with a twist of experience in leadership, Righteous Co. is moving forward to its next phase. Perhaps its last and final in its ark.

I’m excited to hint to you my first offering which is also the first book that I’ve written. It will be a free digital download, “Iron Ore: The Journal of a Youth Minister.” It’s a witness of discernment, Love, and perseverance. Coming soon!

I welcome you to ride along the journey by following progress on the following…

RighteousCo.comFacebook page, Instagram@righteous_co