For an organization to prosper and grow, every individual member must participate and contribute in concerted efforts to achieve shared goals and objectives. Corporate governance, while led by the chief executive, may succeed only if every individual’s talents are tapped to the fullest. A personal governance ethos is the foundation of good governance in an organization.
Plato espoused the philosophy of “self-care as a precondition for moderation in exercising power over others.” In the Christian perspective, love of self is considered as being as important as love for one’s neighbors. It is practiced within the context of loving God with all of one’s strength and will.
St. Vincent de Paul and management guru Peter Senge — though they lived nearly 400 years apart — are regarded as foremost advocates of “self care for leaders in a stressful world.”
Dr. Senge, well known for the best-selling book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization identified personal mastery as one of the five primal disciplines. Vincent de Paul’s trailblazing work in social service in Europe is seen as a precursor of Mr. Senge’s modern-day concept.
Born in France in 1580 to a peasant family, Vincent de Paul became a Catholic priest and established a mission in Paris where he cared for the poor and the destitute. He also served as adviser and chaplain of the aristocratic Gondi family that supported his charities and mission. He founded the Congregation of the Mission whose members established De Paul University in Chicago in 1898.
In collaboration with Louis de Marillac, he was also the founder of the Daughters of Charity, an organization dedicated to the care of the poor and the sick at home or in hospitals, the homeless and abandoned children and babies. In the Philippines, the Vincentian mission is better known through Adamson University, a higher-education institution governed by the religious order that he founded.
Vincent de Paul’s legacy is that he gave each of these organizations “a sustainable organizational and financial framework, demanding of him and others proper training and sound financial management.” Founded on a core belief on the primacy of the individual’s human dignity, he propagated the virtues of simplicity, honesty and zeal. The ethical and values-based Vincentian leadership model is driven by competencies such as innovation, collaboration and risk-taking.
Peter Senge’s advocacy of the discipline of personal mastery is characterized by two movements, one focused inward and the other focused outward: “The inward movement involves the discipline of “continually clarifying what is important to us.”
This process of clarification includes examining and articulating our vision, values, and ideals, as well as our understanding of our own unique purpose for our work and life. The second movement involves “continually learning to see reality more clearly. Seeing reality more clearly “allows us to correctly align our sense of purpose with what our organization and our world needs.”
Dr. Senge believes that personal mastery may be achieved through a “simple yet profound” strategy: Radical truth-telling: “Radical truth-telling begins with engaging in telling the truth to ourselves about our vision, values, ideals, and purpose — and admitting how far we may have allowed ourselves to wander from the truth of our own vision, values, ideals and purpose.”
Hence, he sees deviations from the path of good governance — both at the individual and corporate levels — as being rooted in an inability to be truthful or to live one’s life conscientiously. He attributes this to a human frailty, negative visioning, characterized by the fact that most adults, when asked what they want “will say what they want to get rid of.”
He views this as a manifestation of truth avoidance, which is, in essence, a coping strategy. Focusing on “ultimate intrinsic desires” is the cornerstone skill for attaining personal mastery: “Happiness may be most directly a result of living consistently with your purpose.”
Good corporate governance begins in the hearts and minds of every individual in the organization. While publicly listed companies are required to appoint and task a Compliance Officer to ensure adherence to the norms of ethical corporate behavior, what is truly important is this:
Every member of the organization must act with honesty and integrity, mindful of one’s accountability to God and responsibility toward one’s fellow human beings.