15 Leadership Lessons from St. Josemaria Escriva

August 4, 2014

St. Josemaria Escriva was a natural leader. In the world of business or politics, he could have been what the world would consider a “great man.” Instead, he became a priest and dedicated his considerable talents to the advancement of the Kingdom of God, pouring his heart and soul into raising up an army of apostles who sanctify the world from the inside out.

Through the course of his priestly ministry, St. Josemaria left many letters of advice and spiritual direction, many excerpts of which are contained in the three books, The Way, Furrow, and The Forge. Here are 15 pieces of leadership advice from St. Josemaria’s writings for those who seek to sanctify their work and be leaders in the Church and in the world.

1. Don’t compromise your principles

‘One must compromise.’ Compromise is a word found only in the vocabulary of those who have no will to fight — the lazy, the cunning, the cowardly — for they consider themselves defeated before they start. (The Way No. 54)

2. Don’t waste time

Don’t let your life be barren. Be useful. Make yourself felt. Shine forth with the torch of your faith and your love.

With your apostolic life, wipe out the trail of filth and slime left by the corrupt sowers of hatred. And set aflame all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you bear in your heart. (The Way No. 1)

3. Pay attention to the little things

Will-power. A very important quality. Don’t despise little things, for by the continual practice of denying yourself again and again in such things — which are never futile or trivial — with God’s grace you will add strength and resilience to your character. In that way you will first become master of yourself, and then a guide, a chief, a leader: to compel and to urge and to inspire others, with your word, with your example, with your knowledge and with your power. (The Way 19)

4. Embrace sacrifice

The Lord’s calling — vocation — always presents itself like this: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Yes: a vocation demands self-denial, sacrifice. But how pleasant that sacrifice turns out to be — gaudium cum pace, joy and peace — if that self-giving is complete! (Furrow No. 8)

5. Pray boldly

Be daring in your prayer, and the Lord will turn you from a pessimist into an optimist; from being timid, to being daring, from being feeble-spirited to being a man of faith, an apostle! (Furrow No. 118)

6. Care for others

I think it is very good that you should try daily to increase the depth of your concern for those under you. For to feel surrounded and protected by the affectionate understanding of the one in charge, can be the effective help which is needed by the people you have to serve by means of your governance. (Furrow No. 395)

7. Accept obstacles

Is the burden heavy? No, a thousand times no! Those obligations which you freely accepted are wings that raise you high above the vile mud of your passions.

Do the birds feel the weight of their wings? If you were to cut them off and put them on the scales you would see that they are heavy. But can a bird fly if they are taken away from it? It needs those wings and it does not notice their weight, for they lift it up above other creatures.

—Your “wings” are heavy too! But if you did not have them you would fall into the filthiest mire. (Furrow No. 414)

8. Finish the task

Sanctity is made up of heroic acts. Therefore, in our work we are asked for the heroism of finishing properly the tasks committed to us, day after day, even though they are the same tasks. If we don’t, then we do not want to be saints! (Furrow No. 529)

9. Persevere

As the flames of your first enthusiasm die down, it becomes difficult to advance in the dark. —But that progress is all the more reliable for being hard. And then, when you least expect it, the darkness vanishes, and the enthusiasm and light return. Persevere! (Furrow No. 789)

10. Be at peace

As soon as you truly abandon yourself in the Lord, you will know how to be content with whatever happens. You will not lose your peace if your undertakings do not turn out the way you hoped, even if you have put everything into them, and used all the means necessary. For they will have “turned out” the way God wants them to. (Furrow No. 860)

11. Call on Mary

Holy Mary is the Queen of peace, and thus the Church invokes her. So when your soul or your family are troubled, or things go wrong at work, in society or between nations, cry out to her without ceasing. Call to her by this title: Regina pacis, ora pro nobis — Queen of peace, pray for us. Have you at least tried it when you have lost your calm?… —You will be surprised at its immediate effect. (Furrow No. 874)

12. Surround yourself with wise counselors

Mediocre men, mediocre in mind and in Christian spirit, surround themselves by foolish people when they are in power. They are falsely persuaded by their vanity that in this way they will never lose control.

Sensible men, however, surround themselves with learned people who live a clean life as well as possessing knowledge, and become, through their help, men who can really govern. They are not in this matter deceived by their humility, for in making others great they themselves are made great. (Furrow No. 968)

13. Please God, not men

You are in a position of authority and you go by what people say? You are a doddering old man! —First of all you should worry about what God will say; then, very much in the second place, and sometimes not at all, you may consider what others might think. “Whoever acknowledges me before men”, says the Lord, “I too will acknowledge him before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father who is in heaven.” (Furrow No. 970)

14. Delegate

A fundamental rule for good management is to give responsibility to others without this becoming for you a way of seeking anonymity or comfort. I repeat, delegate responsibility and ask each person to give an account of how his job is going, so that you can “render an account” to God; and to souls, if necessary. (Furrow No. 972)

15. Always stay humble

For all your learning, for all your fame, your eloquence and power, if you are not humble, you are worth nothing. Cut out, root out that self-complacency which dominates you so completely. — God will help you — and then you will be able to begin working for Christ, in the lowest place in his army of apostles. (The Way No. 602)

What are your favorite St. Josemaria quotes? Leave them in the comments!

Sam Guzman


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Reader Interactions


  1. Michael says

    “Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors should make you proud.

    Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?”

    • Kalynne Pudner says

      Becky, just in case Sam misunderstood (in a typically male way) what you meant by “best way”, let me suggest this: Start at the beginning of The Way, read a point, ask Our Lord, “Well? Anything for me here today?”, give him a minute to answer, then move on to the next one and do the same through all three books. Spend 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes each day doing this. It seems random, starting from the beginning and working though systematically, but my experience is that I get what I need from whatever points I happen to be on that day…and I’ve been doing it, on and off, since 1987! Or you could choose a chapter with a theme that resonates with whatever is going on in your life. The Holy Spirit will use it, whatever method you choose. Just don’t sit down and devour it like a novel…chew!

    • Joshua says

      Genesis 32:25-31, Jacob wrestles with an angel all night long till the dawn and never gives up. Pray like you’re a man in need of his God and with a fiery love filled with his Holy Spirit. Pray like you believe God is listening and cares about you. Ask for his help in things despite doubts about whether you believe it’s too big or not, pray despite a lack of faith like the centurion, “help my lack of faith!” Pray on your knees morning and night if you can, and throughout the day. To pray boldly would be to seek God in all things despite an obstacle being placed in your way, fighting past your tiredness unlike the Apostles in the garden when Jesus prayed boldly before The Father while sweating tears. To come before your God in the reality of who you are and from there take a glimpse of the greatness and glory of God as you pray and spend time seeking his face. Praying boldly could be searching for God in the scriptures as “ignorance of scriptures is ignorance of Christ”- St. Jerome. To Pray boldly is to live a life of prayer and not to settle for mere formal recitations but to enter the words and mean what the words are, to enter into the silence of your heart and come to know the Trinity that dwells in your soul through your Baptism. To praise God is praying, to speak the holy name of Jesus is praying and to do them passionately would be to pray boldly especially in light of our sinful nature and tendencies. This my friend is what I believe is but the barest scratch of what this amazing saint had in mind when he said that one sentence. Also I realize it has been a whole year since your comment but I believe you need an answer. Hope this helps my friend 😀

      God Bless

  2. José Marroquín says

    Magnífico Lorena. ’¿sabes que San Josemaría quería que innundemos el mundo de papel impreso. Ahora diría que llenemos éter de ondas que lleven la Verdad y el Amor de Dios . Adelante!!!!!

  3. Steve says

    Having seen first hand the devastating effects of this man’s organisation has had on families around the world, he’s hardly anyone to look up to.

    • Fab says

      What you’re describing and the reality i’m witnessing everyday are very different. I’ve only seen families strenghened in love and people growing closer to God, all helped by the teachings and legacy of St Josemaria

    • Rich (@CoolRich59) says

      @Steve Is this really necessary? I’m sure there are plenty of places where you can go to complain about Opus Dei and find sympathetic ears. Why do you feel compelled to come here to vent your spleen?

  4. J.P.Unfried says

    I think he meant that in prayer we have to be plain with God. Tell Him what our fears are, where our heart is and He will probably answer… and it is right there where you can be courageous or bold in your prayer, at the time of answering Him.
    We humans are not monsters, unless diseased, I don’t think anyone is bad just for the fun of it, but I do think that we can be bad because we try to silence God, we can’t, but we try.
    When we ignore what He communicates us in prayer, we are been pusillanimous and over time we might stop listening to Him and when we act on our own Godless, loveless account; we behave poorly.
    So in prayer ask Him a lot, a lot, a lot. He understands us. He felt thirst, tiredness, sadness even tears… and here comes another great advice of St. Josemaria when treating God or Mary. We have to treat them with the same trust we treat our parents. If your father or your mother on earth would do anything to give what you need, how much more your parents in heaven?

  5. Teddy Condo says

    The Forge, 756: “There can be no doubt for us who love Jesus, prayer is the great pain-reliever.”

    The Forge, 799: “…Keep quiet and trust in Him. These are two essential weapons in moments of difficulty, when there doesn’t seem to be any human solution.”

    Love your site. Thank you.

  6. Crescentia says

    Furrow 920: But if your mother the Church is being attacked, defend her courageously. Keep calm, but be firm.
    Furrow 747: Never allow weeds to grow on the path of friendship. Be loyal.
    Furrow 643: It is a sad ecumenism indeed when Catholics ill treat other Catholics.

  7. Mario Perez says

    There is a need for a crusade of manliness and purity to counteract and undo the savage work of those who think that man is a beast. And that crusade is a matter for you! – The Way 121

  8. Rhea says

    The way 753: All that this earth can offer us is continually passing away: hardly has pleasure begun than it is already ended.

  9. Fr. Bo Majors says

    As a priest, I am very devoted to Josemaria. It is so funny, but this morning, I was really praying and thinking about something regarding leadership. In fact, I just finished a book called Virtuous Leadership by a member of Opus Dei which is excellent. Anyhow, this article was just what I needed to read. I have a number of serious issues to face in terms of leadership and discern. Thanks so much for this article.

  10. Terence H says

    Kalynne- that is a very good way to read through the Way. Just remember the humble part (try not to insult the men)

  11. Bien Landicho says

    A little act, done for Love, is worth so much! (The Way, 814)

    Work! When you feel the responsibility of professional work, the life of your soul will improve: and you will become more of a man, for you will lose your habit of ‘picking holes’ in everything. (The Way, 343)

  12. Juan Posada says

    Are you bored? Is because you only entertain your senses. Awaken your soul! ( or something like that)


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