By Barb Arland-Fye
Dan Ebener often begins with a reflection on the beatitudes from Matthew’s Gospel during retreats, conferences and other events at which he speaks on leadership and stewardship.
Groups ranging from religious communities and clergy to nonprofits and lay organizations have responded so well “that everywhere I go the beatitudes become a focal point. I find the beatitudes to be full of wisdom that can be tied to leadership,” said Ebener, who is director of stewardship and parish planning for the Davenport Diocese and teaches leadership courses at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
The beatitudes serve as inspiration for his new book, “Blessings for Leaders: Leadership Wisdom from the Beatitudes” published by Liturgical Press of Collegeville, Minn. It will be available Oct. 15.
Ebener’s new book follows two years after publication of his first book, “Servant Leadership Models for Your Parish,” which arose from his doctoral dissertation on a study of parish life in the Davenport Diocese.
“The first book was taking business principles and applying them to religious organizations. This second book is taking religious concepts and applying them to business organizations.”
He believes Matthew’s Gospel is ideal for leadership study because it begins with the Great Invitation to come follow Jesus and be disciples who learn and grow in discipleship. It concludes with the Great Commission to become apostles to go and teach and lead.
“You come and follow and learn and then you go and lead and teach. That’s the symmetry I’m looking for. In between the two bookends of Matthew’s Gospel are all kinds of insights from Jesus about leadership, from his teaching, his stories, from the way he challenges us and inspires us.”
Each chapter has a leadership theme and focuses on one of the beatitudes, such as “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). A virtue, such as courage, justice or humility is applied to a beatitude. Leadership skills, such as listening and team building, also are incorporated. “I connect each chapter to Scripture and associate it with all kinds of leadership traits, skills and principles,” Ebener said.
“Dan’s book takes the familiar biblical maxims we know as the beatitudes and puts them to work in real-life leadership settings,” said Mark Ridolfi, editor of the Editorial Page for the Quad-City Times. The book “affirms the specifics of servant leadership, not as some lofty aspirations, but as a step-by-step guide that produces results.
“I can see this being used as a guide inspiring individual leaders in their workplace, assisting groups through tough decisions, or even providing a foundation for managing major change in a corporate environment. This book gently challenges leadership assumptions and forces provocative, productive thought,” said Ridolfi, who helped edit it.
Stories from Ebener’s own life have been woven into the book: travels to places such as Nicaragua and Croatia, and interactions with “people I’ve learned leadership from” such as Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a retired priest of the Davenport Diocese; the late John Kiley, a former social action director for the diocese; and Hildegard Goss Mayr, one of the world’s leading experts on nonviolence, and others.
Ebener had considered self-publishing, but then received an email from a friend, Trish Vanni, publisher for the parish market at Liturgical Press. She invited him to submit his proposal, which the acquisition group approved.
“This is a wonderful book on the meaning of the Gospel for people who find themselves in places of leadership,” Vanni said. “It’s a fulfillment of the vision of Vatican II, which is that laity would be leaven in the world. Dan’s book empowers people to understand the Gospel and to live it more deeply and fully.”
At approximately 100 pages, the new book is written for a broader market than the first book. “It’s a much easier read,” Ebener said. “The goal was set so that a college freshman could read the book in an hour and a half to two hours.”
(For more information go to www.servantleadershipmodels.com.)