Leadership

At a recent retreat, our divisional management team focused on the support and growth of leaders among our staff. Leadership comes in many forms.  We all know of the stereotypical alpha male, Type A personalities who have been celebrated as leaders on Wall Street as well as in the movies, the halls of Congress, business, the tech sector, and the military.  These are the types who bark out orders and expect others to follow.  These are the “born leaders.”  Or so they say.

But there is another type of leadership that is usually—in my experience—much more effective.  It generally comes from people who learn to be leaders, rather than assume they know it all from birth.  I put more stock in these types of leaders in part because I am reminded of the tale of a group of tourists visiting a rural, picturesque village.  They walked by an old man sitting beside a fence and in a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked, “Were any great men or women born in this village?”  “Nope” the old man replied.  “Only babies.”

This type of leadership is resolute, but not rude.  Humble, but not timid.  Proud, but not arrogant.  Humorous, but without folly.  Optimistic, but not reckless.

That last trait is one I personally cherish in leaders.  The good ones can look at any situation and, without being pollyannaish, find the path forward … the good in the person … the way to get everyone to make the right choice. All leaders face difficult obstacles, but the good ones handle them with grace and equanimity, showing all of us how leaders direct change.

Plus, true leaders don’t whine!  George Bernard Shaw said, “The true joy in life is to be a force of fortune instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”  True leaders are a force of fortune.

Jim Collins, in his classic Good to Great:  Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t, took on this question of leadership in describing the Level 5 Executive—his term for those with the highest level of executive capabilities.  Collins notes that top leaders build greatness through a “paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”  They are ambitious, but their ambition is “first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.” In the social sector, Collins notes that power is often much more diffuse than in business, but the power to get things done exists nonetheless, if you know where to find it.  “There is the power of inclusion, and the power of language, and the power of shared interests, and the power of coalition.”

Some of the most powerful leaders I’ve known have unassuming exteriors and yet their interior lives and values are exemplary.  Let me anthropomorphize a building that I saw in Rome while on sabbatical in 2016 as an example:  San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (Saint Charles at the Four Fountains).  This church’s design – a masterpiece of architect Francesco Borramini – is both “extraordinary and complex.”  The exterior/interior relationship is best described by architect Daniel Solomon in his Bedside Essays for Lovers (of Cities):

“Borromini was eclipsed for much of his career by the flashier and more charismatic Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and his oeuvre are mostly second-tier commissions – smallish buildings on undistinguished city sites.  His greatness is built on surmounting the contradictory demands of these commissions – simultaneous city fabric and monument.  Second-tier commissions produced some of the most complex and subtle works of the Western canon…

Never have the ordinary and the extraordinary been reconciled with more sublime elegance than at San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.  Its interior is nothing less than a three-dimensional cosmological map depicting in its intricate geometries and its filtration of light the relationship of heaven and earth.  But the sanctuary of San Carlo sits on an unremarkable street corner on the consistent street frontage of via Quirinale, leading to the magnificence of Palazzo Quirinale and Piazza Quirinale a couple of blocks up the street.  Mediating between the glories of the interior and the important but subservient role of the exterior is a subtly undulating wall, true to the demands of both inside and out.  In this most complex of mediations, Borromini leaves the enduring lesson of how to be both a humble city builder and an architect of thundering power.”

Dome of San Carlo

Dome of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

I have worked with individuals who eschew the flashy exterior, content to be seen as partners with others in a larger, complex whole.  But their work, values, and legacy show amazing interior depth.  Max DePree is the retired CEO of the furniture and design pacesetter Herman Miller, and through the years I’ve come to appreciate his definition of leadership.  DePree says:

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

In almost every station of life, there exists a potential leadership component.  You may be leading an organization, a division, a department, an office, a project team, an intern, a business, a family, or a group of friends.  Whatever your role, leaders need to be good at recognizing and defining reality.  Saying thank you is acknowledgement that you don’t do these jobs alone.  A servant leadership suggests you are there to help others grow and realize their full potential.

Jim Collins says that great lives result from having meaningful work.  Real leaders can help us get there.

Have a good week.

More to come…

DJB

Three Churches (Part Two)

San Lorenzo in Miranda

San Lorenzo in Miranda

Over the past two weeks, we have visited three distinctive churches that each took our breath away in different ways.  The first is rarely seen.  The second is seen by almost every tourist in Rome.  And the last is one of those masterworks of architecture that really must be seen to be fully appreciated

So to follow-up on our earlier post of looking at churches in sets of threes, here comes Three Churches (Part Two).  Let’s begin with San Lorenzo in Miranda, the church that is rarely seen.

Each Friday we were at the American Academy, I took part in the “Fellows Walk.”  The last of those – for us – took place a week ago Friday and it was titled “The Presence of Absence:  The Medieval Roman Forum.”  I’ll turn to the AAR’s description of the walk to fill you in on the focus:

Rome brims with a seemingly endless number of sites that loom large in the popular imagination.  But how does the imagined city compare to our actual, sensory experience of Rome?  This final series of Walks will lead us through a selection of sites — forum, church, neighborhood, villa and garden — designed to provoke a set of distinct, physical experiences.  Charting places of sensory input across time, these Walks will encourage us to become aware of the presence of absence, visual perspective, mathematical order, scale, materials, topography, labor, fragrance, temperature, color and much more beyond.

Today’s visit will focus on how we experience Medieval Rome through both the traces — and voids — of this stratum of the city’s history.  We’ll concentrate on a series of sites in the Roman Forum, which witnessed some of the early transformation of Rome’s ancient, pagan monuments into places of Christian worship.  We’ll begin our discussion on Via dei Fori Imperiali, a Fascist-era road that cut through the Forum and obliterated much of Medieval Rome in the process.  From here, we’ll visit three churches that emerged between the 6th and 9th centuries: Ss. Cosimo e Damiano, S. Lorenzo in Mirandola, and S. Francesca Romana.  These locations represent the varying degrees to which we can experience the history of Medieval Rome in sites that were once the center of Roman society and culture yet today are rarely open to the public and thus remain a mystery to contemporary residents and visitors alike.

Many people know San Lorenzo as “the church in the temple” in the middle of the Roman Forum.  Others know it as “the church where the entrance door hangs in mid-air on the second floor.”  Those two things are connected.

Altar in San Lorenzo in Miranda

Altar in San Lorenzo in Miranda

This is a 17th century Baroque church, but it was originally the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, built around 141 CE.  Over time through the Middle Ages, as the Forum filled in with silt and occupation debris, the floor of the church – and thus the entrance door from the Forum side – was raised to its present location.  When archaeological excavations began in the 19th century, there was some pressure to demolish the church to leave only the Roman temple remains.  That did not happen, however, and the current church provides one of the most interesting – and seldom seen – views of the Forum.

Forum View from San Lorenzo

Forum view from San Lorenzo

 

Entrance to San Lorenzo

The “entrance door” to the Forum from San Lorenzo

The conversation on the walk focused on how the Medieval Forum was lost – intentionally – to the archaeology of the 19th century (with its focus on Imperial Rome) as well as the 20th century fascists changes to the city (which also had a focus on returning Rome to its Imperial glory).  Absence is often a very important part of the historical record, as we see here.

Yesterday, Candice and I visited a church that – unlike San Lorenzo – is on every tourist’s “Top 10” list of places to see.  That would be the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo.

Raphael Mosaics in Chigi Chapel at Santa Maria

Raphael mosaics in the Chigi Chapel of Santa Maria del Popolo

Santa Maria del Popolo is an art museum and a church.  Raphael?  Check.  Caravaggio?  Check.  Bernini? Check. And that’s only the beginning.

Conversion on the Road to Damascu

Caravaggio’s “Conversion on the Road to Damascus”

 

Crucifixion of St. Peter

Caravaggio’s “Crucifixion of St. Peter”

 

Bernini's Daniel and the Lion

Bernini’s “Daniel and the Lion”

 

Santa Maria del Popolo

Santa Maria del Popolo

Santa Maria del Popolo – located on the beautiful Piazza del Popolo – is a well-loved church by people of all faiths and no faith. As found in the church’s brochure,

I have always considered Santa Maria del Popolo (Our Lady of the People) as an example, a perfect example of the specific nature of Italian cultural patrimony….

Well said.

San Carlo exterior

Exterior of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

Finally, I want to return to a church mentioned in an earlier post – San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (Saint Charles at the Four Fountains).  This design – a masterpiece of architect Francesco Borramini – is both “extraordinary and complex.”  Working with a very difficult site and needing to include a number of elements to complete the architectural program, Borramini came up with a design that works and thrills at the same time.

Altar at San Carlo

Altar at San Carlo

 

San Carlo detail

San Carlo detail

It is the dome, with its exquisite geometric pattern, that caps this wonderful space and brings it all together.

Dome of San Carlo

Dome of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

There is more I could show, but my pictures do not do this building justice.  So I am going to end this visit to Italian churches with a segment on San Carlo from Daniel Solomon’s Bedside Essays for Lovers (of Cities) – a favorite text.

Borromini was eclipsed for much of his career by the flashier and more charismatic Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and his oeuvre are mostly second-tier commissions – smallish buildings on undistinguished city sites.  His greatness is built on surmounting the contradictory demands of these commissions – simultaneous city fabric and monument.  Second-tier commissions produced some of the most complex and subtle works of the Western canon…

Never have the ordinary and the extraordinary been reconciled with more sublime elegance than at San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.  Its interior is nothing less than a three-dimensional cosmological map depicting in its intricate geometries and its filtration of light the relationship of heaven and earth.  But the sanctuary of San Carlo sits on an unremarkable street corner on the consistent street frontage of via Quirinale, leading to the magnificence of Palazzo Quirinale and Piazza Quirinale a couple of blocks up the street.  Mediating between the glories of the interior and the important but subservient role of the exterior is a subtly undulating wall, true to the demands of both inside and out.  In this most complex of mediations, Borromini leaves the enduring lesson of how to be both a humble city builder and an architect of thundering power.

If you are in Rome, get thee to this church!

More to come…
DJB

Observations from the Road: Scenes from Holy Week in Rome

Palm Sunday

The priest leads the Palm Sunday procession through the streets of Monteverde to the Basilica di San Pancrazio

Sorry.  No pope sightings (or even attempts at pope sightings).

We have had a relatively low-key Holy Week while in Rome, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had its memorable moments.

Olive Trees and Palm Sunday:  Our week began last Sunday with a Palm Sunday processional at the neighborhood Basilica di San Pancrazio in Monteverde.  A 6th century basilica that was extensively renovated following Garibaldi’s 1849 attack on Rome, San Pancrazio was a lively place last Sunday.

We met about a block away from the basilica and followed priests and musicians through the streets, waving olive branches in place of the palms we see in the United States.  During the service, conducted (of course) entirely in Italian, we only understood the occasional word. But we knew the shape of the liturgy and could follow along without getting lost.  The nave was filled with worshipers, while the aisles were used by parents and nuns to walk or stroll young children throughout the service.  The music was similar to Catholic folk masses in the U.S. these days – hymns sung with varying stages of enthusiasm to the accompaniment of guitars.

This service – with its local feel and universal outreach – was a heart-felt beginning to our Holy Week in Rome.

Chapel of St. Maria dei Sette Dolori

Chapel of the Convent of St. Maria dei Sette Dolori by Francesco Borromini

Finding the Special in the Ordinary – On Holy Monday, Candice and I headed down to the center of Rome, but stopped at the foot of the hill in Trastevere to visit a small baroque chapel designed by Francesco Borromini for the Convent of St. Maria dei Sette Dolori.  This is a very unassuming building from the outside and much of the original nunnery is now a hotel.  However, Karl Daubman – one of the fellows at the academy – is studying Borromini’s work and suggested we stop in to see the space.  The small chapel is simple (for Rome) yet beautiful, and we both took time to reflect in this quiet and holy space.

Architect Daniel Solomon – whose writings and commentary I admire – has noted that Borromini is a master of designing “masterworks that one can call buildings of the third kind.”  In his book Bedside Essays for Lovers (of Cities) – which I strongly recommend – Solomon says,

In these works, architects give expression and honor to special places while simultaneously reinforcing the weave of city fabric that defines its streets and public places.  Rome with its thousands of churches, palazzos, and institutions woven through the city has scores of buildings of the third kind, none more masterful than those of Francesco Borromini.  Borromini was eclipsed for much of his career by the flashier and more charismatic Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and his oeuvre are mostly second-tier commissions – smallish buildings on undistinguished city sites.  His greatness is built on surmounting the contradictory demands of these commissions – simultaneous city fabric and monument.  Second-tier commissions produced some of the most complex and subtle works of the Western canon:  San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Sant ‘Ivo, Collegio Pamphili.

While the convent is not of the scale, complexity or beauty of San Carlo (which Solomon says “leaves the enduring lesson of how to be both a humble city builder and an architect of thundering power”), it is nonetheless a work of beauty on a small, unassuming city lot tucked away in the corner of Trastevere.  And we can attest that it is a place where mindful reflection is not only possible but nurtured and rewarded.

I Sepolchori

“I Sepolchri” at Santa Maria dell’Orto (photo credit: Jeff Cody)

Traditions – On Maundy Thursday, after the evening Mass that recalls Christ’s Last Supper with the Apostles, many churches in Rome open their doors. The academy staff told us that this is a tradition called “I Sepolchri” where churches decorate their main altars either to recall the Passion of Christ or the Eucharist. While we were unable to make it, several fellows from the academy went to Trastevere where the tradition is very much alive.  From all accounts the church not to be missed is Santa Maria dell’Orto near San Francesco a Ripa.  It is the only time they light their “Macchina delle Quarantore,” one of the few still existing in Italy that has 213 candles that are lit over the main altar.  The lights in the Church are turned off and the only source of lighting is the candles.  Our friend from the academy and the Getty, Jeff Cody, went and testified that it was truly spectacular and magical.

Basilica di Santa Maria

Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastervere

Good Friday found us eating some of the freshest asparagus and peas imaginable at the vegetarian lunch at the American Academy, before heading out into the city.  While touring, we stopped in at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere for a short time to witness the Good Friday service. The basilica is a beautiful space that – on this day – was overflowing with worshipers.  We took in the scene and then headed for quieter and less crowded places.  That evening, the academy’s kitchen (which is the flagship of the Rome Sustainable Food Project) served a traditional zuppa de pesce – a thick fish soup over bread – along with a wonderful white wine that brought out the largest dinner crowd of our three weeks in Rome.

Holy Saturday light at the Pantheon

The light of a beautiful Holy Saturday shines through the Pantheon

Not all Who Wander Are Lost – Saturday was as beautiful a spring day in Rome as one could imagine.  After lunch, Candice and I started a long and meandering trek through the city, often finding ourselves heading down streets we hadn’t intended but always pointing toward an Easter Vigil at St. Paul’s Within the Walls.  We first stopped by the Pantheon, where the light was dazzling and the altars were decorated for the season.

Easter decorations at the Pantheon

Easter decorations at the Pantheon

 

Opera at the Piazza della Rotonda

A little impromptu opera in the Piazza della Rotonda

Tourists have filled the city this week, and we stopped to listen to an opera singer entertain the crowds.  Then we continued our walk and lingered over our evening dinner, finally arriving at St. Paul’s Within the Walls around 7:30 p.m.

St. Paul's tower

St. Paul’s Within the Walls ready to receive visitors for the Easter Vigil

The Great Vigil of Easter – The city of Rome ceased to be governed by the Vatican in 1870 and Italy’s new constitution allowed freedom of worship and the building of non-Roman Catholic churches within the walls of the city. Less than two weeks after this announcement, the Vestry of Grace Chapel in Rome – an Episcopal Church located “outside the walls” – resolved to ask the congregation and friends of Grace Chapel in the United States for funds to build a church “within the walls.”  The name of Grace Chapel was changed to “St. Paul’s Within the Walls” and ground was broken in November of 1872.  The building was designed by British architect G.E. Street, and with the laying of the cornerstone on the Feast of St. Paul on January 25, 1873, it became the first non-Catholic church building inside the walls of the City of Rome.

Mosaics at St. Paul's

Detail of Edward Burne Jones mosaic at St. Paul’s Within the Walls (photo credit: The Victorian Web)

 

Nave and Apse at St. Paul's

Nave and Apse of St. Paul’s set up for Easter Vigil

Because the Edward Burne-Jones mosaics are covered in scaffolding for restoration, I have included one small detail from the web – but do yourself a favor and just Google the images.  They are beautiful.

Rear Mosaic at St. Paul's

Rear Mosic at St. Paul’s designed by George Breck

The mosaic on the rear wall was designed by George Breck in 1913, when he was director of the American Academy in Rome.  They feature the nativity with the adoration of the shepherds and kings, among other scenes.

The Great Vigil of Easter is one of the oldest in Christendom, and – truth be told – is our favorite service of the church year.  Very few churches have large crowds for this Saturday evening service, as most worshipers wait for Sunday morning’s festival Eucharist.  But that doesn’t keep many churches from going all out for the dozens of people who do show up.  St. Paul’s – to our delight – was that type of church.

New fire

The lighting of the new fire

The vigil begins as the “new fire” is kindled and the Paschal Candle is lit outside the church.  Then the priest leads the procession into a darkened church, stopping along the way to intone “The Light of Christ” to which the people respond “Thanks be to God.”

The salvation story of the Christian church is then read in the candle-lit sanctuary, beginning with the great flood and Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea, followed by readings and songs from the prophets. Following a homily and renewal of vows, the Easter “Alleluias” begin and the lights come up throughout the church.  What follows is the Easter liturgy and afterwards a reception to begin the season.  St. Paul’s friendly and thoughtful rector, The Rev. Austin K. Rios, welcomed us (and two friends who had joined us from the academy), we spoke with congregants and visitors alike, and then headed home in a cab for a long and satisfying sleep.

An Easter Meal to Remember – Everyone had advised us to get reservations for Easter lunch, as Romans tend to fill up the restaurants following Sunday morning’s services.  We searched Katie Parla’s recommendations and were thrilled to find that one of her top choices – Antico Arco – was mere steps from the academy.  As Katie describes it,

Situated on the Janiculum Hill near Porta San Pancrazio, Antico Arco serves carefully prepared dishes that blend creativity with seasonal Italian ingredients.

If our experience today is any indication, that’s an understatement!

Easter Breakfast

“Easter Breakfast” appetizer at Antico Arco

 

Negroamaro wine

Negroamaro wine

We were greeted warmly by the staff when we arrived in mid-afternoon.  The dining room was filled with multi-generational families who arrived following Easter services.  Having scoped out the menu online, we quickly ordered a tasting menu to share and I asked for a full-bodied red that would go with the food.  Candice also ordered the snapper as a second main course.

We were barely settled in when our waiter brought out a special treat – the “Easter breakfast” appetizer.  That was soon paired with a bottle of Negroamaro, a red wine grape variety native to southern Italy. It is grown almost exclusively in Apulia and particularly in Salento, the peninsula which can be visualised as the “heel” of Italy. The grape can produce wines very deep in color and this bottle was full and flavorful.

When I remembered, I took a picture of each dish as it arrived.  (There were one or two that were in my mouth before I thought to pull out my camera.)  So for Claire and all the other foodie readers, here’s the exceptional tasting menu for Easter at Antico Arco:

Roasted sea scallops, mint and stewed artichokes pickled in oil

Pigeon breast

Pigeon breast

Pigeon breast in a crust of pistachio crumbs, filled with caramelized figs and sprout salad

Lentil soup

Lentil soup

Lentil soup, seared squid and dried tomatoes

Spaghetti

Spaghetti

Spaghetti Verrigni with carbonara sauce and black truffle (this is one that I accidentally dug into and then had to rearrange for the picture, so their original presentation was better…but the carbonara and black truffles were amazing!)

Crispy Duck Leg

Crispy Duck Leg

 

Snapper

Snapper with semi-dried tomatoes, caper and anchovy mayonnaise

Crispy duck leg with artichoke hearts and passion fruit (and I’ve included the snapper with the semi-dried tomatoes here, since this was the course where we shared both)

Puff pastry of burrata and tomotoes

Cremoso

Cremoso

For dessert, we chose the Cremoso – Walnut sponge cake and gelato, mascarpone cream, crystalized white chocolate and tangerine coulis

Two and one-half hours later, we both agreed that this was a memorable experience on multiple levels and we left singing the praises of the chef and staff.

Monday is a national holiday called “Il lunedì dell’Angelo” but colloquially referred to as “Pasquetta” (little Easter).  I think we’ll use it to walk off some of Easter meal before we join our friends Michael and Dorothy from the academy for a dinner in their apartment on Monday evening.

Easter blessings to you all.

More to come…

DJB