Humanistic Leadership Takes Center Stage at The Vatican

“When I visited the Barry-Wehmiller facility in Phillips, WI, I immediately knew that there was something special here, an organization deeply oriented towards helping their team members flourish, and I knew they had to be a part of our conversation in Vatican City.”

This was what Matthew Lee, Baylor professor and Research Associate at the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard, shared with me in his invitation to represent Barry-Wehmiller at the Humanity 2.0 conference in Vatican City, hosted by Cardinal Peter Turkson. 

I have been working with Matt as Barry-Wehmiller’s representative in the Core Team of the Humanistic Leadership Academy. You can learn more about Barry-Wehmiller and our unique culture at our website and learn more about my involvement with the HLA here.

The Humanity 2.0 conference gathered distinguished academics, researchers, philanthropists, and business leaders around the question: “How do we promote human flourishing in our world?” 

The participants included representatives from major companies (Google, Cisco, Gallup, etc.), major universities (Harvard, Oxford, etc.), and major philanthropies (Fetzer, Templeton, etc.).  But what was truly remarkable was the spirit of warmth and collaboration that all attendees shared with each other.

That experience began from the first moment we walked up to the gate and were greeted by the Swiss Guard.  St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican City is one of the most popular tourist locations in the world, and the purple and yellow-uniformed Swiss Guard form the barrier between the thousands of daily tourists and those invited for meetings and conferences. Everyone in the group began their fellowship crossing the beautifully manicured Vatican Gardens behind the Basilica. Then, we gathered within the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which Cardinal Turkson described as a venue that hosts 30+ events per year to deepen the conversation between faith and science because “there need be no division”.

Matt and I had the challenge of kicking off the tone of the meeting with the opening presentation.  Matt is one of the foremost experts in the world on the topic of Human Flourishing, currently working with Gallup and a team of researchers to gather data from a quarter million people around the world to understand how human beings flourish across cultures and countries. I partnered with Matt by demonstrating how theory can become practice in an organization dedicated to sponsor flourishing through Humanistic Leadership.  My heart was pounding as our slides went up on the screen and we began.

The response was electric and immediate.  The audience responded to the strength of the data and the depth of the stories that Matt and I shared, and it initiated a new level of dialogue for the balance of the meeting. We all agreed that human flourishing is the desire for humanity to achieve more than simple survival. We desire the fullest sense of well-being, connection, security, and contribution to the greater good. It is about honoring the sacred stories that come from many cultures- to understand that each life has dignity and potential.

“Human flourishing recognizes that we are whole people- living at the intersection of families, businesses, religions and communities- and each of these systems can either promote flourishing or degrade flourishing,” Matt said.  “This Forum brought together thought leaders who are motivated to not just talk about flourishing but to promote it throughout our world.”

My most powerful takeaway is that pursuing human flourishing requires collaboration across boundaries- academia and business, philanthropists and entrepreneurs, West and East, Christian and Jewish and Muslim and more. 

It was a powerful statement that a bastion of Catholicism hosted by a noted Cardinal would sponsor dialogue with an atheist business leader, a Native Leader of the United Church of Christ, and a self-identified queer Jewish woman. We were all able to listen, collaborate, and commit to a vision of developing human flourishing in our world.

Ultimately, promoting human flourishing is about accepting the awesome responsibility to care for those in your life. Some may call it Love, others may call it Altruism, but by any name it is treating everyone as someone’s PRECIOUS child.

Matt and I left the meeting energized for the work still to come. Multiple working groups are forming out of the session to continue collaboration in our many fields of expertise. Barry-Wehmiller will continue to be a thought leader from supporting the Humanistic Leadership Academy to living our culture with the more than 12,000 team members that call BW home every day.

I hope that you will join us- whatever faith or nationality or tradition you come from- you are welcome to this growing movement to actualize humanistic leadership to sponsor flourishing. Check back to this blog frequently- and reach out with your commitment to one of the many organizations that are working together to create a world that works for everyone.

– Brian Wellinghoff