The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, in all parts of the world, has the face of its local presidents. If the president is democratic, open to dialogue and conciliatory, so will the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. If the leader is closed, stern and centralizing, so will our beloved Society. Therefore, we must have the appropriate profile of president for our Councils and Conferences; otherwise, the harmony that governs our organization will end.
A good Council or Conference President is one who is truly democratic, exercising three great virtues: knowing how to listen, how to listen and how to listen. If you are open to dialogue and criticism, there will be unity in your management and you will be able to implement projects and initiatives, winning the support of all. Detachment to personal opinion is one of the qualities of the good vincentian. However, if the leader makes decisions without listening to the bases, he is doomed to failure. An authoritarian president kills the hopes and expectations of the vincentians.
A good SSVP president is the one who delegates tasks and assignments and, with charity and responsibility, gets results. If he or she is centralizer, it will not do too much. In addition, we are a work team that, in the Conference or in the Councils, adds up our individual talents and, thus, in the name of the poor, seeks to transform reality. We are like a “soccer team,” in which all players are important.
A good SSVP president is the one who gives the example, faithfully fulfilling the Rule without making concessions or seeking “quick solutions,” showing everyone that our secular existence happens precisely because of the hierarchy of love and regulation that we keeps united and strong. The leader must be transparent, not only with financial and patrimonial matters, but also in his actions and words. He must be frank, kind, conciliatory.
A good leader is one who does not attend to gossip and respects each member, especially by providing support in the most difficult moments of their lives. A vocational leader is one who avoids distractions and noises in communication and, if they occur, is always willing to undo the knots and contribute to the growth of the Vincentian group.
The SSVP leader is one whose documents are open, they are public. There are no confidential or reserved documents in our beloved Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. I’m surprised to hear this kind of justification in the mouth of some Council presidents. If something is confidential it is because, at a minimum, it is problematic. We have to deal with our problems with balance and with reasons, without letting the heart impede a truly independent analysis.
If the leaders of our Conferences or Councils act like this, I am sure that harmony will reign within the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. We have to rescue the spirit of concord between us. The beautiful work done in favor of assisted families runs the risk of being stained by unprepared leaders contaminated by the vanity virus. Let us pray a lot in the presidential elections that take place, so that God will give us responsible, modern leaders and in line with the thought of Ozanam.
 Jeitinhos, in the original. This typical expression of Brazil indicates an informal way of reacting based on improvisation in unexpected, difficult or complex situations, not based on rules, nor on procedures or rules stipulated previously [translator’s note].
Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th General President of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul