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Called to Lead

Storytelling, St. Paul and the Vocation of Leadership

Date Published: Jan. 16, 2018

“Leading well is ultimately living well,” said Brett Bourbon, associate professor of English and co-director of UD’s new Master of Leadership program. “It requires the virtues of courage and perseverance. It requires self-awareness and an acuity in understanding others and complex situations.”

"Leadership requires the virtues of courage and perseverance. It requires self-awareness and an acuity in understanding others and complex situations."

– Brett Bourbon, Ph.D.

Bourbon, whose academic area of expertise is modern literature, is also a strategy and branding consultant for a number of major companies. He sees a common thread between those two disparate worlds – literature and business – in the art and science of storytelling.

“Leaders establish what they stand for and who they are through the stories they tell and through the stories told about them. These stories create a community around the leader, who in turn uses additional stories to guide his or her community,” said Bourbon.

The health of a community is intimately tied to the health of its leaders, believes J. Lee Whittington, co-director with Bourbon and professor of management at the Satish and Yasmin Gupta College of Business. And yet, as a consultant, he has the same conversation over and over again with business leaders.

“I ask them what they’re doing to shape the next generation of leaders, and they give me blank looks,” he said.

It isn’t just the business world that Whittington is worried about.

"We need to develop the next generation of leaders throughout all levels of society."

– J. Lee Whittington, Ph.D.

“We need to develop the next generation of leaders throughout all levels of society,” said Whittington.

To do that, this business professor and former business college dean turns to the Bible. Whittington believes the apostle St. Paul is one of the greatest leaders the world has ever had. He cites St. Paul’s blend of affirmation and challenge to his followers, as well as his loving  relationship with them.

“On the human side, I think he’s responsible for the establishment and spread of Christianity,” said Whittington. “I think we can glean a lot of relevant and practical leadership principles from Paul’s life and letters.”

Whittington’s unique approach to thinking about leadership has resonated with many. The 30-day Bible study plan he designed for focusing on St. Paul’s leadership has so far been completed by more than 10,000 people.

The University of Dallas’ new Master of Leadership program is another long-dreamed of way for Whittington and Bourbon to remedy this lack of preparation for leaders. The 30-credit hour program includes a series of core courses on leadership, including its ethical, psychological and strategic aspects, elective courses in history, politics, and English, and a capstone project exploring a real-world leadership problem.

The program, which began enrolling students in fall of 2017, is aimed at anyone who is currently in or aspiring to a leadership role.

“There are a lot of people in leadership roles in a variety of organizations who want to work on their leadership; but they don’t need the technical and quantitative skills of an MBA,” said Whittington.

Bourbon and Whittington envision a degree that cuts across colleges. The Master of Leadership is officially administered by the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts, but students will be able to take advantage of the wide range of University of Dallas faculty expertise.

“It’s a degree for leaders,” said Whittington. “It’s not a business degree. It is a University of Dallas degree that taps into all we offer here at UD.”


The University of Dallas’ mission is to form students in intellectual and moral virtues to prepare them to lead and serve their communities in a problematic and changing world. This is part three of a three-part series examining the “new renaissance” of programs at the University of Dallas that support UD’s mission to form servant-leaders.


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