Book Spotlight: Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader by Tim Warneka


I am pleased to share the following interview with Tim Warneka, author of Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader: An Introduction to Catholic Servant Leadership. To listen to our Catholic Moments Podcast featuring Tim Warneka, click here.

Please briefly introduce yourself and your family.

First and foremost, I’m a life-long Catholic. My Catholic faith is deeply important to me and influences everything I do. I’m trained as a clinical counselor and maintain a small counseling/coaching practice that ministers to Catholics across the country.

In addition, I hold black belt ranking in the non-violent martial art of Aikido which I have practiced for almost 20 years now.

I’ve written several books on leadership. I provide motivational keynote speeches and Catholic Servant Leadership trainings to organizations and educational institutions throughout the U.S. My counseling/life coaching site is: My secular consulting website is found at:

I’m married with two children. My wife teaches 1st grade at a local Catholic elementary school. My children attend the same school. My son is in 8th grade and my daughter is in 6th grade.

Interested readers can learn more about me at:

Please give a brief overview of your most recent book.

I’m very proud to say that Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader: An Introduction to Catholic Servant Leadership is the very first book written on Catholic Servant Leadership.

In a nutshell, Catholic Servant Leadership is an exciting new emotionally intelligent leadership approach based on the powerful tenets of the Roman Catholic faith, Leadership Science, the Servant Leadership movement, and the revolutionary non-violent martial art of Aikido (‘The Art of Peace’).

Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader is designed to be used throughout the Catholic Church — in high schools, youth programs, colleges, universities, lay reading groups and seminaries. It’s perfect for emerging student leaders as well as adults in sacred and secular leadership positions. Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader shows people how to be an effective Catholic Servant Leader while enhancing the lives of those they lead.

Could you please describe your founding of the Catholic Servant Leadership movement – how did your personal background and studies lead you to develop and begin to speak and write about this philosophical approach to leadership?

Several years ago, I was coaching a Catholic leader who asked me, “Is it possible to be both a Catholic AND a successful leader?” Founding the Catholic Servant Leadership movement was my way of answering that question with a resounding, “Yes!”

My background and life experience deeply influences my approach to Catholic Servant Leadership. I was educated by Catholic educators, including my undergraduate years at the University of Dayton (UD), Ohio’s largest Catholic university. UD is run by the Society of Mary, or Marianists. My experiences with the Marianist brothers, priests and sisters impacted me deeply, particularly their leadership emphasis on community and relationship.

After earning my Master’s degree, I spent 10 years treating poor children, adolescents and families in community mental health. I became an expert on treating sexual, physical and emotional violence … and I saw how deeply leaders’ decisions impacted people struggling with these horrific issues on a daily basis.

It was at this time I began incorporating principles of Aikido into my work. Aikido is a non-violent martial art that holds an explicit ethical stance that it is our responsibility to protect our attackers. Discussing the relationship between Aikido and Catholic Servant Leadership is an entire discussion in itself, but basically, Aikido provides a road map that helps me practice Jesus’ words, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

From my work in mental health, God called me into a new vocation of writing about leadership as well as coaching and consulting with leaders in organizations. In my writing, I began to address what I saw were the shortcomings in the leadership literature. Most leadership books are mistakenly written from a self-serving, “focus-on-me-as-leader” perspective. Drawing on my experiences with the Marianists at U.D., I consistently noticed a stunning lack of discussion of community or relationship in the leadership literature. The extensive leadership failures of 2008 prove that this narcissistic perspective is exactly what the world does NOT need.

As I continued keynote speaking and consulting around the country, I encountered a deep hunger in the leaders I met. They were hungry for an integration of spirituality and leadership. I had been reading about Servant Leadership for some time, but couldn’t find anything written on Servant Leadership from a Catholic perspective.

So I sat down to write the very first book on Catholic Servant Leadership.

Early on in researching my Catholic Servant Leadership book, I came across a wonderful quote by the U.S. Bishops that said, “We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.”

I thought, “What a great perspective to lead people from!”

It was from this very perspective that I wrote my book on Catholic Servant Leadership.

How can the concepts of Catholic Servant Leadership be integrated into family life?

By remembering that everyone is a Catholic Servant Leader …

especially parents.

For the parents reading this, I would say to you that God has placed you in your children’s lives for a reason. You are their first (and most important!) leader. If I’ve learned one thing from being a therapist for over 15 years, it’s that parents impact lives more deeply then most people realize.

Effective parenting, like every other leadership position, takes experience and practice. We all make mistakes as parents … I know I sure do! (Laughs.) One of the most marvelous things I’ve noticed about our kids is this: as soon as we parents figure them out, they change! Sometimes I think childhood developmental stages are simply God’s way of keeping us parents on our toes. (Laughs.)

I’m planning on writing a book on Catholic Servant Leadership and parenting in the near future, so I have many ideas on this topic. In a nutshell though, in my work with Catholic parents, I find that one of the best ways to integrate Catholic Servant Leadership into family life is for parents to consider parenting as vocation … a calling to be a Catholic Servant Leader to one of the most important parts of our society: our children.

If someone is completely unfamiliar with the concepts of Catholic Servant Leadership, what are a few steps that would help her begin to implement these concepts into her day to day lifestyle?

There’s lots of ways to practice Catholic Servant Leadership. Here are seven simple steps to begin your practice of Catholic Servant Leadership:

1. Start here. Remembering that everyone is a Catholic Servant Leader, start where you are. Trust that you are where God wants you to be.

2. Be present to others. You can’t lead in the past. You can’t lead in the future.  You can only be a Catholic Servant Leader right now. When leading others, give the person you’re with your fullest attention. Practice listening to others more deeply.

3.  Put people first. Remember the U.S. Bishops’ words about “…enhancing the dignity of the human person.”? Find small ways to let the people you lead (even your kids!) know you put them first.

4. Breathe. God has given you a powerful Catholic Servant Leadership tool you can use every day: you body. Your body contains a God-given wisdom you can tap into at any moment. To access the wisdom of your body, simply breathe deeply.

5.  Watch the video, “Catholic Servant Leadership in 60 Seconds” on the homepage of my website, In this less-than-a-minute video, I cover the 10 principles of Catholic Servant Leadership. Pick one of the principles. Explore ways to practice this principle once each day with the people you lead.

6. Get support. Seek out a good life coach, therapist, spiritual director or mentor. Nobody makes it to the Olympics without a coach. Catholic Servant Leadership is a relational process, so it is best (and more easily!) learned in relationship with another.

7. Pray. The next time you’re at mass or Eucharistic adoration, invite God into your heart. Ask Him what you need to grow into a more effective Catholic Servant Leader. Then listen.

What type of reaction do you receive from individuals who hear you speak or read your books?

Sighs of relief, mostly. (Laughs.)

Seriously, most Catholics I’ve met are very enthusiastic about having the chance to talk about both their leadership and their Catholic faith. Until my book came along, there simply wasn’t much of a forum for these types of discussions. Now there is.

That, and I find most Catholics to be intrigued by the connections I’ve made by exploring the diversity of Aikido and Catholic Servant Leadership. Most people who have participated in my workshops, retreats and keynote speeches initially approach the topic with a healthy degree of skepticism. But once they discover the value in attending to the God-given wisdom of their bodies, most Catholics appreciate the insights Aikido offers us as Catholic Servant Leaders.

Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

Three things.

First, I can’t overemphasize the fact that you don’t need to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in order to practice Catholic Servant Leadership. You can practice Catholic Servant Leadership anywhere: at work, at home, as well as other places. Of course, bosses lead people. But so do effective parents lead their children. Older children lead younger children. Volunteer co-coordinators lead. Healthy spouses take turns leading each other. In short, everyone is a Catholic Servant Leader.

So whether you are a stay-at-home parent or engaged in full-time employment, whether you volunteer by working at a nearby food bank or organizing a local Girl Scout troop … whatever you do, wherever you are, you can practice Catholic Servant Leadership right there.

Second, remember that there is no one single right way to practice Catholic Servant Leadership. In Catholic Servant Leadership, the “right” response is deeply driven by the context you are in. In my speaking and coaching, I encourage people to feel free to experiment with what works in their role as Catholic Servant Leaders.

Finally, I invite readers to visit my on-line at, where you can learn more about Catholic Servant Leadership. There’s even video for you to watch! To learn more about my books, videos and other educational material, search under either “Warneka,” or “Catholic Servant Leader.”

Purchase Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader: An Introduction to Catholic Servant Leadership through and support this website with your order.


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

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