"You had to get some people who knew what they were doing," he said. "The key really in administration is to find somebody in every department that knew more than I did."
He spent six months getting to know the community and his staff. He waited before making changes and organizing a structure. "People in schools and in charities were doing their jobs," Archbishop Borders said. "They needed to be coordinated, but they didn't need to be coordinated yesterday."
At meetings he would allow heads of his departments to hash out their differences, sometimes asking questions to direct the conversations. "When you have competent people, you can do that," he said.
The prelate used the same approach six years later, when he was appointed to replace Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan as the 13th archbishop of Baltimore.
"I didn't change my style at all," he said, although the archdiocese was three times as large.
He chose "I will listen that I may serve" as his motto.
"He didn't mind getting in the fray of an argument. He actually liked debate," said Monsignor G. Michael Schleupner, pastor of St. Margaret Church in Bel Air. He served as the archbishop's chancellor, or executive assistant, for a decade.
"What people had to learn is when he voiced his point of view, it was at least in the beginning of the discussion he would shape decisions from the debate."
"I think he had a pretty uncanny ability to assess people's strengths and use their strengths," Monsignor Schleupner added.
Those who knew him in Orlando and Baltimore admired his devotion to fellow priests and religious members.
"He knew every sister in the diocese by name," said Sister Rosalie Murphy, a retired Archdiocese of Baltimore official. She met the archbishop while she was an administrator for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, which sent four women to establish the migrant ministry in Orlando.
"He didn't have a large population, but that was the kind of base he set up in terms of his leadership."
During his tenure in Baltimore, every time the Rev. Richard Lawrence's father entered the hospital with a stroke — he had 25 — Archbishop Borders visited the family in the hospital, Father Lawrence said.
"These are his men. This is a priority," said Father Lawrence, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church, who served as the chief financial officer under Archbishop Borders.
Baltimore presented challenges also, in its poverty as well as its diversity — "you had to make sure you didn't lump everybody in the same category. You had to recognize the diversity, background and talents," Archbishop Borders said.
The archbishop said he arrived in the city amid two crises: the police strike and integration of schools.
In October, "I went on TV and asked for peace," Archbishop Borders said. "I had been here six months, and I recommended that some parents travel the school buses, and they did it. I didn't have any authority at all. I just made the recommendation."
"I didn't want any chaos on buses. You don't know what kids are going to do when they're not accustomed to associating with each other."
Several months later, he suffered a serious heart attack while on retreat and took two months off to recover.
Archbishop Borders organized the diocese into three vicariates and appointed his auxiliary bishops to lead them.
He also put in place the changes directed by the Second Vatican Council, such as establishing lay parish councils to guide pastors. Archbishop Borders also organized representatives from these councils into area councils, each leading up to the pastoral council.
"I think Archbishop Borders really grasped Vatican II," Sister Rosalie said. "I think many bishops came home, and then they realized what they had done over there. Some of the things they had set in motion were very radical."
"He was a strong believer in lay ministry and collegiality," Father Lawrence said.
He also advocated for leadership of women within the church. In addition to writing a pastoral letter, "Women in the Church," the archbishop appointed the archdiocese's first female pastoral director, Sister Jane Coyle, who led the parish of Corpus Christi in Bolton Hill for 13 years.
He also brought Sister Rosalie to the archdiocese as director of the Division of Collegial Services, overseeing the councils of lay, religious and priests. Until then, all division heads were male.
After gay Catholics criticized his opposition to proposed gay-rights legislation for Baltimore, Archbishop Borders was cheered when he established the archdiocese's ministry to homosexuals in 1981, according to news reports at the time.
The archbishop also hosted "Realities," a Sunday television talk show, for 11 years. He invited guests to speak on a theme, such as integration or theology, and volunteers would take questions from callers.