A mix collection of inspirational stories gathered from the internet and personal experiences.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

8 leadership lessons from the extraordinary Pope Francis

By Wilson Lee Flores
The Philippine Star

One need not be religious or a Catholic to discern and admire the remarkable leadership qualities of Pope Francis. Although the historic and successful visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines has ended, I recently came across a unique 2014 book published by the American Management Association entitled Lead With Humility: 12 Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis.

By the way, it’s authored not by a Roman Catholic, but by a Jewish admirer who has previously authored books on the management prowess of legendary former General Electric CEO Jack Welch.

A son of Holocaust survivors, Jeffrey A. Krames wrote at the beginning of his book that he views Pope Francis as “the 21st century’s answer to the 20th century’s most malevolent mass murderer” Hitler, and as a leader who personifies real hope for a better world.

Here are eight practices that Krames believes have made Pope Francis so outstanding as a leader. I believe businesspeople, professionals and even more so our political leaders can learn much from these. I’ve added my own comments to each practice.

1. Reach out to non-customers. This is one weakness of many leaders in business or politics, with executives often overly focused only on their existing clientele and ignoring the rest, while some politicos in power tend to pander only to their core constituencies but tend to alienate non-believers.

Pope Francis is a statesman and visionary leader in effectively reaching out beyond the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and others. He can win over more people.

Pope Francis surprisingly declared that God has redeemed all of us, not just Catholics. Management guru Peter Drucker said, “Every organization has more non-customers than customers, and that you can learn more from the people who aren’t buying your product than from those who are.”

2. Embrace risk. The book shares an interesting anecdote about the young Francis when he was once very ill in Argentina. The nun caring for him had disobeyed his doctor’s prescriptions by adding three times his dose of antibiotics, because she knew from firsthand experience that Francis would die without that higher dosage. Pope Francis cites this “as an example of living on the frontier.” Is that one of the reasons he often broke security protocol during his visit to the Philippines, in order to physically reach out to his numerous well-wishers on the streets and in crowds? He is a risk-taker in many ways, a trait true leaders need to cultivate.

3. Reinvent your organization. Krames said we should all emulate Pope Francis: “Don’t change — reinvent!” The world’s first Jesuit pontiff is a gutsy reformer who has shockingly taken on different groups within the Vatican hierarchy and bureaucracy, publicly lashing out at their shortcomings with oratorical fire and brimstone. He has even fired a top European prelate for the latter’s extravagant lifestyle.

How many of our politicians are harsh on people outside their own clique, but slow or paralyzed with inertia in firing, castigating and reforming erring officials within their own organization, party, government or corporation? Reinvent or suffer atrophy!

4. Be patient. Krames wrote that although a fearless reformer, Pope Francis is also wise enough to understand that reforms take time and also require the right timing. An example of this was Pope Francis letting one year pass first as pontiff before he famously commented that divorced and remarried people could receive Holy Communion.

5. Get in the field. This is interesting, especially in our local TV stations’ often stereotypical depictions of businesspeople in telenovelas or teleseryes, showing executives in fancy suits comfortably ensconced inside plush boardrooms or luxurious offices. Some executives do believe in this kind of wrong or weak thinking.

In stark contrast, Pope Francis is more similar to the world’s best businesspeople, professionals and leaders, especially the rugged self-made entrepreneurs who roll up their sleeves and are often out in the field talking to customers or employees.

In ancient China, the greatest emperors would disguise themselves as commoners in order to visit ordinary citizens to feel the real pulse of the masses and the true state of the nation, not rely on their own “praise releases.”

Krames wrote: “Francis hates any members of the clergy who sit in offices and push paper. When he was a bishop in Buenos Aires City, then Jorge Mario Bergoglio would dress as an ordinary priest and go out at night to talk with people.”

6. Listen to diverse voices. One of the weaknesses of egoistical leaders, whether in business or politics, is surrounding himself with like-minded sycophants, who tell him not only similar ideas and views, but also often only the good news.

Leaders who quarrel with contrarians or critics, who refuse to hear different opinions, can never truly rise to greatness, because nobody on earth has a monopoly on ideas, genius and access to truths. Pope Francis avoids becoming an insular leader by seeking out ideas and information from diverse people worldwide.

7. Put the organization’s goals above your own. Another weakness of some natural or strong leaders is overwhelming and suffocating his or her organization with his persona and his personal objectives. Prioritizing the needs and interests of the organization over one’s self will eventually result in a stronger organization, which will benefit any leader more.

Krames wrote in his book that during the papal election of 2005, Bergoglio encouraged his supporters to vote for Joseph Ratzinger after successive votes showed that he was the only other strong contender, because he didn’t want the delays that he believed wouldn’t be good for the Catholic Church. Ratzinger won that election to become Pope Benedict XVI, but resigned in 2013 due to poor health.

8. Lead by example. This practice of Pope Francis isn’t just ideal for business executives, political leaders or professionals, but for all of us. Before he became Pope, Bergoglio accompanied his priests to the most dangerous slum areas of Argentina’s capital city Buenos Aires, where religious people had been killed, kidnapped and even tortured.

He not only encouraged his priests to go out and mix with ordinary folk, he himself did so to set an example and to boost the morale of his people. It’s the same with many of the world’s heroic military commanders like Alexander the Great and others who are often at the frontlines of battle, setting examples of valor, chivalry and fighting prowess, also immeasurably boosting the morale of his people.

In fact, despite his being a brilliant Jesuit intellectual who is predisposed to eloquence with words in speeches and sermons, Pope Francis is even more effective in his teachings via his actions and through the sheer power of his example.

It doesn’t matter what our vocation, profession or even our religion is, let us all emulate and be inspired by the extraordinary leader that is Pope Francis!


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