Four Leadership Lessons From the Pope
He may not have an M.B.A., but Pope Francis can teach you a thing or two about running a business.
The pontiff, who landed in South Korea on Thursday, marking the first papal visit to Asia in 15 years, has been dubbed a turnaround artist on the level of Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs and International Business Machines Corp. Lou Gerstner by the Economist magazine. He has worked miracles in steering a bloated bureaucracy ridden with scandals and a decline in followers, according to his admirers.
Jeffrey Krames, a Chicago-based author, was so inspired by the Pope’s leadership that he decided to write a book on the topic, Lead with Humility: 12 Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis.
So, how do you lead like a pope? Here are four lessons from the book:
1. Be humble.
Pope Francis has written that humility is one of the most important qualities a true leader should possess. But it’s not enough to act humble: Francis says it has to be authentic.
Krames writes that the Pope has consistently put himself on the same level of his followers, and notes that business leaders like former eBay Inc.EBAY -0.06% CEO Meg Whitman, now chief of Hewlett-Packard Co.HPQ -1.52%, and former Travelocity CEO Michelle Peluso, now head of online fashion retailer Gilt Groupe Inc., have done the same by ditching corner offices for the commoner’s cubicle.
“There’s plenty of room for CEOs to become far more humble,” Krames said in an interview, noting that the Pope isn’t anti-capitalist, but likely thinks the wealthy could be more charitable.
2. Have an open mind.
Pope Francis’s motto is “people first, and then everything else follows,” according to Krames, who writes that the Pope’s career has been much less about holding Catholics to the age-old tenets of their faith and more about serving people. For example, though previous popes have ceremonially cleansed the feet of only Christian men, Pope Francis has washed the feet of both men and women of varying faiths.
Krames writes that the Pope has refused to judge individuals that would otherwise have been shunned by the Church, including the LGBT community. He notes that good leaders don’t talk down to their followers—rather, they engage in open dialogue:
“It is important, says Francis, not to deliver a monologue when speaking with your people and to take into account the changing nature of our culture,” Krames writes.
3. You can’t do everything from your desk.
Pope Francis thinks the Church should be run like a military field hospital, Krames writes, in that leaders can’t just stand idly at the altar.
“He doesn’t want pencil pushers,” Krames says. Similarly, he writes that great businesspeople spend time in the field getting to know their clients. And, great managers decentralize decision making by avoiding micromanagement and trusting their employees to get the job done in the field.
4. Don’t let failures get you down.
In a move that stunned many, Pope Francis gave his own confession this past year before hearing the confessions of others, acknowledging that he too makes mistakes. Referring to the handling of child sexual abuse scandals faced by the Church, Krames notes that Pope Francis himself has learned that “sidestepping adversity seldom works.”
“Dwelling on past injuries will not help you in the future. To be a leader of the magnitude of Pope Francis, you have to recognize that sometimes you will falter, and that mistakes are acceptable as long as they can contribute to future triumphs,” he writes.
“Lead with Humility: 12 Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis” will be released in September.