Lead with Humility
12 Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis
Author: Jeffrey A. Krames
Pub Date: September 2014
Print Edition: $14.00
Print ISBN: 9780814449110
Page Count: 144
e-Book ISBN: 9780814449127
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From Bergoglio to Francis
Since thousands packed St. Peter's Square in March 2013 for the inauguration of Pope Francis I, the Argentinian Jesuit has proven himself to be a pope like no pope before him. He has captured the attention of not only faithful Catholics but also lapsed Catholics, people from other denominations and religions, political leaders, media pundits, and so many others who have become enamored with this modest man.
Jorge Mario -Bergoglio---the first -non--European to be ele-vated to the papacy since 741 -A.D.---was in many ways an un-likely successor to Pope Benedict XVI, surprising those who ex-pected the conclave to select an Italian or an American or some-one more outwardly conservative. Regardless, the choice to ele-vate Argentina's Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus to Bishop of Rome and absolute Sovereign of the Vatican City State has pleased many different constituencies. In fact, shortly after Time magazine named Pope Francis its 2013 Person of the Year, an ABC/Washington Post poll found that "92 percent of Catholics express a favorable opinion of Pope Francis, 16 percentage points higher than those polled about Pope Benedict XVI" earlier that year.
What is it about this leader that has drawn the attention of so many? Perhaps it is the humility he displays both in how he lives his life and in how he leads his flock. Perhaps it is the genuine concern he shows for other people, regardless of their station in life. Perhaps it is in the way he embraces sincerity and austerity at a time when the Church has been lambasted for losing touch with its followers.
It's all of that and more. Pope Francis shows himself to be a leader who understands that leaders lead people, not institutions. Unfortunately, too few people understand this in an increasingly impersonal, -high--tech working environment. We live in an age marred by a dearth of leadership. Today, fewer leaders roam the halls of our largest corporations, setting examples of positive, ef-fective leadership. Unlike decades ago, many of us have never witnessed authentic leadership in -action---until now, with the genuineness that we see every day from Pope Francis.
The vast majority of us have seldom, if ever, had a -front--row seat to -Francis--like leadership. But, just so there is no room for misunderstanding, this pope is not perfect. He consistently calls himself a "sinner" and does not demand perfection from anyone. "Who am I to judge" has become his most memorable "five words," reflecting more than mere tolerance when it comes to be-lievers, nonbelievers, and even the most flawed among us. How-ever, leadership is not about perfection; it is about espousing a new vision and getting others to live that vision. In that respect, Pope Francis has been incredibly successful. Peter Drucker would call him a "natural," a "born leader."
Every day, global media focus on some new act of leadership from Pope Francis. Whether calling the young author of a "beauti-fully written" letter to thank him for his kindness and to discuss his thoughts, whether conversing with some very surprised nuns on New -Year's Eve and disrupting their celebration, or whether giving a ride to a friend in the popemobile, this humble, pious man demonstrates the kind of authenticity and -hands--on approach that can inspire the rest of us to be great leaders. This is particu-larly noteworthy in an age when there -doesn't seem to be a leader who can be counted on, from the Congressional offices to the corner office. -That's why the time has come for Leading with Hu-mility.
There is much to be learned from Pope -Francis---and we will learn much more as his papacy unfolds. But in many ways we can already see the manner in which he demonstrates authentic lead-ership. We see how he looks for innovative ways to balance new realities while breaking free of a constrictive past. We see how he uses -cold--calling techniques to communicate with all "employ-ees." We see how he embraces all of God's creatures, -including---and -especially---the meekest and weakest among us, and creates an environment in which all can thrive. We see how he listens to and considers the thoughts and needs of others, finding ways to connect with those who have left the Church. And we can see how he considers all points of view, using discernment and counsel to make the best decisions, rather than making snap judgments on his own. This kind of genuine leadership is needed in today's -world---as needed as it is rare.
A natural leader, Pope Francis I has enamored millions around the -world---including me. Admittedly, I am not a Christian nor a theologian, yet this pope has moved me beyond words. He speaks to me in a way that no other global figure has. Instead of being afraid of change, he yearns for it. He is not afraid of shaking up the status quo. He is not afraid of disruptive innovation. These are among just a few of the hallmarks of a highly effective leader.
And Pope Francis is a great -leader---a great leader who be-comes more compelling by the day. Whether he is too progressive or too conservative will be decided by theologians and political pundits as well as millions of Catholics who will be following his every move for years to come. Whether he is an effective leader, however, is not debatable. Pope Francis has proven to be not only a man of the people but a leader among leaders. If he had been a leader in the business arena, he would rank right up there with leaders who built and transformed the organizations they led and/or founded: people like Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jack Welch (GE), Steve Jobs (Apple), Andy Grove (Intel), and Sam Walton (Walmart).
Aspiring leaders and students of leadership will find much to learn from this unique man, lessons that can be applied to all walks of life, but especially to business and, more specifically, leadership.
Who Is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?
Although he likely would be the last to call himself a natural leader or a born -leader---such -self--praise would be completely out of character for a priest who came up in the Ignatian -tradition---Pope Francis has, indeed, led a life marked by com-passionate, effective leadership, although the Church was not his first calling.
As a young man, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (born December 17, 1936, in Buenos Aires) considered medicine as a profession, planning to become either a doctor or a pharmacy technician. But one summer day when he was 17, Bergoglio stopped by a church to make a confession. That day would prove a turning point for the teenager. He was so deeply moved by the priest who heard his confession that he changed his -plans---not only for that day but also for his entire life. Bergoglio felt in that moment, with that priest, in that church, that God invited him to follow Him. And so he did.
After a few years working odd jobs, including stints as a night-club bouncer, a janitor, a chemical technician, and a teacher of literature, Bergoglio entered Inmaculada Concepción Seminary, the archdiocesan seminary of Villa Devoto in Buenos Aires.
In March 1958, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus, embarking on what would be a relatively long journey to priesthood: It would be more than eleven years before Bergoglio was ordained
During the coming years, Father Bergoglio would study phi-losophy and theology, completing his tertianship (a period of strict discipline in the Jesuit order) and taking his perpetual vows in April 1973. He then served as provincial superior of the Society of Jesus in Argentina until 1979.
From 1980 to 1986, Father Bergoglio served as rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San -Miguel---essentially the manager over all of Argentina's Jesuits. When that -six--year term was over, Bergoglio's successor appointed him to a new position, as is tradition in the order. Bergoglio was assigned to mentor trainees in Córdoba. It was a step -down---or at least -that's how it would have looked on a résumé.
Again, Jorge Mario Bergoglio took what some would have seen as a disappointment in stride. Instead of viewing the new post as an unwelcome setback, he viewed it as an opportunity to learn more about the people he would be -leading---and as an opportunity to learn more about himself and his relationship with God, considering the post simply yet another way to serve the Church rather than as a demotion.
Although many may have viewed such a step as a professional misstep, the position in no way blocked Bergoglio's path to Rome---not that a Vatican post was a position he aspired to. Such aspiration would not be in keeping with the Jesuit order, and, indeed, Pope Francis has admitted that being the Bishop of Rome was not exactly in his future. As he told students in June 2013, "No. I did not want to be pope. Is that okay?"
Nonetheless, Bergoglio's path was, indeed, one of an upward career trajectory. In 1992, he was named auxiliary bishop of Bue-nos Aires. Six years later, he became metropolitan archbishop of Buenos Aires, where he created new parishes and restructured the administrative offices. In 2005, he was elected president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference; he was reelected to another -three--year term in 2008 and then remained a member of the conference's permanent governing body.
By this time, Bergoglio was in his seventies; his work with the Church spanned the end of the twentieth century to the beginning of the -twenty--first century. During those years, he had become known as a humble man, with a predilection for riding the bus to work, often seen in boots soiled from the dust and dirt of the farms on which he worked and the barrios where he visited the faithful as well as those who were not members of the Church. He had become recognized as a leader committed to open, respectful communication with all people from all walks of life, regardless of religion or politics.
In December 2011, however, he submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI, as was required by Canon Law, which man-dates that Catholic bishops resign their positions upon reaching their -seventy--fifth birthdays. But a life of retirement was not to follow.
In March 2013, nearly -fifty--three years to the day since Ber-goglio officially became a Jesuit, he was elected by the conclave to be pope. Now, as Pope Francis, he leads 1.2 billion -Catholics---and a Church racked by controversy and ripe for change. But it is certainly a task he is ready for, as foreshadowed by his unprecedented acts of leadership. For example, in late May 2014, during a trip to the Middle East, Pope Francis extended in-vitations to the presidents of Palestine and Israel to come to the Vatican "to pray." This took place only a few weeks after Middle East peace talks brokered by the United States collapsed. Both leaders accepted the invitation. Whether this will lead to something of substance remains to be seen; it is, however, one of dozens of unprecedented acts of leadership that you will read about in the twelve leadership lessons of Pope Francis that follow.
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