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What Every Leader Should Learn From Pope Francis

What Every Leader Should Learn From Pope Francis
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Pope Francis, whether your a Catholic or not, is a significant world leader. He’s been on Fortune’s Worlds Greatest Leaders List list two years running and has made a significant impact in the two and half years since he became pontiff.

Born, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, in Buenes Aries, Pope Francis was ordained in 1969 and served as Bishop from 1992 to 2001 and as a Cardinal from then until his election as pope in 2013.

His impact as a leader is distinctive and I believe based on not so much on personality but on how he leads and these attributes are what every leader can learn from Pope Francis.

Understand leadership

Renowned business thinker Gary Hamel, writing for the Harvard Business Review about Pope Francis says, “He understands that in a hyper-kinetic world, inward-looking and self-obsessed leaders are a liability.”

Hamel’s article, “The 15 Diseases of Leadership, According to Pope Francis,” is based on an address Pope Francis made to the Roma Curia, the body that administers the Catholic church. It shows Pope Francis has a real understanding of leadership and is able to clearly articulate his vision in this area to those he is leading within the Vatican.

This understanding on leadership comes I believe from two things. Firstly, he’s grounding in psychology, a subject a he taught earlier in his career. We can all take time to learn about leadership, study the science of psychology which underpins it as preparation for taking a role as a leader.

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Secondly, it’s something he’s practiced.

Put in the service first

Whilst Francis may seem like an overnight sensation nothing could be further from the truth. Being Pope has been a long and often difficult journey for Francis, nine years as a Bishop and twelve as a Cardinal. Depending on the scale of the leadership you aspire to, don’t rush to get there but put the service in first, deal with the tough challenges which will help you prepare for the future.

Instead of being overambitious, look for the opportunities to lead and serve where you are now rather than aiming for advancement too quickly.

An example of Francis’ work as a Bishop was to reorganize the banking arrangements of the diocese so that a higher degree of fiscal discipline. Without that experience would he had the confidence the more challenging administrative issues of the Vatican?

Be outward looking and relevant

Whilst Francis isn’t shying away from dealing with the internal workings of the Vatican what’s clear, and why he’s in headlines, is that his leadership style is outward looking. This again is a continuation of his earlier work where he has been a strong track record of ecumenism (working with other branches or Christianity) and promoting links with other faiths.

If you only look inside you organisation then you will become too narrowly focus and risk becoming irrelevant.

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And Pope Francis is highly relevant. His famous 2015 encyclical on the environment (laudato si’, subtitled “on care for our common home”) is important whether you’re in the Catholic church or not. It has been a seen as a good thing by environmentalists outside the church. One such person is veteran environmentalist Jonathon Porritt who, despite strong reservations about Papal teaching, wrote, “as a growing and already hugely inspirational presence in our environmental world, there’s so much to admire about what this man is saying and doing.”

By being relevant and outward looking you connect with people, even those who might not be your natural allies and think exactly like you. So as leaders we need to think, connect and act broadly.

“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads … to those who have quit or are indifferent.” Pope Francis.

Eschew the trinkets of office

The irrelevant inward looking leader is often the one most worried about the size of their corner office or their rights to a parking place.

It’s no surprise that Pope Francis has chosen to live more modestly in a one bedroom apartment rather than the Apostolic palace that he could have, again repeating how he’d lived as a Cardinal.

As leader people are watching you. If they see a fat cat feathering their own nest then they won’t be inspired.

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“An example I often use to illustrate the reality of vanity, is this: look at the peacock; it’s beautiful if you look at it from the front. But if you look at it from behind, you discover the truth… Whoever gives in to such self-absorbed vanity has huge misery hiding inside them.” Pope Francis.

Pope Francis throws the status model of leadership on it’s head and it’s something we can all do. Maybe it’s as simple as asking if your flash office or prime desk position could be better used by someone else?

Use the resources you have wisely

Whatever resources you have at your disposal they should be used to the best purpose. Whether it’s a desk or a Vatican bank account it needs to be managed well. It’s not there just for you to indulge yourself. Francis’ focus in improving banking and administration is to good purpose as in frees up resources to be better used.

Pope Francis’ motivation for a more simpler existence is exactly this; the resources can be used specifically for the charitable purposes of the Catholic church.

If we take unnecessarily from an organisation we lead, whether they are charitable or not, we can undermine the purpose of the organisation by depriving funds from where they might be badly needed.

“Money has to serve, not to rule.” Pope Francis.

And you don’t need a gilded sanctuary if you’re out there meeting your people.

Get out more

You won’t meet many people if you don’t get out. As Bishop in Buenos Aries he was dubbed the “Slum Bishop” because of number of priests he sent into the poor areas. Also he would regularly  go out on his own.

Pope Francis’ external outlook as been cemented by his getting out and meeting people. This has created opportunities for him to address audiences on subjects important to him and make an impact.

“This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is criss-crossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.” Pope Francis

In conclusion Pope Francis is remarkable as a leader because he’s actually doing what we want from our leaders. We don’t want self interest but rather someone engaged in the real world who acts with real humility. And that’s what every leader can learn.

Featured photo credit: Papa rock star / Edgar Jiménez via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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