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What Every Leader Should Learn From Pope Francis

What Every Leader Should Learn From Pope Francis

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 January 25, 2021

6 Reasons Why Perfectionism Kills Your Productivity

6 Reasons Why Perfectionism Kills Your Productivity

Perfectionism sounds like a first world problem, but it stifles creative minds. Having a great idea but doubting your ability to execute it can leave you afraid to just complete and publish it. Some of the most successful inventors failed, but they kept going in pursuit of perfection. On the other end of the spectrum, perfectionism can hinder people when they spend too much time seeking recognition, gathering awards and wasting time patting themselves on the back. Whatever your art, go make good art and don’t spend time worrying that your idea isn’t perfect enough and certainly don’t waste time coming up with a new idea because you’re still congratulating yourself for the last one.

1. Remember, perfection is subjective.

If you’re worried about achieving perfectionism with any single project so much that you find yourself afraid to just finish it, then you aren’t being productive. Take a hard look at your work, edit and revise, then send it our into the world. If the reviews aren’t the greatest, learn from the feedback so you can improve next time.

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2. Procrastination masquerades itself as perfectionism.

People who procrastinate aren’t always lazy or trying to get out of doing something. Many who procrastinate do so because perfectionism is killing their productivity, telling them that if they wait a better idea will come to them.

3. Recognize actions that waste time.

Artists and all creative people need time to incubate; those ideas will only grow when properly watered, but if you’re not engaging in an activity that will help foster creativity, you might just be wasting time. Remember to do everything with purpose, even relaxing.

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4. Don’t discriminate against your worth.

No one is actually perfect. We often have tremendous ideas or write things that move people emotionally, but no one attains that final state of being perfect. So, don’t get down if your second idea isn’t as good as your first—or vice versa. Perfectionists tend to be the toughest critics of their work, so don’t criticize yourself. You are not your work no matter how good or how bad.

5. Stress races your heart and freezes your innovation.

Stress is a cyclic killer that perfectionists know well because that same system that engages and causes your palms to sweat over a great idea is the same system that kicks in and worries you that you’re not good enough. Perfectionism means striving for that ultimate level, and stress can propel you forward excitedly or leave you shaking in fear of the next step.

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6. Meeting deadlines beats waiting for perfect work.

Don’t let your fear of failure prevent you from meeting your deadline. Perfection is subjective and if you’re wasting time or procrastinating, you should just finish the job and learn from any mistakes. Being productive means completing work. You shouldn’t try for months or even years to perfect one project when you can produce projects that improve over time.

Featured photo credit: morguefile via mrg.bz

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