Business advice from Pope Francis

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Leadership lessons from Pope Francis – two dozen ideas from the leader of 1.2bn

The best business leadership advice isn’t always to be found in lecture halls and text books. As respected marketing and communications strategist Clive Simpkins demonstrates in this excellent piece, watching leaders beyond commerce and industry can produce fascinating insights into how to become a better leader.  He has put together a ‘listicle’ of the habits of Pope Francis that he believes may be worth emulating. Although he has picked out a religious leader, Clive has teased out 24 features of Pope Francis’s management style that he believes should be seriously considered by any organisation head who is committed to ongoing professional development. -JCClive2

By Clive Simpkins*

OK, disclaimer: I’m not a Roman Catholic but two of my favourite saints, since my childhood, are St. Francis of Assisi and St. Theresa of Lisieux. In my very early twenties I had the opportunity to spend a few days in residence at the Mariannhill monastery in KZN. This was at the invitation of then novice master, the patient and gracious Father Urs Fischer. This was part of an ‘exchange scheme’ in which one of their awaiting-ordination priests spent time at the Hindu Ashram where I spent my weekends. I’ve also always been a Vatican watcher. So since his election, I’ve been stalking the deeds and comments of Pope Francis. And I’m thrilled with what I see.

Watching this Jesuit, looking back at his history, following his homilies and reading the transcript of his latest long interview, I realised that there are many, simple, yet profound leadership lessons to be drawn from what he does and how he acts. If you’re in the business of becoming a better leader, some of his habits may be worth emulating. In social media terms, this will qualify as a ‘listicle’. Yeah, go google it. I’m not doing everything for you. Here then, in no particular order, are some of those things.

  1. Don’t change who you are as you move up through the ranks. Your consistency and behavioural predictability will allow people to be who they really are.
  2. Never lose the element of surprise, though. Make that call from your personal mobile phone to the equivalent of your news vendor or someone much lower down the totem pole of authority. In Kiplingesque terms, you’ll maintain the ‘common touch’.
  3. Don’t rely on fancy clothes, accommodation, cars or the trappings of your office to bolster your status. Your authenticity will do that better than any of those things.
  4. Don’t be a new broom. Take your time. If you’re too driven by the need to make immediate change to make your mark, you may well make bad decisions.
  5. Don’t focus on rules. Focus on the spirit of the organisation and the spirit of the people in it.
  6. Don’t tolerate mediocrity but acknowledge the deep, if different flaws, in all of us.
  7. Be respectful of and willing to take counsel from your predecessors.
  8. Acknowledge that people are individually talented. Tell them what you want done and let them get to the outcome in their own way.
  9. Get out of your high-backed chair at the top of the boardroom table. Go and sit with your team. Listen. Really listen. Ask what they think. And why. And act on it.
  10. Don’t be afraid to get rid of bad apples. But do so only after knowing that they really are unwilling to walk the arduous path of remedy or rehabilitation.
  11. Focus on young people. They’re the future and from them will come innovation and freshness to revitalise the organisation.
  12. Be spontaneous. Do what comes naturally and from the heart. Walk your equivalent of St. Peter’s square. Touch the sick and the fearful and the unhappy. And make them feel better.
  13. Have a finely-tuned sense of social justice. Words and motivational slogans don’t fill empty tummies – or hearts. Actions do.
  14. Make sure your management team gets out and among the people. As Pope Francis says, ‘the shepherd must smell of the sheep.’
  15. Acknowledge your own flaws and humanity. People will love you for your genuine humility and your acknowledgement that you’re not special. If you tell them you’re humble, they’ll never believe you – because you aren’t.
  16. Gentle course corrections work best for big ships. Be patient with yourself, others and the organisation. Slower change is sustainable.
  17. Put people in positions because they’re the best people for those positions. Not because it’s the politically correct or expected thing to do.
  18. Allow people to make mistakes. Share the learning from them. Help everyone to grow from them.
  19. Let your speeches and shared insights come from your experience and the wisdom of your own, intentional construction of character.
  20. Build relationships and networks outside of your organisation. You’ll win back wayward customers and impress even your opposition.
  21. Acknowledge that what you know and the wisdom you’ve accumulated is not yours, alone. It’s come from listening to others, reading what others wrote, emulating what others did. From contemplation and universal inspiration.
  22. Watch out for politics in your organisation. Don’t reward the bureaucrats and the cops. Reward those who grow others.
  23. Keep what’s good from tradition but don’t make a god of it. Be inclusive, not exclusive.
  24. Joyfully live your talk and inspire others through what you do, not just what you say.

*By Clive Simpkins, marketing and communications strategist. Follow @clivesimpkins on twitter.

For more by Clive Simpkins on, see:

Clive Simpkins: Why do we Africans continue to fail; are we in a time warp?
Quo Vadis SA mining industry? Overfull feeding trough has opened the door for Malema

Tradewise Report

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The Nikkei Index lost 1.57% on Monday as the shares of blue-chip exporters and financials fell as the US Dollar dropped to a one-month low against the Yen.

The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong has dropped to its lowest level in two weeks on Monday, with a subpar reading for factory activity on the mainland and fears that a U.S. government shutdown hurting investor sentiment but shares on mainland China edged higher.

According to Reuters, European markets are expected to open lower on Monday, with a new political crisis for Italy’s president, as well as the possibility of a U.S. government shutdown disturbing investors.

Reuters reports that U.S. stock index futures and the Dollar traded lower on Monday as the possibility of a U.S. government shutdown increased, with political troubles in Italy also putting pressure on the Euro, while a surprise downward revision to the final HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for China also added to bearish investor sentiment.

Business Day reports that the JSE eked a small gain on Friday with gold mining shares advancing on a weaker Rand, as well as a firmer gold price but losses in banking shares counter balanced investor sentiment, while a risk-off attitude prevailed ahead of the US debt ceiling debate this week.

The Rand is trading much lower at R10.1275 against the Dollar, while it is weaker at R13.6595 against the Euro, and at R16.3267 to the Pound.

The gold price has inched higher on Monday on safe-haven buying with the precious metal on track for its best quarter in a year despite the uncertain outlook for U.S. monetary stimulus. Gold was last trading at $1 338.80 with the platinum price quoted at $1 414.60, while the palladium price was at $728.17.

Brent crude oil was last trading lower at $107.76 a barrel.

Traders Corner

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  • US stocks fell, giving the S&P500 Index its first weekly drop since August, as concern grew that the budget impasse will hurt economic growth in the world’s largest economy.
  • Chinese stocks rose, heading for the best quarter in three years, as consumer discretionary and technology stocks advanced in the last trading day before a weeklong shutdown by the nation’s markets.
  • Japanese shares fell, with the Topix index headed for its biggest drop in a month, after the yen gained against the dollar amid concern the U.S. government is set for a partial shutdown.
  • Hong Kong’s benchmark stock index headed for its steepest drop in a month amid concern U.S. budget wrangling will lead to a government shutdown. Shares extended declines after a Chinese manufacturing gauge missed estimates.
  • Gold(1338),unchanged and the rand(10.08),2 cents stronger from Friday’s close.
  • Major economic data today:
  1. -11:00: CPI - Euro
  2. -14:00: Trade balance - SA
  • Ex-Div. shares today; ART,KAP,MMI,MFL,MST,OLG,SGL,SUR
  • The local market should open down,-0.4%,following world market lower.

Tradewise Report

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The Nikkei Index slipped lower on Friday, with investors taking their recent profits, while traders were reluctant to open any new positions ahead of a government announcement next week with regards economic growth, as well as a tax strategy.

Chinese markets have bounced back slightly on Friday, with coal and aluminium shares leading the gainers after data showed that the pace of profit growth for Chinese industrial companies more than doubled in August.

According to Reuters, European equity index futures are pointing to a higher open on Friday, but a lack of progress in the continuing U.S. budget and debt negotiations will force investors to be cautious, while some may even cash in profits after the recent rally.

Reuters reports that US markets ended a five-day losing streak on Thursday, with investors liking the unemployment benefits data which saw claims drop to six week lows but were concerned over continued wrangling with regards the US Budget, while housing and consumer price data showed less positive signs of the recovery.

Business Day reports that blue chip stocks on the JSE All Share Index briefly extended their gains into record territory in the morning session, but the benchmark index still closed in the red, with AngloGold, Africa's top gold producer one of the few bright spots as the gold price edged higher.

The Rand is trading much lower at R10.0393 against the Dollar, while it is weaker at R13.5246 against the Euro, and at R16.0882 to the Pound.

The gold price was trading flat in Singapore on Friday on mixed U.S. economic data as persistent uncertainty over the U.S. Federal Reserve's stance on it easy monetary program, as well as weak demand for the previous metal hurts its appeal. Gold was last trading at $1 327.30, with the platinum price quoted at $1 412.75, while the palladium price was at $724.30.

Brent crude oil was last trading higher at $109.03 a barrel.