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. -JC
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.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don’t focus on rules. Focus on the spirit of the organisation and the spirit of the people in it.
- Don’t tolerate mediocrity but acknowledge the deep, if different flaws, in all of us.
- Be respectful of and willing to take counsel from your predecessors.
- Acknowledge that people are individually talented. Tell them what you want done and let them get to the outcome in their own way.
- 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.
- 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.
- Focus on young people. They’re the future and from them will come innovation and freshness to revitalise the organisation.
- 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.
- Have a finely-tuned sense of social justice. Words and motivational slogans don’t fill empty tummies – or hearts. Actions do.
- Make sure your management team gets out and among the people. As Pope Francis says, ‘the shepherd must smell of the sheep.’
- 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.
- Gentle course corrections work best for big ships. Be patient with yourself, others and the organisation. Slower change is sustainable.
- 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.
- Allow people to make mistakes. Share the learning from them. Help everyone to grow from them.
- Let your speeches and shared insights come from your experience and the wisdom of your own, intentional construction of character.
- Build relationships and networks outside of your organisation. You’ll win back wayward customers and impress even your opposition.
- 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.
- Watch out for politics in your organisation. Don’t reward the bureaucrats and the cops. Reward those who grow others.
- Keep what’s good from tradition but don’t make a god of it. Be inclusive, not exclusive.
- 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 biznewz.biz, see: