The Pope’s recent visit to the United States may have been disappointing for those expecting a rock star. His philosophy and approach are not how we typically characterize top leaders in our American culture. Regardless of your faith, nationality, or position, Pope Francis’ counter-cultural message has leadership lessons for all of us.
Leasson #1: Balance accountability and compassion
We are becoming accustomed to Pope Francis kissing babies and praying for those who are suffering and disadvantaged. The Pope most definitely demonstrates compassion. Did you know that in a previous life Pope Francis was a bouncer? (here are some more interesting facts about the Pope) And when he became pope, he did some serious house cleaning as well, confronting corruption within the Vatican. He is not afraid to confront injustice. Great leaders understand that accountability without compassion gets you alienated, and compassion without accountability gets you nowhere. Blending the two is a leadership art form. Read a previous post on the Three Qualities of Compassionate Accountability Cultures.
Lesson #2: Value accessibility above self-protection
The Pope’s little Fiat is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! And no doubt great marketing for Fiat. While everyone else would like to protect the Pope, that’s not his top priority. He wants access to people. He wants to connect personally with as many people as he can. This posed quite a challenge for the Secret Service. The juxtaposition between the Pope’s Fiat and Vice President Biden’s armored behemoth is one example the counter-cultural message Pope Francis promotes. Great leaders take the risks and time to be with their people, not ruling safely from the top floor behind layers of org charts and bureaucracy.
Lesson #3: Pursue justice above fairness
Pope Francis is an advocate for justice. On his visit to the U.S. he focused primarily on underserved and underprivileged people, visiting poor areas of town, prisons, and admonishing those with power and resources to take responsibility to use their influence to pursue justice. Great leaders transcend fairness, worrying less about whether everyone is being treated equal, and worrying more about whether the highest principles of dignity and justice are being advanced.
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