Excellence Lessons From A Humble Pope

600x4118Here are Pope Francis’ excellence lessons:

Lead with Humility. Pope Francis believes that humility is a particularly powerful leadership quality. Business leaders can emulate him through such means as abandoning their corner office for a cubicle alongside other employees and ending excessive spending on lavish lunches and other corporate perks.

Smell Like Your Flock. This is a much-quoted Pope Francis directive that means immersing yourself in whatever group you are leading. The Pope was known as “The Bishop of the Slums” for the time he spent in Buenos Aires’ poorest districts and business leaders can apply the principle through such practices as Managing By Walking Around and spending time really getting to know employees.

Who Am I To Judge? Just as Pope Francis says he does not see it as his role to judge those different from others, so business leaders should – instead of judging their employees – listen to them, assess them and focus on their strengths.

Don’t Change – Reinvent. Pope Francis has sought to move the Catholic Church away from its fixation with dated ideology. Business leaders need to do the same by keeping their organizations relevant, maintaining the greater good by getting rid of people who do not espouse the values of the business and focusing on reducing bureaucracy.

Make Inclusion a Top Priority. The Pope has stressed the importance of open dialogue and communication, and in industry leaders can take a similar line by including employees in decision making.

Avoid Insularity. Pope Francis has always made it clear that he does not think he can achieve everything on his own. In fact, he took the unprecedented step after he was elected of asking the crowds gathered to greet him to pray for him. Among the ways that business leaders can avoid insularity are by looking outside the organization to see if things can be done differently and seeking advice from outsiders as well as ensuring that people in different departments understand what their colleagues elsewhere contribute.

Choose Pragmatism over Ideology. This is perhaps the oddest lesson to be gleaned from a church leader. But looking at things and deciding on what to do on their individual merits is at the heart of the Pope’s approach. For business people, this means embracing the real world rather than lamenting one that has passed and being prepared to try new ideas and approaches.

Employ the Optics of Decision Making. For all his professed humility and championing of the underdog, Pope Francis has become an accomplished practitioner of organizational politics. He knows that how leaders decide is as important as what they decide. Many effective business leaders know this too. The decision-making process can be improved through such means as always making a priority of people decisions, not rushing key decisions and taking care to make decisions that advance the leader’s strategy.

Run Your Organization Like a Field Hospital. Pope Francis sees a key role for the Catholic Church in “healing the wounds and warming the hearts” of the faithful. This is an encapsulation of his belief that the church should be involved in the nitty-gritty of people’s lives. And business leaders can follow the approach through ensuring employees spend time on the front line – with customers, potential customers and suppliers; encouraging managers to be available for those for whom they are responsible; and decentralizing decision making.

Live on the Frontier. Pope Francis urges not just his clergy but all people to widen their experiences by spending “time walking on the periphery” so that they understand the reality of other people’s lives and so avoid the risk of being “abstract ideologists or fundamentalists”.  Business leaders need to do the same – and also encourage their employees to follow suit.

Confront Adversity Head-on. Pope Francis went through many struggles on his way to the top of his church. Business people, too, can learn to turn adversity into an advantage. Doing this requires confronting adversity head-on rather than pretending it is not there.

Pay Attention to Noncustomers. From the start of his period of office, Pope Francis demonstrated a willingness to reach out beyond church goers. As Krames writes, “He wants to bring people closer to God regardless of religion, race and sexual preference.” Business leaders should have a similar goal. Without forgetting existing customers, they must reach out to outsiders – what the management thinker Peter Drucker called noncustomers – in order to be successful. Pope Francis has sought to do this by embracing social media. Business leaders could do worse than follow suit.

The article originally appeared at Forbes; Riger Trapp

Categories: Excellence

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