Issue No. 27 Jan. 28, 2015

In 2014 Pope Francis defined himself on the world stage as a courageous leader, at a time when leadership courage is in short supply. From the early days of his papacy, he has demonstrated that true leaders do not merely talk about values but actually live the values they espouse. He has taken strong public stands against war, intolerance and oppression of those who are most vulnerable. He has refused the lavish trappings of power that so many leaders find irresistible. His message is one of humility, compassion and forgiveness.

A few days before Christmas, Pope Francis called out the establishment of his own church, the Curia, warning of "ailments and temptations" that they should avoid.

I couldn�t help but think that if corporate and government leaders applied the Pope's principles, both their companies and society would benefit.

Wishing you a happy 2015!

Pope sharply critical of 'lust for power'

Pope Francis decried character failures that beset leaders in the church, corporations and government.

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Pope's lessons reach beyond church to business leaders

Pope Francis' address to church leaders warned against certain character flaws he said are afflicting church leaders. Not surprisingly, many of his admonitions apply equally well to corporate and government leaders:

Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable. Even the strongest leaders cannot do it all alone. Great leaders are acutely aware of what they bring to the table, and also are honest about what they're not good at. They deliberately choose people for their team who excel at the skills and abilities that they lack.

Working too hard. Striving for work-life balance is not a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it can alleviate the anxiety and stress that leaders inevitably encounter. When leaders are under stress, it is passed down to others in the organization. Innovation suffers and mistakes happen.

Becoming spiritually and mentally hardened. Leaders who lack empathy grow progressively isolated. By putting themselves in someone else's shoes, giving others the benefit of the doubt and offering help when it is needed, they gain valuable perspective at work and in life.

Suffering from "existential schizophrenia." When leaders withdraw from reality, they become prey to illogical thinking and emotional outbursts, which get in the way of rational decision-making. Decisions based on fear, denial or greed at best have only short-term benefits, and at worst can be disastrous.

Having a "funereal face." Too often, a stern demeanor is a mask for insecurity and fear. The most these leaders can hope to get is obedience, which leads to malicious compliance. Good leaders are able to bring all of themselves to work�including their vulnerability. People want to be around leaders like this, and they want to work for them.

Planning too much. Preparation and anticipation are indispensable, but rigid adherence to "the plan" can blind you to new possibilities.

Working without coordination, like an orchestra that produces noise. Leaders who work together as a team produce the best results. Leaders who create "we" teams vs. "I" teams outperform their peers, not only in sports, but in business.

Committing the "terrorism of gossip." Courageous leaders deliver criticism directly rather than surreptitiously in "the meeting after the meeting" or around the water cooler.

Forming "closed circles" that exclude the ideas of outliers. The best ideas often come from unexpected people�those who may be lower down in the organization or who have a different functional role. Great leaders are able to recognize creativity and innovation no matter where it originates.

Being rivals or boastful. Instead of demeaning others and exaggerating their own accomplishments, effective leaders are more likely to highlight the contributions of others. They are humble enough to recognize that no one achieves great success on their own.


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