Five Francis-Catalyzed Leadership Reflections

Pope FrancisVisiting a dear friend in Omaha recently, she shared something one of her Catholic priests mentioned to her, “He said that he was walking out of a restaurant one night, wearing his collar, and an apparently homeless woman stopped him and said, hey, I like your Pope.”

Once I got past the sense that this might have the makings of a great joke, and consternated about whether the priest had done something immediately to assist the woman (he didn’t, at least according to the second-hand story), I realized that I was in radical agreement with the homeless woman:  I like Pope Francis’ leadership thus far too.

I’m not Catholic but I do recognize that popes are incredibly important global CEOs. Because how they lead matters to so many, it also matters to me. According to the Vatican, there are 1.2 Billion Catholics in the world today. In the U.S., 72.8 people self-identify as Catholics.

His Holiness Pope Francis consistently speaks and acts as a leader. He’s called on Catholics (and us all) to battle the “globalization of indifference” and to be more compassionate, to champion the poor, and work to achieve social justice.

Five Francis-Catalyzed Leadership Reflections

1. As CEOs, popes arguably have about the toughest leadership challenges around, the shear volume of followers makes leading tricky. It is pretty hard to make 1.2 Billion people comfortable that you’re leading them how they want to be led.

Leadership, however, isn’t really about popularity but about influence, integrity — using your ‘whole person,’ your skills, knowledge, your gut and heart instincts — to do the right thing. Impressively, Pope Francis sent out a survey to gain followers’ perspectives — that’s leading.

2. Popes, like most leaders, have to deal with followers who make their own decisions about whether to follow or not. For popes, there’s been a significant shift in followers over the past few decades. The BBC paints the picture of this through data, “{s]ince 1970, Catholicism has seen a global shift southwards – the proportion of Catholics living in Europe has declined, while Africa has seen a growth in the number of Catholics – from 45 million in 1970 to 176 million in 2012. Asia has also seen a growth in Catholicism and now represents almost 12% of the total Catholic population in the world, or 137 million people.”  BBC News

For all leaders today, recognition of massive social, economic, technological and climate shifts should be impacting what you do — but it does not mean changing your values. Pope Francis is clearly mindful that the world has changed and continues to change at a rapid rate. Still, he is making his vision and values courageously clear — that’s leading.



  1. Susan Caba says:

    Wow, this post is a really good illustration of strong leadership traits, using the Pope as an example. I certainly had not thought of him in the light of a CEO, dealing with so many of the issues CEOs have to deal with. And you are correct, he is employing key skills of good leaders of any organization.

    I esp like your comment about him being himself and leading with his “whole person.” In my opinion, the failure to do that is exactly what is wrong with most American politicians–they will say anything, or hide their true opinion on anything in order to get elected and maintain their own power. And yet a person who acts out of his/her integrity and values is, ultimately, a much more powerful person. (At least, in this particular case, in the eyes of God!)

    Good piece and very thoughtful.

    • Jone Bosworth says:

      Thank you so much for your positive and perceptive comments, Susan! I couldn’t agree more — “a person who acts our of his/her integrity and values is, ultimately, a much more powerful person.”
      Appreciate you making time to share your thoughts!
      All my best,

  2. Susan Caba says:

    I reread this post again, after learning of Nelson Mandela’s death. Again, it resonates with leadership lessons–especially your idea about living with integrity, and demonstrating that integrity through your actions. This quality is the most essential among all true leaders; certainly Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis are similar in the depth of their integrity.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up now to receive articles, tips and inspiration right in your inbox!
We will never share, rent, or sell your personal information or email address.
Never display this again
Find us on Google+