I write about the impact leaders have on those they lead.
3/13/2013 @ 4:40PM |29,193 views
Pope Francis: Jesuit to the Rescue
If you have a tough job to do, hire a Jesuit.
Is that what the College of Cardinals were thinking when they selected Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina to be the next pope? Probably not, but they might have. Bergoglio, who will go by the name Francis I, is the first Jesuit to be selected as Pontiff.
Good move. As one who was educated by the Jesuits – high school and university (Georgetown) – I am partial to this decision. Right now the Catholic Church is reeling from a multitude of destructive forces (mainly of its own doing), and so right now it needs two things desperately: management and leadership. Jesuits, by tradition, are schooled in both so Pope Francis will be up to the job.
Managers know how to get the trains to run on time; leaders know how to get people to want to ride those trains. Jesuits priests true to their heritage of their founder, Ignatius Loyola who was an officer in the Spanish army prior to founding his order know how to leverage authority by bringing people together for common purpose. Jesuits know how to tap into the powers that be for financial and political support for their endeavors but use that access to money and power to serve the needs of the poor, the disadvantaged, and the world at large.
Jesuits, unlike other priestly orders, are not simply members of the order. They are first and foremost teachers. They founded many of the free universities of Europe centuries ago mainly as a means of creating educated men for Jesuits. Chris Lowney, a former Jesuit turned investment banker notes four attributes of Jesuit leadership in his authoritative book, Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450 Company that Changed the World.Each is applicable to the here and now.
Self-awareness. A leader must know his capabilities. That means he also knows his limitations. A leader steeped in self-knowledge surrounds himself with people who complement his abilities and compensates for his strengths.
Ingenuity. Good leaders are curious; they also look beyond the ordinary to see what is possible, rather than what is impossible. They like challenges and embrace them.
Love. Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, himself Jesuit educated, used to opine about how his players needed to love one another. What he meant by that was you have to care about others. When you do, you want to do your best for them… as well as yourself.
Heroism. Think big. Make things happen. Great leaders are driven by a higher purpose. In the case of Jesuits, it is service to God as well as to man. But, as I was taught, you can only appreciate God if you work for and with men. That is, you need to make things happen. Jesuits are entrepreneurial; they refuse to accept the first no and instead strive to make a positive difference.
All of these Pope Francis will need to bring to bear on a Catholic Church that is resistant to change but one that must certainly adapt (and rather radically) if it is going to continue to attract well-intentioned men and women who adhere to its faith but also are willing to devote themselves to its perpetuation.
Pope Francis is also starting out on the right foot with the selection of his name – Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, a nobleman turned pilgrim priest. The name, as CNN Vatican observer John Allen noted, connotes “poverty, humility, simplicity and rebuilding the Catholic Church.” In other words, as Allen affirms, no more “business as usual.”
In this regard the Jesuits can excel. They were, and to a degree still are, a missionary order. But unlike some that sought to save souls for Christ, the Jesuits, as we know from Lowney and other historians, sought to make the world a better place for people now. Not only did they baptize into the faith, Jesuits educated people, took care of the sick, managed businesses, and performed a myriad of other tasks required to keep a faith-centered enterprise running.
Pope Francis has a big task ahead of him, but if he is anything like the Jesuits who taught me, he will do a great job of it.
It is important to affirm that the Pope is not a political figure. We cannot separate the various spheres of human life, but he is not a world leader. He is the spiritual head of the Catholic Church. He has a responsibility to Catholics, and to all people. He speaks for the welfare of all. This is the point of view I always try to comes from, especially in my political writings you will find here.