By Ethelbert Obinna Umeh
Pope Francis is one of the good things that have happened not only to the 1.2 billion catholic faithful, but to the entire human race. His actions and pontificate evokes courage, love, mercy and transformative leadership style. A 21st century pope, who is poised tomake a lasting impression on the minds and hearts of human historicity.
2013 Times Person of the Year- the same year he entered the throne as the supreme pontiff has done things worth writing about, and wrote things worth talking about any time, any day. He has received various accolades like: ‘The People’s Pope’ ‘Holy Reformer’ ‘Lover of the Poor and needy’ and so on.
At various occasions, he has granted audiences to journalists, entrepreneurs, politicians, social critics, and diplomats including papal nuncios, religious and lay faithful.
Here are by my assessment of his pontificate so far, five lessons we can learn from him:
1. Be Accessible
‘Those who aren’t spiritual leaders should also rethink what their most important responsibilities are- People over processes, names over numbers’. Unarguably, Pope Francis is well-known for being easily accessible to the public domain. His pontificate is centred on people.
Shortly after the pronouncement of ‘Habemus Papam’ (A Latin word, which literarily means ‘we have a pope), he invited the thousands of faithful gathered at Vatican to bless him first. Traditionally, it should be him coming out and blessing people.
But he chose the other way round of inviting them to pray for him first. This shows that he is a good man, and humble man who understand that the prayers of the common faithful works wonders and melts the heart of God also.
True humility is a mark of Godliness and closeness to the divinity. One of the key roles of a true shepherd is to be available to the spiritual and temporal needs of their sheep both in good times and bad. If you are not humble, you can never be an effective shepherd; there will be a lacuna or a missing link in your shepherding or leadership style.
This same man is committed to be accessible to the people, who he has come to serve and not to be served. He prefers to ride in a bus instead of a bulletproof limousine. On many occasions, he was seen in Rome and its environs on Ford Focus. During his recent visit to the United States of America, he was seen inside a fiat.
2. He is active on Social Media
He became a pope at the time the world is socially active. He grabs the opportunity and uses the medium to propagate the gospel of Jesus Christ. His Twitter handle (@Pontifex) is the English version of about others, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Spanish, Arabic, Latin, German and French.
People like us who are living thousands of miles away from him can hook him up on Twitter and be nourished by daily nuggets of wisdom, biblical spirituality and teachings of love, peace, and holiness. By all standard of evaluation, he is a Holy man- this is exemplified by his regular tweets.
The English version of the Twitter handle has over 7.3 millions followers at the moment. Social media has overtime proven to be one of the lucrative, efficient and effective ways of influencing the current generation of believers who are daily beclouded with secularism, religious pluralism and porosity. His tweets are popular, not just because he is a pope or a global leader, but because they are clear, concise, real, inviting, humble and pluralistic.
3. He took a radical change from age-long customs and Traditions
Catholic which I am a member is known for her age-long customs and traditions. I am a catholic, I didn’t become one. I will die a catholic. We are in love with our customs and traditions- most of them draw our faith closer to divinity. He changed from being addressed as the ‘Supreme Pontiff’ to being addressed as the ‘Bishop of Rome’. This is a ma n that has revaluated his organizational and administrative structure and bypassed bureaucracy, and delegated some of Papacy’s traditional responsibilities.
Flattening your organization is actually a leadership trait that should be embraced by core leadership gurus. It remains one of the sustainable, genuine ways of generating change in your organization and institutes, revamp, restructure, and realign your vision.
4. Pope Francis took Risks
At the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis took risks. Just like Jesus Christ, who came to bring light to the world beclouded with darkness. He made some unconventional decisions and unprecedented claims. This reminds me one of his golden thoughts: ‘"To listen and to follow your conscience means that you understand the difference," he listened to his conscience and acted right.
There are some religious leaders that will just preach to agnostics and atheists from a distance or even condemn them without actually having a first class conversation with them. Pope Francis did not do this; instead he understood that every man has reasons for acting the way they do. Atheists surely may have notable reasons for advocating and practicing atheism.
He proclaimed last liturgical year as a year of Jubilee for Women who have cases of abortions in the past, but who have just had a rethink in line with the church’s teaching on this issue.
This year 2016, he simply proclaimed a jubilee year of Mercy. Obviously, he didn’t revise the catholic doctrine before coming up with this new perspective. After prayers, he came up with these- this has distinguished him as one of the revolutionary papal figures in the 21st century.
In the business world today, most leaders are caught up with the cobweb of fear of failure. As far as am concerned, the fear of failure is greater than failure itself. As a leader, learn how to take risks, it is vital for your business growth, and boosting of your employee morale and productivity. Although, sometimes, you can fail in a particular project several times, but don’t give up. The many times you are failing or you are trying to fail is proving to be a great teacher or panacea for your success.
5. Pope Francis values the lay faithful and liberal-minded.
Yes, many people Catholics, non-Catholics and even non-Christians are so happy with his leadership style. On many occasions, he has shown that he is a great teacher, who came to serve, not to be served.
Shortly after his election to the papacy, he revolutionized the age-long Synod of Bishops into a decision-making body, instead of a ceremonial group. He also washed the feet of laity prisoners, women, and Muslim- thereby moving away from the statuesque which was performing the ritual only on the elect (Priests).
On many times, he has delivered speeches on the importance of engaging more in pastoral activities, building bridges, instead of walls, selection and ordination of Bishops, ordination of Priests, celibacy, sacrament of reconciliation and many more.
Leaders should create an open door policy in their organizations just like the Pope did. There is real value in trusting your team, believing in them and encouraging them to develop purpose-driven lifestyle. If you are not open-minded to idea generation, you may not really achieve the much –anticipated progress.