Leadership Development Lessons We Can Learn from the Pope

October 1, 2015  |  Posted by in Leadership Development

Regardless of your religious perspective, there is no denying the extraordinary popularity of Pope Francis, and it prompted us to take a closer look at the style and values that define him as a leader:

Relatability – Our culture places a great deal of emphasis on status – both financial and professional – and we work diligently to ensure our character and material belongings reflect that status. In contrast, Pope Francis embraces his humble beginnings in lower middle class Buenos Aires and has declined many of the luxurious trappings associated with his position. Doing so has made him more relatable and has driven his popularity. As sales professionals, we should be aware of our own attire, practices and dialog that may do more to separate and intimidate than facilitate trusting relationships with customers and internal teammates. The goal is to cultivate an image that is professional, yet approachable, when it comes to using our selling skills.

Humility – This is arguably the most distinguishing leadership characteristic of Pope Francis. He has been open about failures early in his career and his experiences in using those struggles to learn and improve. He resists being placed on a pedestal. Instead, his persona is one of a simple and faithful servant, doing his very best for the good of his community. This earnest approach goes a long way in cultivating loyalty and, when needed, forgiveness.

Focus on Value – As spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, one could argue that the primary goal of Pope Francis is the spiritual health and growth of the Catholic organization. But Francis expands his view to consider the broader quality of life – not only of Church members, but of the worldwide community. Because Pope Francis cares whether people have clean drinking water, people care more about Pope Francis, and feel more affiliation with the organization he represents. Likewise, for sales professionals who focus on cultivating strong customer relationships and adding value as a business asset, sales success and leadership development naturally follow.

Listening – Pope Francis has been quoted as saying, “Realities are more important than ideas.” He is known for his accessibility and spends considerable time talking to, and, more importantly, listening, to people – in the church and on the street – to understand their needs, concerns and operating realities. Doing so increases both his credibility and his effectiveness, and we can realize similar benefits in our own lives with prolific listening habits, especially when it comes to incorporating such habits into our selling skills.

While none of us can expect to enjoy popularity and admiration on the scale of Pope Francis, we can practice some of his key attributes for great benefit in our personal and professional lives.

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