Refreshing Leadership: Pope Francis

Pope FrancisPope Francis is providing refreshing leadership when abysmal U.S. leadership has contributed to our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad last week. No wonder he’s trending!

Pope Francis is not only showing refreshing leadership, he embodies the good news he preaches. He lives out his authentic faith for all the world to see and has not gotten caught up in the trappings of power like so many others. Not only do we need to talk about this, we need to pay attention for ourselves.

This is what I’m paying attention to:

Humility. The Pope is the most powerful man in Catholicism in the wealthiest denomination of Christendom. The Roman Catholic Church has been steeped in power and politics since its beginning. And yet, despite any temptation to do what every preceding Pope has done, Pope Francis has chosen to remain true to his calling and consistent with how he’s always lived.

When I added humility as a Daily Word in my ebook, I wondered if this would be one of those words that people skip over. Many consider humility a weakness, when in actuality true humility requires great strength. Humility is what makes us real. Pope Francis’ humility in how he lives, in what care he drives, in his refusal to separate himself from others, but to continue to live in community makes him real to us. It’s a powerful visual that this great man of power has chosen to live like the rest of us, making him relatable. If he’s relatable, we will listen. An incredible act when so many within the Roman Catholic Church feel disenfranchised, unheard, and forgotten.

Listen. A pastor’s job is to listen, but most pastors of large churches are removed from the day-to-day pastoral duties of making calls, personally responding to correspondence, and getting involved with those on the lower rung of the church ladder. I’m thinking of youth (Yes, youth ministers and youth groups, while not on the bottom rung, are very near the bottom of the church ladder), those in prison, the poor, the unemployed, rape victims (aka the least of these), and definitely the least of these of other faiths.

Empower. The other aspect of listening is to respond to what you’ve heard. How often are you asked a question about how you are or how’s the job search, knowing the person asking doesn’t want to hear your real answer? They let you answer and then give a totally inane platitude that is not helpful.

Those hurting feel heard by Pope Francis because he will scrap his prepared remarks and instead address what he has heard from those with whom he’s spoken. His thoughtful response empowers the hurting individual to whom he’s responding.

When the Pope was in Sardinia recently, a married father of three who’s been unemployed for four years told the Pope, “[being unemployed] oppresses you and wears you out to the depths of your soul”. Pope Francis didn’t tell the man to have courage, trust the Lord and it will all work out. (Yes, people still say these stupid things. I heard a woman tell another woman exactly that in the organic produce aisle at the grocery store).

Instead, Pope Francis said, “It’s easy to say `don’t lose hope,’ But to all of you who have work, and to those who don’t, let me tell you: Don’t let yourselves be robbed of hope.” The message of hope is there in both statements, but one statement empowers the person who feels hopeless: don’t let yourselves be robbed of hope. Subtle, but wisely powerful difference.

Priorities. Pope Francis called out the global economic system saying that, “The world has become an idolator of this god called money.” He went on to say, “We don’t want this globalised economic system which does us so much harm. Men and women have to be at the centre (of an economic system) as God wants, not money.”

We are worshipping at the altar of money when corporate profits increase at the expense of employees, when companies refuse to consider a living wage, when a chasm widens because the middle-class is annihilated, when lower health insurance premiums also severely limit access to doctors and hospitals through narrow network health care.

Jesus simplified our priorities as people of faith: love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Oh, and everyone is our neighbor.

Transformative leadership. The premise behind transformative leadership is that as we change the world we also change ourselves, and as we change ourselves we also change the world. Pope Francis is a transformative leader. He brings a new way of being, relating, knowing, and doing to the papal position. His collaborative and pastoral approach is a model that works as much in secular venues as it does in ministry, especially in the 21st century. Refreshing leadership.

There’s a reason Pope Francis is trending. He is connecting with the social media generation because he is accessible in position and attitude. His message and his actions are in alignment with how most think followers of Jesus should behave. And he doesn’t impose a rigid morality or make judgments about lifestyle.

Jesus trended. Pope Francis is trending. What about the rest of us who call ourselves Christian or people of faith?

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