Essentially, a leader can be the CEO of a company, or even an employee who just started and has been charged with leading a team. A leader can have official authority and power, but can also motivate through inspiration, persuasion and personal connections.
Alexander the Great has stood the test of time by being praised for his foresight, vision and military prowess. Then there’s Franklin Roosevelt. His political knowledge and yearning to “never stop” are characteristics that every leader longs to have. And Gandhi believed that the truth, and only truth, would always prevail.
These qualities are all undoubtedly parts of the leadership puzzle, but what about the ability to spot where you’ve gone wrong and hop back onto the yellow brick road before you lose your way?
Pope Francis, who marks his second year as leader of the Catholic Church, has garnered the type of reputation that any leader would envy. He has a particular skill in moving people in new and better directions.
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This was his intent when he addressed the leaders of the Roman Curia in December 2014. He was blunt, stating that leaders were particularly prone to maladies such as pettiness and intolerance. If you let such “diseases” fester, any corporation will suffer because of it.
Some of the ailments Pope Francis prompted cardinals to stay away from also fit in a business context.
Thinking we are “immortal”, “immune” or downright “indispensable”
Pope Francis suggested that, when left unchecked, leaders could quickly turn into masters who think themselves better than others. It is often an effect of the pathology of power, from superiority complexes to narcissism. The antidote to this plague is humility: “We are unworthy servants. We have only done what was our duty.”
The “Martha complex”, otherwise known as excessive busy-ness
Those who immerse themselves in work inevitably forget to “rest a while”. He emphasised that neglecting the need to rest would only lead to stress and agitation. Time for relaxation is necessary, “obligatory and should be taken seriously”. The cure? Spending time with family and “respecting holidays as moments of spiritual and physical recharging”.
Mental and spiritual “petrification”
“It is dangerous to lose the human sensitivity that enables us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice!” Pope Francis said. Being a humane leader means having the sentiments of humility and unselfishness, not to mention generosity.
Excessive planning and of functionalism
When a leader plans everything down to the last detail with the belief that things will fall into place, “he becomes an accountant or an office manager”. We contract this “disease” because “it is always more easy and comfortable to settle in our own sedentary and unchanging ways,” he suggested.
Things undoubtedly need to be prepared, but leaders shouldn’t through spontaneity out the window, as it “is always more flexible than any human planning”.
Once employees and employers alike lose communication among themselves, the “body” loses its “harmonious functioning” and its equilibrium; “it then becomes an orchestra which produces noise”. When the foot says to the arm: “I don’t need you ”, or the hand says to the head, “I’m in charge”, they create discomfort “and scandal”.
Rivalry and vainglory
When appearances, the colour of our clothes and our titles of honour become the primary object in life, we forget: “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit but in humility. Count others better than yourselves. Look not only to [your] own interests, but also to the interests of other.”
He also mentioned that it was “the disease of those who court their superiors in the hope of gaining their favour”. They are victims of careerism and opportunism who think only of what they can get and not of what they should give.
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Indifference to others
This is where each individual thinks only of himself. Pope Francis said: “When the most knowledgeable person does not put that knowledge at the service of his less knowledgeable colleagues. When we learn something and then keep it to ourselves rather than sharing it in a helpful way with others. When out of jealousy or deceit we take joy in seeing others fall instead of helping them up and encouraging them.”
A “lugubrious face”
Those who think that to be serious you have to put on a face of severity, and treat others with “rigour and arrogance”. In fact, Pope Francis claimed that a show of pessimism was frequently a symptom of fear and insecurity.
He added: “[Leaders] must make an effort to be courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful. It is beneficial to have a good dose of humour!”
According to Pope Francis, this is when a leader has turned his service into power, and his power into a commodity “in order to gain worldly profit or even greater power”. This is the disease of those who insatiably try to accumulate power and to this end are ready to slander, defame and discredit others.
“This does great harm to [companies] because it leads [leaders] to justify the use of any means to attain their goal,” he suggested. It has also often been done in the name of justice and transparency.
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