Business Lessons from the New Pope

By Tony Clark, 2-Dooz Inc. – April 2, 2013 (Original Publication Date)

Purportedly the recent papal Conclave desired a new pontiff who could restructure and lead the church beyond the recent legal troubles and scandals that have now dogged it for more than a decade.  The Conclave is also reported to have been looking for a leader who could better connect with the masses.  Overall, the Conclave was said to be looking for “Jesus with an MBA.”  This past Sunday, the Conclave’s choice, Pope Francis, presided over his first Easter Mass.  In his short term as pontiff, Francis has already demonstrated that he is up to the challenge of leading the church in a new direction.  Any CEO looking to turn-around a troubled enterprise can learn from Pope Francis’s early steps.

One of the biggest hurdles that a CEO looking to transform a company must clear is that of installing a new culture.  As discussed in the “ALIGN System Handbook,” a company’s values are its cultural foundation.  Core values are the enduring tenets of an organization.  In times of great uncertainty, or unclear corporate direction, a company’s core values can be relied upon by decision makers to help sort out what steps need to be taken next.  In almost all turn-around situations, the culture is deteriorated and must be exorcised.  To have any chance of a course correction, the new CEO must install new organizational values.  And, though it may sound cliché, the new CEO must “walk the talk.”

Consider the actions of the new CEO of the Catholic Church.  In his first Easter Mass, Pope Francis prayed for world peace and for an end to greed—a clear, resolute message that was yet exceeded by his actions during his first two weeks as Pontiff. Francis’s actions have ringed the loudest and have perhaps laid the foundation for the reform that the church so desperately needs.  The new Pope envisions a more humble and inclusive church that better serves the needy.  To drive that point home, Francis continued to stay in the simple hotel that he resided in during the enclave even after the renovations to the papal apartment had been completed.  And, breaking with tradition, he washed the feet of two women during the Easter week ceremonies.  Previously, only men had participated in this particular ritual.

Pope Francis understands that when it comes to changing culture, actions speak louder than words.  Not only is he preaching them, he is living the church’s new values.  This is a simple, but often neglected lesson that all CEOs should heed.

Those are my thoughts.  And, as always, I invite and look forward to learning what you think.


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