Pope Francis and the Importance of Servant Leadership

Can you remember a time when a new leader brought such palpable inspiration in his first week on the job?

Sure, Marissa Mayer is in the news a lot these days for her leadership at Yahoo. Poor Tim Cook can't catch a break even though Apple continues to amaze its shareholders. Then there's Cheryl Sandberg and the ways in which she's encouraging women in the workplace at Facebook and beyond.

Back to the man that few expected to get the job a week ago in the Vatican- Francis.

Catholics look at this name choice as fairly amazing. Francis is a Jesuit and yet he took a Franciscan name. This would be like me, as a Red Sox fan, naming my firstborn son after a famous Yankees player. Ok, so maybe the Pope's name choice is bigger than that but you get the point- in choosing the name Francis, the Pope made a statement.  Franciscans are still high-fiving one another around the world.

He's telling the Church that he feels that it needs a humble, down to earth, service-oriented pendulum swing. We have plenty of doctrine. Lots of devotions. More than a few novenas. What the Church needs to focus on now is its call to love and serve the least among us.  And not just for a few years as if it were a new marketing campaign.  The Church needs a few hundred years of practical, heart felt religiosity rather than the overly heady stuff that has taken the European and American Church hostage.  

This is scary stuff. Doctrine is easier because it's a matter of belief. Head and heart material for sure but belief nonetheless. Serving the poor? That's about action and it's messy.

Let me provide an example.

I was speaking with a friend recently who had worked with 30 unmarried couples, all preparing for marriage. All 30 were living together. Messy stuff.  I suspect that this is the kind of situation that the new Pope would want us to wrap our arms around.  For better or worse, there are a lot of other messy things surrounding Christians and their practice of the faith.  These include but aren't limited to:


  • The fact that most Catholics don't practice the Church's teaching on contraception.
  • The fact that so many Catholics voted for Obama, in spite of his pro-abortion views.
  • The fact that so few Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  


There is a lot of messy stuff in the world probably because we are complicated and flawed people.  Francis accepts that and wants the Church to take these issues and infuse them with love.

I actually have hope for the first time in an awful long time.  The road will be difficult for sure.  Francis is only one man after all.  Still, if God could raise up Francis of Assisi in a time when the Church was on its knees, he can surely bring us a simple man from Argentina to teach us to serve.

How are you practicing servant leadership in your role at work or at home?