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February 17, 2019

The Pope rocks! I mean literally

exceptional: Pope Francis speaks at
the Festival of Families in Philadelphia.
exceptional: Pope Francis speaks at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia.

Pope Francis has stolen the thunder from anyone releasing music this week including Willy Paul. He did this by dropping the first teaser from his new music album, Wake Up (due in November when he gets to Kenya) and from what I hear it’s pretty good.

The song is a 5-minute track, titled Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!, Those who have heard the first few bars say it has a hint of Pink Floyd that makes it an instant hit. The Pope’s motivational sermon is dropped over the track, and he sagely advises, “No one who sleeps can sing, dance and rejoice.”

By the end of the year, Pope Francis might just be known as the new Godfather of Soul.

How did we get here? The Catholic faith and the Catholic church by and large was in serious decline. We had a PR crisis no one would touch or fix and no number of Rosaries or Novenas would heal – until Pope Francis came along.

I’ll be the first to admit that that I was cautious of the man. I loved how he came upon the scene, I just kept wondering how long the zeal, the honesty and the sheer connection with the real world would last.

The cardinals who elected Pope Francis 18 months ago had no inkling that he would turn out to be such a “rock star” pontiff. They have admitted it and I need to join them in by my own admission. Born and raised Catholic, I did not for one minute think that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as he was then known, would have such an impact not just on the Catholic Church but on the world in general.

Pope Francis has the Catholic church finally openly discussing divorce, contraception (look up his statement on breeding like rabbits), family, taxation, climate change, business and the direction of the Catholic Church in a manner that has been missing and wanting for centuries.

It is said that the cardinals who elected the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires knew that they had chosen “a good manager”, but did not realise they would be “getting a rock star.” As a Catholic who was too young to be taken by the visit of Pope John Paul II to Kenya, I must say I am more than a little excited about Pope Francis’ visit to our country in November 2015.

In case you are not Catholic and are wondering whether you should be bothered with this article at all – allow me to bring it home. I put it to you that Pope Francis will emerge (if he hasn’t already) as a leadership icon of our time (Julie Gichuru this is your cue to try and get him on Leadership Dialogues – brush up on your Latin girl).

The Time’s “Person of The Year” in 2013 has become one to watch in the leadership conversation and dare I say, case studies will abound about him in years to come. Fast Company put a few out that I resonate with deeply so I’ll just work with those.

Leadership lesson for today and especially if you hope to connect with Millenials: Don’t Ignore Social Media.

The Pope is a tweeting aficionado. When Pope Francis published Laudato Si’—a 180-page document on climate change, we all groaned in unison. No-one has time for a 180-page document, but it’s hard to ignore a 17-word tweet like this one “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth”.

On the issues of waste and thoughtless consumption, Pope Francis tweeted “ “Consumerism has accustomed us to waste. But throwing food away is like stealing it from the poor and hungry”. Preach! His primary Twitter handle (@Pontifex) has 7.3 million followers and I am one of them. It doesn’t matter who you are and what role you hope to play in the leadership game- it’s important to know that communication matters and especially digitally.

For any business leader who has an idea to offer or a message to convey, social media is the main avenue for doing so. But bear in mind that the social sphere is about sparking conversation, not dictating from on high. A lot of us forget this small issue. As Fast Company states: “The Pope’s tweets are popular not just because he’s the Pope, but because they’re humble, inviting, and pluralistic”. Kazi kwetu.

Another leadership lesson we can all borrow from Pope Francis is to take risks. In the first few months of his papacy, Pope Francis took risks. He made unprecedented claims and unconventional decisions. “To listen and to follow your conscience means that you understand the difference,” he wrote, reaching out to atheists and agnostics.

He also proclaimed a year of jubilee for women who’ve had abortions but have since chosen to reflect on the Church’s teachings on the issue. Gasp! It’s worth nothing that in both cases, Pope Francis didn’t revise Catholic doctrine, but his leadership style offered a refreshing new perspective to many who might have previously felt shut out.

Big changes are hard to make—they take time, and often many people, to institute—but messages are easy to change. Still, risk is vital to your business’s growth and your own development as a person and as a leader. Someone once said there’s nothing to fear but fear itself – so jump and learn to fly on the way down. If you’re still scared – tweet The Holy Father and ask him to pray for you.

My final big lesson from Pope Francis is the value people.

Within his first 10 months at the Vatican, Pope Francis washed the feet of laity prisoners, women, and Muslims, rather than performing the ritual only on priests as is customary. He also refocused the role of bishops toward more pastoral activities, premised on the notion that human relationships should be esteemed above all else.

The more encompassing a leader is, the more he/she connects, the more people feel connected to him and what he is doing/saying. This simply translates to getting things done. I may understand what you are saying, but if I don’t “feel you”, it will take some doing to spur action in the right direction.

But I think my biggest lesson is to be authentic. PR and marketing gurus are wondering who is “handling the Pope.” However the answer to that is insanely simple – nobody - he’s just like that, he’s the essence of simplicity and sincerity.”He’s his own man. Nobody told him to go and pay his hotel bill in Rome the day after he was elected Pope. Nobody tells him to carry his own, beat-up old briefcase. He just does it as a decent, courteous human being. He has a magnetic simplicity that intrigues and fascinates people.” Biggest lesson from this rock star Pontiff is simple. Be you. Do you.

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