Pope Francis on the fifteen major ailments of modern leadership

Author: Gary Hamel, Professor, London Business School, source

During my many years of practice, I heard dozens of times how experts in the field of management listed the qualities of great leaders. However, frank talk about the ailments of leadership is infrequent. It turned out that the Pope had more determination to begin this difficult discussion. He understands that we all have our own inclinations and habits - many of which do not honor us. But there is more demand from the leaders, since their status causes a much wider spread of their ailments.

The Catholic Church is a bureaucratic machine, a hierarchical structure inhabited by kind, but imperfect souls. In this sense, it is not very different from your organization. That’s why the Pope’s advice is useful for any managers.

Mindful of this, I spent several hours translating the appeal of the Pope into the language of management. (I do not know if there is any prohibition on the paraphrase of the statements of the Pope, but, not being a Catholic, I will still take a risk).

Pope Francis does not hide that he intends to radically reform the administrative structures of the Catholic Church, which he regards as far from life, unjustifiably powerful and bureaucratically overshadowed. He understands that in our fast-paced world, the narcissistic and closed from the outside world leaders create serious problems for any organization.

On the eve of the last Christmas, the Pope appealed to the leaders of the Roman Curia - cardinals and other church hierarchs, whose tasks include managing the intricate network of administrative bodies of the church. Dad did not go around the bush, but told his colleagues directly: modern leaders are subject to a number of shortcomings that interfere with their work - for example, pride, intolerance, myopia and pettiness. When these ailments are not treated, they weaken the entire organization. To maintain the moral health of the church, we need healthy leaders.

So, that’s what (about) the Pope said.


To fully fulfill its mission, the management team is called upon to constantly improve and grow in the matter of mutual understanding and wisdom. And at the same time, like any group of people or any human body, it is subject to illnesses, failures, weaknesses. I would like to mention some "leadership ailments". These are diseases and temptations that can seriously weaken the effectiveness of any organization.

1. The idea of ​​yourself as an immortal, sinless and irreplaceable person, leading to a loss of vigilance in relation to their own shortcomings. If the team is not capable of self-criticism, does not seek renewal and strengthening, it is seriously ill. In order to see whole lists of people who revered themselves for immortals, sinless and irreplaceable, it’s enough just to go to the cemetery! This is a disease of those who imagined themselves to be Lord and Teacher, who puts themselves above others, not wanting to serve their neighbor. This is a pathology of power, at the root of which lies megalomania and narcissism, when the subject is passionately carried away by himself and does not notice anyone around him, especially the weakest and neediest. The remedy for this disease is humility, when a person speaks from the bottom of his heart: "I only serve others. I just do my duty. "

2. Another disease - excessive employment. These leaders are immersed in their heads and do not want to stop for a minute. Neglect of much needed rest leads to stress and overexcitation. Honored peace after a fruitful work is simply necessary! It should be taken very seriously: everyone needs time with loved ones, weekends and holidays for "recharging".

3. Intellectual and spiritual "hardness". We are talking about leaders with a heart of stone, "stiff necked", if expressed in biblical language. About those who, over time, lost their warmth, cheerfulness and boldness and buried themselves under a heap of papers. These are real bureaucrats, they do not have compassion. How dangerous it is to lose humanity, which allows us to cry with weeping and rejoice with those who rejoice! Time goes by, and our hearts all grow stale and lose the ability to love others. Being a humane leader means showing humility, altruism, detachment from earthly goods and generosity.

4. Illness of excessive planning and "functionality". When the leader plans everything to the last detail and believes that with the perfect plan everything will necessarily go as it should, he turns into a worthless accountant or office manager. Yes, we must prepare well, but we should never give in to the temptation to get rid of any hints of spontaneity and intuition. Life is always richer than any human plan. We easily become victims of this disease, because it is easy and convenient for us to walk always in the same predictable ways.

5. Illness of inconsistency of efforts. As soon as leaders lose their "elbow", the whole body loses harmony in work and a natural balance. Such an orchestra can only make noise; its members do not interact harmoniously and lose the spirit of camaraderie and cooperation. When the leg says to the hand: "I do not need you", and the hand screams to the head: «I’m in charge here!", Only chaos and internecine strife are obtained.

6. There is also a kind of leadership Alzheimer. This problem consists in loss of memory - about those who raised, instructed and supported us on our paths. We see it in the leaders who no longer remember about their meetings with the great leaders that inspired them to do the deeds. In those who are completely bogged down in the current moment, in their passions, desires and hobbies. In those who built around themselves a wall of rules, who are increasingly becoming a slave of idols of their own making.

7. The disease of rivalry and vanity. When the goal of life becomes something external for us, our special privileges, our titles, we forget our main duty as leaders - "not to do anything out of self-interest and vanity, but humbly consider the other higher than ourselves" (quotation from the epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians) . As leaders we must take care not only about ourselves, but also about the interests of our neighbors.

8. The disease of existential schizophrenia. It is the ailment of those who lead a double life, the fruit of hypocrisy inherent in shallow souls, as well as the ever increasing spiritual emptiness that no achievement or title can fill. This infection often affects those who no longer communicate with clients and "ordinary" employees, limited their activities to bureaucratic duties, and therefore lost contact with reality, with specific people.

9. Gossip, grumbling, slander "for the eyes." This is a serious illness that begins with a small, maybe with a desire to "maintain a conversation," and gradually takes over the whole person. Such a leader sows the seeds of discord, and in many cases cold-bloodedly kills the good name of his colleagues. This is an ailment of cowards who lack the courage to solve problems with the near face to face, so they discuss them with people behind their backs. Let’s beware of terrorizing gossip!

10. Adoration before the authorities. This is the ailment of those who are in favor of high-ranking people in the hope of winning their favor. Such people are victims of careerism and opportunism, they cater to specific individuals, [and do not seek to fulfill the mission of the organization]. They always think only of gaining profit and never of giving oneself back. They are people of the non-Russian flight, they are unhappy, and all their motives are selfish. The chiefs can fall victim to this disease when they are eager to win loyalty, submissiveness and psychological dependence on the part of their subordinates, eventually reaping unhealthy compromise.

11. Indifference to the neighbor. This is when the leader thinks only of himself, losing at the same time the openness and warmth of [genuine] human relations. This can manifest itself in different ways. For example, the most "savvy" employee does not put his knowledge at the service of less knowledgeable colleagues. Learning something new, you keep it to yourself, and do not share information for the benefit of others. Instead of helping and inspiring, you are envious and insidiously happy about the fall of others.

12. Disease of a "morose person". This disease we see in those depressed and harsh personalities who think that, in doing a serious business, you must always wear a mask of melancholy and rigor and treat others (especially those they think is lower than yourself) violently and arrogantly. In reality, severe and dry pessimism is often a symptom of fear and insecurity. A leader should always try to be polite, calm, joyful and enthusiastic, he should sow joy wherever he appears. A cheerful heart infects with joy: it can not be hidden! Therefore, the leader should not lose a happy spirit, a sense of humor, even in relation to himself, which will provide him with the location of people even in difficult situations. A good dose of healthy laughter can do wonders!

13. The disease of skopidomstva. It happens to a person when he tries to fill the void of his life with material goods, not out of need, but to feel himself safe. However, we all know that leaving this life, we will not take anything with us. As they say, "shroud does not have pockets", and no treasure will ever fill the emptiness of our heart, on the contrary, they will only make it even more insatiable. Wealth only burdens us, inevitably slowing down our path to the goal.

14. Illness of "one’s own circle," when belonging to a group of the elect becomes more important than the common cause. This ailment always begins with innocent intentions, but eventually enslaves members of a narrow circle and becomes a kind of cancer that threatens the whole organization and produces serious negative consequences, especially for those whom we do not consider "ours". And the most insidious danger is a friendly fire from comrades in arms. As the Bible says, "every kingdom divided in itself will fall."

15. And the last: a disease of insanity and a desire to be "in sight." This happens when the leadership ministry is distorted by the thirst for power. He uses his position to profit or to acquire even greater power. This is a disease of people who are uncontrollably rushing to power and for this purpose are ready to slander, defame and discredit their neighbor. They stick out their abilities to appear better than others. This ailment brings great harm, because its victims are ready to justify any means to achieve their goal, often covering themselves with slogans of justice and transparency! I can not help remembering one leader who almost called journalists to tell them confidential information about their colleagues. All he was worried about was the appearance on the front page of newspapers that made him feel influential and famous. At the same time, his behavior caused great harm to other people and the organization as a whole.

Friends, these diseases are very dangerous for any leader in any organization, and they can affect both the individual and the community as a whole.

So how healthy are you as a leader? Use the papal list of leadership ailments to evaluate yourself. Set yourself a mark from 1 to 5.


1. Do I feel myself above my subordinates?

2. Do I care about the balance between professional and personal life?

3. Do I replace living human communication with formality?

4. Do not I rely too much on my plans, do I reject intuition and improvisation?

5. Do I pay enough attention to building bridges between employees and fighting "pulling the organizational blanket on myself" by different departments?

6. Do I forget to regularly admit that I have learned a lot from my mentors and other people?

7. Do not I depend too much on my special privileges?

8. Do I isolate myself from clients and employees "on the front line"?

9. Do I not vilify the motives or achievements of others?

10. Do I show excessive obedience and servility and do not encourage these qualities in other people?

11. Do I place my success above the success of other people?

12. Do I try to create a pleasant and joyful atmosphere at work?

13. Do I show selfishness when it comes to encouragement and praise?

14. Do not I cultivate internecine strife instead of team spirit?

15. Am I not self-centered in the eyes of other people?

As in any medical issues, a second or third opinion will be helpful here. Ask colleagues to rate you by the same fifteen points. Do not be surprised if they say to you: "Yeah, citizen boss, something went wrong today." Like a set of medical tests, these questions can help you to focus on preventing and improving your health. I agree, the papal list may seem like an overstated standard. But remember: your duties as a leader and your influence on the lives of others are very extensive. Why not turn for wisdom and advice to the Pope - the spiritual leader of many leaders of the modern world?

Gary Hamel, professor at the London Business School, source

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