Pope Francis’ Leadership Lessons – The Action Oriented Approach

A recently published book, written by Pope Francis, probably would not be in the first row while searching the bookstore’s section on management and leadership. Nevertheless, ‘Een vreugdevolle opdracht’, which translates as ‘A Joyful Mission’, holds valuable guidelines. Rooted in the fellowship of man concept, and powerful in their simplicity, His Holiness makes one thing very clear from the start in this collection of speeches on poverty and how we can create a safer, fairer, better world. Words and beliefs are important but it’s the actions that count. Wherever we are and whatever position we hold, it is not in what we say, but in what we do. And this regards every aspect of our life. How we treat our fellow human is what defines our own humanity, and vice versa. Likewise, stating the love for the natural world that surrounds us will be nothing but a mere public display of appreciation, if this is lacking the action-oriented ‘we take care of it’. What Pope Francis tells us in this book, is something beyond a story of belief, mission, and religion. It is a statement regarding politics and economics, and change. It is a profound testimony of love and care for all, as well as an urgent call to action.

We are all equal and one is never to be blamed for where the cradle stands. In this globalized world, connected by technological means, where marketplace rules govern, social inequality is on the rise. Not only within the boundaries of states, but worldwide, between large areas and continents. Solidarity, therefore, should hold hands with a community-aligned mentality, and this implies sharing the goods and benefits from our world. While honouring the independency and the culture of nations, we should keep in mind that “this place, earth, is all mankind’s and destined for the whole of humanity”. A more fair distribution of goods and wealth, and a ‘meet and greet’ attitude towards immigration are of the essence to fight the “globalization of indifference”.

Helping those who are less fortunate does not end with providing shelter, food, or a new home. Structural solutions are based on the premise that one who is new to the community, should be offered ample opportunity to integrate in society and in doing so, build a new home and professional life, and feel they belong. At the same time, international cooperation should be aiming at enhancing the social and economic conditions of the countries and regions, so that emigration isn’t the only option left for those in search of peace, safety, justiceship, and respect for human dignity. Give brains, youth, and strength the chance to stay and build for the future. Charity isn’t good enough, nor is hospitality. Eating a meal is not the same as knowing how to prepare the dish. Teach, provide, support are connected with learn, accept, do.

The climate change emergency is another subject, and one of great concern, that is discussed here. Elaborating on his encyclical letter Laudato si’ – On care for our common home, and entirely in line with the message of Sir David Attenborough, Pope Francis states unequivocally that humankind has arrived at a turning point. While we can look back at impressive achievements, especially when it comes to technology that has contributed to well-being, it cannot be ignored that we have created a disposable lifestyle. It comes with growth-focused and profit-worshipped survival of the fittest mechanisms, an idolisation of money, and the dictatorship of an impersonal economic system that is in operation without a true human purpose. Hope is around the corner though, expressed in an invitation to all, and in particular to those in leadership positions around the globe. Let unselfish solidarity and helpfulness be a strong motivation to reimage and reform the economy, by incorporating ethics for the benefit of man. We, every man and every woman, are a mission in oneself. It’s the reason for our existence. And every individual has a responsibility, for the world, for living life while taking ownership of your stay. Let’s make the best of it, so that, God willing, at some point in the future we may look back and see that we made it to the better side of this watershed moment. At the end of the day, this preeminent spiritual leader thus deserves an honorary title: Pope for People and Planet. He would be the first to share the decorations.


Prof. dr. Paul van Geest (professor at Erasmus School of Philosophy and professor at Tilburg School of Catholic Theology)

mr. dr. Marina van Driel (advisor Erasmus institute for Business Economics)

We Trust. We Share. We Build.

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