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A Leadership Lesson We Can Learn From the New Pope


Photo: [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

In one of the shortest votes in recent Vatican history, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the new pope, the 266thPontiff of the Catholic Church. Jorge is from Argentina, the son of an immigrant and a man of the people.

And herein lies the greatest lesson we can learn from his as a leader.

First, he chose Francis as his name—in honor of St. Francis, who stood for peace, humility, transparency and purity. This is exactly what Jorge’s track record has been. As the son of immigrants, he has always been a simple man, not presumptuous or pretentious. In fact, he rejected the elaborate lifestyle of other hierarchy who demanded a life of luxury and comfort. Listen to what he did the day of his election:

  1. He began by thanking his predecessor, Pope Benedict, for the good he achieved.
  2. When addressing the people, he didn’t pontificate, he conversed with the crowd.
  3. As he spoke, he admitted he’d need the help of many to lead the people well.
  4. In his address, he not only blessed the people, he asked them to pray for him.

This man become known by millions in 2001, when he visited a hospice and both washed and kissed the feet of AIDS victims.  He’s been known to strip off his outer robes, dismissing some church traditions that catered to the rich and the elite. He didn’t want to live in the mansion provided for him as a bishop or cardinal, preferring a more moderate lifestyle instead. He was known for using public transportation just as the people he leads did.

Pope Francis, at least up to this point, is a picture of what our world longs for today in leaders. He’s human, honest and open to the input of others. He models traits like:

  • Humility – I don’t see myself as superior to anyone else.
  • Authenticity – I recognize being genuine is the only way to connect.
  • Transparency – I am an open book and hungry to hear from others.
  • Courage – I will stand for justice and do what I am convinced is right.
  • Sacrifice – I lead by serving and I serve by leading.

Not a bad model for anyone, even those of us who aren’t Catholic.


  1. Susan Meyer on March 15, 2013 at 6:46 am

    Thank you Tim for such nice words and tribute to our Pope. I so appreciate that coming from someone who is not Catholic. So many times people can forget that we are Christians (even Catholics!) and especially that ALL in the world are God’s children. Even non-Christians! We all are called to love above all. And I do believe that Pope Francis is a perfect example of a human that takes this call to love very seriously. A great leader to be sure… Susan

    • Tim Elmore on March 25, 2013 at 5:49 am

      I’m always excited to celebrate examples of good leadership. I hope to have many more stories to report about Pope Francis as he continues in his new role.

  2. Joseph Lalonde on March 17, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Tim, this is pretty awesome information. As I’m not a Catholic, I didn’t know a lot of the going ons of the selection for the new Pope and his past. Reading your post, it sounds like the new Pope may be just the man for the job. It’s especially heartening to hear he doesn’t want the riches and excess previous Popes have had.

    • Tim Elmore on March 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      Yes, it seems he’s off to a great start!

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A Leadership Lesson We Can Learn From the New Pope