The pope shocked the world last Monday by stepping down from his sacred role as leader of the Catholic Church. He made history in doing so, being the first pope to step down in 600 years. Personally, I am not a Catholic, but I have a great respect for my friends who are practicing Catholics and whose faith is genuine and contagious. As I pondered this Pope Benedict’s decision, I believe he modeled at least five leadership lessons for us during his tenure as pope.
1. Comfortable in his identity, he didn’t emulate his predecessors’ style.
While Pope John Paul II was a charismatic speaker and broad-shouldered sportsman and leader, Pope Benedict XVI was a quiet, reserved contemplative sort of speaker. And that was OK. He was no copy; but was completely himself, with his own style.
2. As a progressive, he helped the Catholic Church go “green.”
In his second year in the office of the pope, Benedict announced the Vatican would become the first carbon-neutral country by planting trees to offset its carbon footprint. In addition, he had solar-panels installed in Paul VI hall. Ecology was key.
3. Being practical and futuristic, he interacted with others on Twitter.
Pope Benedict invited the world to ask him questions if they had them, then got up on Twitter, sending out several posts from his account @pontifex. He drew nearly three million followers in eight languages, sending out fifteen posts that year.
4. As a conservative, he stood for his convictions and values.
In the face of a pluralistic culture that opposed him often, Pope Benedict gently but firmly spoke for ethics in the field of science and defended the sanctity of life and marriage when it wasn’t politically correct to do so. He was unashamedly moral.
5. With great humility, he stepped down when he felt he wasn’t fit for the job.
Every other pope in my lifetime served until their death, whether they were able to lead well or not. Catholic reporter Michael Sean Winters said Pope Benedict made a modernizing choice in doing this and removed some of the aura of the papacy.
Whether or not you agree with Pope Benedict XVI on all the issues, it is easy to respect his leadership model isn’t it?