Agony Lance: Religious education

Q What can we learn from the new Pope? – Lapsed of Wellington

I'll stay clear of the religious aspects.

The new Pope, Francis, has landed in a big job, as a CEO as well as a religious leader. It’s a role that leads 408,000 priests, and another 1.2 billion members. The church also has a strong indirect impact on much of the world, including being an important part of politics in many societies.

The Pope, in his CEO role, is walking into a crisis. But he does so as someone who, while a Cardinal, is still in touch with the members of the church, using the metro and flying economy class. Meanwhile the previous Pope and the Roman Curia, the administrative arm of the church, felt for this complete outsider, to be more opaque, slower-moving, more distant and wildly conservative versions of the public service from the Yes Minister series.

So it’s hard at first to imagine a 76-year-old outsider from Argentina bringing change.

However, he made an impressive start.

Pope Francis’ power lies in his example, rather than through his directives. Leading by example requires true authenticity, and
it’s clear that Father Jorge, as he is known in Argentina, has led a life that is genuinely humble and inspiring. He seems to be carrying on in the new role as Pope as he has always lived his life.

Herein, then, are the lessons. Firstly, we cannot pretend to be something we are not, and so select leaders on what they do, not what they say, and as a leader, be yourself.

Secondly, we can’t say we know our customers unless we are walking with them, listening to them and helping them.

And thirdly, true leaders are there for the right reasons, not for their own personal aggrandisement or profit. It’s something we must ask of ourselves and our leaders every day. Amen to that. 

Lance Wiggs is a business consultant and acts as agony aunt for distressed Idealog readers. Get inside his head at or ask him a question @lancewiggs.

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