Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The greatness of simplicity

Usually I focus on business examples, but today let’s take a look at a different kind of leader example. Check out the comparison below.

The Pope on the left retired in February; the new Pope is on the right. Notice the difference in regalia. The new Pope, Pope Francis, has removed much of the formal regalia and majesty surrounding the Catholic Church leadership position. He doesn’t need fancy red shoes, red cape, red carpet, or ruby and diamond cross. His throne is a simple wooden one, which might be more like something Jesus would use as the son of a carpenter. His speeches are simple, not elaborate or complex. Pope Francis has changed the tone of the Vatican through his simplicity of living and communicating.

The new Pope is attracting followers because he is humble, yet strong. He has shown he thinks differently than previous Popes and those who run the Vatican, and so far, people, including Catholics like me, like it. The content of his message is the same as one would expect from the Catholic leader. It is his delivery and demeanor that are different.

You see, some leaders need regalia to feel worthy of their position. Others feel the worth inside themselves, and they trust in the wisdom of those who put them in the leadership position. Superficial, external, showmanship is not what real leadership is about. The new Pope knows it, just as other exemplary business leaders do.

We may hear more about Donald Trump than we hear about Jim Stowers, Dave Goebel, or Bonnie Kelly and Teresa Walsh, but that is changing. The pendulum is swinging as there is less interest in narcissistic Chief Ego Officers living large like rock stars and more interest in humble leaders living and working for something bigger than themselves.

Don’t confuse a humble leader with one who is meek, naïve, or docile. Humble leaders lack pretense, not guts. They know when they need help and they are self-assured enough to ask for it. Humble leaders know their weaknesses and seek input from others to counter them. Humble leaders lack arrogance, not assertiveness. They can even be aggressive when situations call for it.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, calls humble leaders Level 5 leaders. He says, “Level 5 leaders are differentiated from other levels of leaders in that they have a wonderful blend of personal humility combined with extraordinary professional will.”

It is not about the title in the company, it is about the triumph of humility and fierce resolve. The combination is characteristic of successful leaders in the Church, in business, and in life.