Real SPIRITUAL Leadership Advice

Management Organizational leadership


Key Point: “Rapid and meaningful organization reinvention,” is likely the first line of every current CEOs’ job description. Pope Francis, the “Chairman and CEO” of the Catholic Church runs a global institution with all the daunting challenges (and more) faced by most leaders. Francis has made no secret of his intention to radically reform the administrative structures of the Catholic Church, which he openly regards as too out of touch, pompous, and bureaucratic. (And, from the way the Church mishandled the sexual assault scandals, etc., you may have stronger adjectives… But that’s not the topic here).

The Catholic Church is obviously a hierarchy populated by mostly good-hearted, and like the rest of us, imperfect people. In that sense, it’s not much different than all of our organizations. That’s why the Pope’s counsel is relevant to leaders everywhere. Further more, that’s also why Harvard’s highly respected thought leader, Gary Hamel, spent hours translating the Pope’s recent address to his “managers” on the diseases of leadership. Professor Hamel translated it into something a little closer to what he calls “corporate-speak.” He was intrigued by the Pope’s frankness and blunt reference to leadership “diseases.” Here’s a link to the full article. (For the record, Hamel is not Catholic). My blog summarizes the essence:

“The disease of thinking we are immortal, immune, or downright indispensable: It is the pathology of power and comes from a superiority complex, from a narcissism which passionately gazes at its own image and does not see the face of others, especially the weakest and those most in need. The antidote to this plague is humility; to say heartily, ‘I am merely a servant. I have only done what was my duty.’

Another disease is excessive busyness: It is found in those who immerse themselves in work and inevitably neglect to ‘rest a while.’ Neglecting needed rest leads to stress and agitation.

Then there is the disease of mental and [emotional] ‘petrification’: Being a humane leader means having the sentiments of humility and unselfishness, of detachment and generosity.

The disease of excessive planning and of functionalism: Things need to be prepared well, but without ever falling into the temptation of trying to eliminate spontaneity and serendipity, which is always more flexible than any human planning. We contract this disease because it is easy and comfortable to settle in our own sedentary and unchanging ways.

The disease of poor coordination: Once leaders lose a sense of community among themselves, the body loses its harmonious functioning and its equilibrium; it then becomes an orchestra that produces noise: Its members do not work together and lose the spirit of camaraderie and teamwork. 

There is also a sort of ‘leadership Alzheimer’s disease’: It consists in losing the memory of those who nurtured, mentored and supported us in our own journeys. 

The disease of rivalry and vainglory: When appearances, our perks, and our titles become the primary object in life, we forget our fundamental duty as leaders.

The disease of existential schizophrenia:  It is a disease, which often strikes those who are no longer directly in touch with customers and ‘ordinary’ employees, and restrict themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality, with concrete people.

The disease of gossiping, grumbling, and back-biting: It is the disease of cowardly persons who lack the courage to speak out directly, but instead speak behind other people’s backs. Let us be on our guard against the terrorism of gossip!

The disease of idolizing superiors: This is the disease of those who court their superiors in the hope of gaining their favor. They are victims of careerism and opportunism; they honor persons (rather than the larger mission of the organization). They think only of what they can get and not of what they should give; small-minded persons, unhappy and inspired only by their own lethal selfishness.

The disease of indifference to others: This is where each leader thinks only of himself or herself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of (genuine) human relationships. 

The disease of a downcast face: A happy heart radiates an infectious joy: It is immediately evident! So a leader should never lose that joyful, humorous and even self-deprecating spirit which makes people amiable even in difficult situations. How beneficial is a good dose of humor!

The disease of hoarding: This occurs when a leader tries to fill an existential void in his or her heart by accumulating material goods, not out of need but only in order to feel secure. 

The disease of closed circles: Where belonging to a clique becomes more powerful than our shared identity. This disease most always begins with good intentions, but with the passing of time it enslaves its members and becomes a cancer, which threatens the harmony of the organization and causes immense evil.

Lastly: The disease of extravagance and self-exhibition: This happens when a leader turns his or her service into power, and uses that power for material gain, or to acquire even greater power.”

Character Moves:

  1. Take Hamel’s translation of Pope Francis’ leadership inventory by asking yourself, on a scale of 1 to 5, to what extent do I…
  • Feel superior to those who work for me?
  • Demonstrate an imbalance between work and other areas of life?
  • Substitute formality for true human intimacy?
  • Rely too much on plans and not enough on intuition and improvisation?
  • Spend too little time breaking silos and building bridges?
  • Fail to regularly acknowledge the debt I owe to my mentors and to others?
  • Take too much satisfaction in my perks and privileges?
  • Isolate myself from customers and first-level employees?
  • Denigrate the motives and accomplishments of others?
  • Exhibit or encourage undue deference and servility?
  • Put my own success ahead of the success of others?
  • Fail to cultivate a fun and joy-filled work environment?
  • Exhibit selfishness when it comes to sharing rewards and praise?
  • Encourage parochialism rather than community?
  • Behave in ways that seem egocentric to those around me?


  1. As Hamel and the Pope agree; in all health matters, it’s good to get a second or third opinion. Ask your teammates to score you on the same fifteen items. How is your leadership health?

Healthy leadership in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: It’s pretty hard to find someone more sanctified than Pope Francis to give you a good gut check. The guy can’t stop hitting perspectives out of the park. Even as a Millennial with aspirations to climb the leadership ladder, this framework seems divine.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Cost of Complexity

Accountability Organizational leadership


Key Point: If we don’t understand the essence of something very quickly and easily, we might want to fiercely fight for alternatives or flat out reject it. Why?

Complexity almost always involves waste. I’m not talking about advanced science that takes years of academic understanding. I’m talking about most things in work and life, where we can put “elegantly simple” as a priority when filtering out proposals.

As an example, I’ve been curiously watching the “Holacracy Management Experiment.” Holacracy is the so-called avant-garde management system that serves as an alternative to the traditional office hierarchy. When Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ inventive CEO, dives into something, I become very interested. However, Holacracy is struggling to get real traction as a widely adopted, scalable management system. After working at it for four years, Medium is giving up on it. Medium lists a series of “challenges” it faced while using Holacracy, all of which boil down to a familiar problem: It was too complicated. 

According to a recent Bloomberg article on the subject, “’The biggest pain point was, with a growing company, investment and teaching new people when they show up how to use Holacracy,’ said Jason Stirman, who was Medium’s enthusiastic Holacracy Officer-in addition to his estimated 40 other roles-until he left to start his own app six months ago. 

So what happened? ‘For us, Holacracy was getting in the way of the work,’ wrote Andy Doyle, who works in operations at Medium, in a recent blog post. Forgoing hierarchy is supposed to set companies free from the tyranny of bureaucracy. Holacracy just created a new kind of organizational red tape. ‘Teaching a mindset was a big investment,’ said Stirman. Hiring and orienting new employees, an already expensive process, was made even more difficult because of Holacracy. ‘You could essentially take a week off [from] work to get everyone trained professionally, which would be incredibly expensive.’ And he’s not even sure that would get everyone up to speed on the intricacies of Holacracy. Many companies can’t afford to spend the time and money working on the way they work, rather than on the work itself. Stirman, for example, doesn’t plan on running his new venture as a Holacracy. ‘With my new company, nothing is more important than getting this app in the app store,’ he said. ‘I’m not employing any system that involves any kind of learning.”’

Think about that last quote: “Not employing any system that involves any kind of learning.” When I reflect about my own personal behavior, I have a huge gag reflex when I open up an app or any consumer device that requires a long visit with instructions. I’ve become used to the delight of opening things up that “work out of the box.” Not surprisingly, Apple is genius at this, from packaging to playing. Usually they deliver a simple elegant design. Now think about lots of things we do in organizations. The reason I believe operating people get so frustrated with support units (e.g. HR, finance, marketing, compliance, etc.) is because they often make things so darn complicated for people working with customers.

My latest pet peeve is friggin’ compensation systems. In many organizations, we have made it so you have to be a member of Mensa to navigate incentive comp. (Our comp people deserve Purple Hearts for trying to uphold the integrity of our system). And why? Perhaps one reason is that old school business education has it firmly planted in peoples’ minds that employees will only do something if pay is directly attached. That may hold true if you’re getting paid by the basket for picking peas, but obviously thats not the case in most work places. For some reason, we often like to take pay and have it apply to numerous variables “brilliant” managers parse up as “vital” and then, heaven forbid, if the compensation system doesn’t weed out individual performance. Managers often try and use the compensation system to cover up lousy leadership. Add… No, multiply… All this together and you get major COMPLEXITY. There’s my little compensation complexity rant. And trust me, I’m going to do something about this in our company. 

Character Moves:

  1. Ask yourself how anything of importance you’re doing at work and life is “elegantly simple.” Then consider what you can do to reduce the complexity and take out the unnecessary clutter. Just because you or your organization has been doing something for a long time, doesn’t make it right. Take the waste out! Attack the process.   
  2. If someone proposes something and you don’t “get the essence of it” right away, be constructively skeptical. Ask yourself how it would do against the following: “Not employing any system that involves any kind of learning.” And when someone says you need a massive “roll out,” so called assigned “Change Managers,” huge amount of training, push back hard. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot any such proposal. 

Simply in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) is a pretty infallible acronym for most things. People may enjoy the puzzle involved with complexity. Maybe they believe it makes them seem smarter, more capable, or better educated. But ask a person who just successfully ordered dinner by Tweeting a pizza emoji if they’d rather solve a calculus equation to earn their delivery. Probably not.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Havin’ a Daily Laugh

Happiness Organizational culture Respect


Key Point: When you live and work in a great culture, “having a laugh” is a daily occurrence. Humor and heart-felt laughter reinforces the belief that while work is serious, the workplace doesn’t always have to be. In fact, in our organization, we state that it is our intention to have fun everyday. In this spirit, I love April Fools Day because it invites us to take a moment for some creative pranks that ideally gets us to laugh at ourselves. The following include some fun April Fools examples in the workplace:

In 2013, Twitter announced it was changing to a two-tiered service.  The free version “Twttr,” would not support vowels and only allow tweets with consonants, while “Twitter” would become a $5 dollar/month service that supports any letters your heart desires. “Because our users come first, we believe that ‘Y’ should always be free to everyone–today and forever,” its statement read. “We’re doing this because we believe that by eliminating vowels, we’ll encourage a more efficient and ‘dense’ form of communication.  We also see an opportunity to diversify our revenue stream.”

Internet Eyewear company Warby Parker claimed it was releasing a dog eyeglasses vertical, cleverly named Warby Barker in 2012. Products included a monocle for dogs to make them look more distinguished. An “April Fools!” message popped up when gullible customers added the $95 doggy glasses to their online shopping cart.

Starbucks announced the addition of two new sizes to their cup lineup on April 1/2012: The “Plenta” (128 fluid ounces) and the “Micra” (two fluid ounces). The company also proposed alternative uses for the new cups, such as a rain hat for the Plenta and a kitten dish for the Micra.

Google is not only a technology powerhouse, they’re pretty good at April Fools pranks . In 2007 they announced their new product, “Gmail Paper.” Google’s “newest” service promised to print out your emails for you, stack them neatly in a box, and ship them to your door. Along with the announcement, they also launched a pretty convincing website that explained the service in detail. Obviously a lot of customers were scratching their heads before understanding the prank. Again in 2011, “Gmail Motion” promised users they could “control Gmail with your body.” Apparently, many people took the joke to heart and started waving and making other gestures they expected to translate into an email. 

Burger King is known to have pulled off one of the best all time spoofs when announced it was introducing a “left-handed Whopper” to its menu on April 1, 1998. The new burger would be the same as the traditional, but its ingredients would be rotated 180 degrees for optimal left-handed enjoyment. It took the chain a full day to explain it had all been a prank, but not before stores reported thousands of customers wanting to order either a left and right-handed versions.

Character Moves:

  1. Have fun creating laugh inducing pranks on April 1. (Or make your own date). Of course, these pranks should be well intended and in good taste. Ideally, the spoofs become the source of memorable stories.
  1. Be a personal leader in modeling good-natured humor. It’s ok to start a meeting or phone call with a story or experience that helps us laugh and share in the emotion. Joy connects us and builds relationships.

Fun Everyday in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: When I aim for my next job, I’m thinking ONE thing – “perks.” Duh, all Millennials do. At the very least, we deserve contemporary architecture, the newest technology, a stocked Keurig with the most desirable K-Cups, a spacious and generous Whole Foods catered kitchen, a daily organic cage-free omelette bar, a recreational gaming room, a killer gym, on-demand masseuse services, complimentary dry cleaning, interns to run our errands at a moment’s notice, exclusive media invites, at least one accessible company suite at every local sports arena (or good seats if you’re cheap), and occasional access to a corporate jet. You know, the “basics.” (Hey, multiple businesses have SLIDES now instead of stairs, I’m not even asking for that). 

Ok, April Fools. A working environment where we can laugh a little would do just fine.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis