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