Monday, March 18, 2013

Leadership Lessons from Vatican City

Today, we have a special guest post from "Dad" Peter Brusoe, of Nation's Capital DeMolay. Enjoy!

As DeMolay Leaders, we can learn a lot about leadership by observing political leaders, business leaders, and yes, even religious leaders. Regardless of one’s personal perspective of the religious role of the Papacy, the Pope is a leader of over a billion people. The recent Papal
Conclave provides for us as leaders several important lessons.

1) Know when to ask for help: Catholics around the world were shocked that Benedict the XVI stepped down as Pope. That had not happened in the past six centuries. Hailey’s comet comes more frequently! Benedict the XVI looked ahead at the work that needed to be done, the time commitments that were required versus his own physical limitations and he knew that he needed help to address these issues. Too often in DeMolay we are too afraid to ask for help, or to admit when we need help.

2) Let the new guy lead and get out of the way: It tends to be in any leadership position that people look to the predecessor and often compare the new leader to him. This is extremely unfair to the new leader because it defines him in context of his predecessor. But if the old leader is still around and able to say “well, I would have handled it this way.” It makes it extremely awkward. Imagine for a moment that you don’t like what Pope Francis says, and you run to the Pope Emeritus to try to get a different answer. If the Pope Emeritus gives you an answer more to your liking it severely undermines the new Pope. Benedict XVI knew this, and after the Papal Helicopter took off, he has spent his time praying, writing and studying and not talking, later to spend his time praying and living a quiet life of reflection and prayer. I’m not saying as a "Past" anything that you need to go become a monk, but as past leaders we need to be respectful of the new leader, giving him support and making sure what we say does not
undermine him.

3) Things take time: American Presidential elections are generally over quickly. Master Councilor elections are over even faster. International Master Councilors elections a little longer, but not too terribly long. The Papal election? It was pretty long. In the middle of St Peter’s Square you had the worldwide media camped out, talking heads were theorizing about everything and anything to do with the election. One news source I read somewhat religiously went through and provided the accusative tense of the Latin of the first names of all the cardinals. With all of that going on the election was not rushed, and the process was deliberative. Too often we want things done now, and we must have immediate results. Yet, sometimes we need to have patience and to let things run their natural course. (unless it’s paperwork or registration forms, those need to be in early)

4) No great or important undertaking begins without first a prayer: We hear this several times during the DeMolay ritual, and without giving away too much of a surprise, in many rituals of various Masonic groups. We saw this in Vatican City as well. After Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran announced the new pope and Pope Francis was to give the City and the World blessing, he stopped and asked the people crowding in St Peter’s square to pray for his predecessor. Goose bumps could only begin to describe the feeling of hearing so many people pray the basic prayers we teach to first communion students. Then the new Pope asked the people to pray for him. And the crowd that was so loud 30 seconds before was quiet to hear a pin drop. As leaders, regardless of what faith tradition we observe, there is something to be said for prayer or silent
meditation to help collect your thoughts and for guidance.

5) Don’t count your chickens until the eggs hatch or don’t believe the hype: A lot of people do papal prognostication. Forrest Maltzman and a team from George Washington University even wrote an academic article Vox Populi, Vox Dei, Vox Sagittae (The Voice of the People is the Voice of God is the voice of Arrow ) analyzing different factors that go into the election. The Italian Bishop’s Conference assumed that Cardinal Scola from Milan had won the election, and had sent him a Congratulations email on his election as Supreme Pontiff. Oops! It’s always best to wait and verify the information rather than go off on hype or rumors.

6) Humility is a good thing: It should be in the natural progress of any Catholic boy’s youth to consider one of three ambitions. 1) Play football for Notre Dame, 2) Get a basketball scholarship to a Jesuit School, 3) Become Pope. For Pope Francis, No. 3 happened. Not only is he the leader of over a billion Catholics, he’s also hit the top of the promotion list for the church. The Papacy comes with some pretty nice perks. One of those includes a car. When all of the cardinals were headed over to an event the Pope eschewed the car, but went on the same bus as everyone else. When the cardinals pledged their obedience and support rather than taking those pledges sitting on an elevated platform, Francis took them standing on the level with his brother cardinals. As DeMolay Leaders we should make sure that we stay humble and remember that we are equals and brothers. Perhaps the single greatest line in any piece of DeMolay Ritual comes from the installation service, when we are reminded from the ranks we emerged and to the ranks we shall soon return.

7) Take care of your obligations to others: On the first day after you've been elected Pope, what do you do? If you’re Pope Francis you head to the boarding house that you were staying in and pay the bill in full. He didn't send a functionary, but went himself. The boarding house offered to forgive his bill, but he paid it in full. As leaders we need to make sure that if we have obligations to others that we fulfill it.

8) It’s good to break with tradition: The Catholic Church has a bit of reputation of being a traditional institution. I’ve been trying to convince our Coffee Hour Committee to go with Dunkin Donuts over Krispy Kreme for the past six years; change doesn't happen overnight. Popes tend to be Italian, and if not Italian, at least European. Yet, this election we went with someone from the Americas. Pretty exciting! Then with the names, 37 papal names have occurred more than once. John being the most popular at 21 times, Gregory at 16 times, Benedict at 15 or 16 times depending if you count Benedict X. Other names less frequently, including Pope Saint Hilarius (who reigned from 461-468), and of course the best name in the universe, Peter (reigned from 33-67). The new Pope went with Francis. Too often in DeMolay we are limited by our traditions and the phrase “we never did it that way.” We need to be open to and willing to accept new challenges and ideas. If the Papacy can break with traditions in leadership and customs, surely we can break with traditions in what our chapters do.

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