Pope John XXIIII just bought the latest time magazine and the cover with Pope Francis reminded me of the one from 1963 with Pope John XXIII on it.  I work in a Catholic faith school context so religious leadership is central to the running of the school.  Religious figures are important not only because of what they represent but also because of their story.  I have come to know John XXIII only recently returning to teach the HSC Studies of Religion course (SOR) which has John and Vatican II as a major option we study.  His story and transformation from humble Angelo Roncalli, poor Italian peasant, to Pope is a great read. Today I wanted to reflect on leadership from a Catholic faith perspective.  I could talk of any faith but I may as well speak from personal experience and the one to which I belong.

What does John XXIII teach us about leadership today?

1. Have a vision! – a pretty important idea anywhere, anytime, any organisation. But essential you would agree for those in leadership roles.  A vision is where you are going to take the organisation. A vision assumes a place that is different from today. A vision encompasses change agendas. A vision is also meant to be something achieveable but also something bold. A bit different to a list of goals.  The goals may help you achieve the vision like building a great school! For John it was the vision for a great ecumencial church council.

2. Be bold – this goes with the vision part. Often the vision whilst sounding good does not always garner the necessary support from those around you. If you are reading this and can relate know you are not alone. I was greatly heartened reading of John’s dream one night to have a council.  You can imagine him explaining this to the conclave that had elected him as a caretaker Pope because the bloke before him had been in the job too long and the church needed an interim guy. Well they sure got one!  The story goes that when John first explained his idea to the Cardinals who had elected him for a short reign at the age of 77, they mostly thought he was bonkers amd could not understand the need for another Council.  Not a quote you’ll find anywhere.  Instead being the collaborative leader he was he asked for their opinion. They ignored him! The Pope! So he made an executive decision and decided the call the Council himself. Sometimes in leadership you need to be brave and be bold!

3. Be collaborative and build a guiding coalition – this basically means don’t do it alone as much as you are tempted to try and do.  You can’t create a new a church by yourself but you can do the hard yards, have the vision, build the team around you to instigate and bring the vision alive. Great leaders bring great people around them who will challenge and extend the thinking instead of simply complying and maintaining the status quo.  A learning organisation should always be investigating the next big thing, doing some research, not sitting idle.

Thought for the Day

There are many messages here John XXIII offers to Catholic leaders of the 21st century.  We just need to be brave enough to open our ears to hear them and vision new possibilities!

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