In Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads, Chris Lowney presents a book on leadership like no other. Utilizing his own Jesuit seminarian training, Chris explores the actions and habits of Pope Francis that define him as a leader. As becomes evident in the book this is not just a guide for the business world. Instead everyone, including as the authors states “parent, pope or junior hire straight from college” can use the example of Pope Francis in their own walk of life that requires them to lead in some way.
What really makes the book interesting is that Chris Lowney may very well be the only person that could have written it. Chris studied as a Jesuit seminarian before ultimately deciding to take another course in life. This means he studied the same “Spiritual Exercises” that Pope Francis has. This handbook written by St. Ignatius of Loyola has been used by the Jesuits for nearly 500 years. The over-arching theme set forth by St. Ignatius is service. In today’s world service to others is not a common theme as most are more concerned with self than others. That trend is one this book attempts to reverse.
Through Pope Francis’ example, Chris challenges us all to reconsider the definition of power, authority and leadership. This example forces us examine our own leadership roles. The Pope has stated “authentic power is service”. Chris takes that statement, builds upon it in this book and ultimately gives us a tool to make it a reality in our own lives. As Chris states in the first chapter of the book “And thus, this book about Pope Francis and how his Jesuit background has informed his leadership values and principles. It is not a biography. Plenty of those have already been written; yet, oddly they have largely glossed over the Jesuit spirituality that prepared him to lead and still drives his thinking. Don’t take my word for it’s critical importance; take his “I feel like I’m still a Jesuit in terms of my spirituality, what I have in my heart….Also, I think like a Jesuit.” Clearly, we can only understand this pope by first understanding what the following chapters explore: what it means to “think like a Jesuit.”
From there Chris uses example after example to illustrate the Pope Francis’ clearly Jesuit leadership style. The now familiar first days as Pope, when he refused to take the papal limo back to his apartment instead riding the bus with those who just elected him. How as seminarian rector than Fr. Bergoglio took it upon himself to feed the pigs and do the daily laundry. Miniscule tasks for sure but one’s that leaders don’t often take and examples that leaders are not better than those they lead. These examples and many more drive home the core of Jesuit thought: “the world is not here to serve me, I am here to serve the world.”
One of the key points that I found to be valuable as to what a leader should be in light of Pope Francis’ example were related in Chapter five of the books as follows:
- You can’t lead us if you don’t know our reality
- You will know our reality only by walking among us
- Don’t just look, do something
- Do something and learn something
These points form the nucleus of this book which Chris points in Chapter 5: “Previous chapters have gradually pieced together a distinctly Ignatian worldview. Commit to know yourself deeply, including your frailties, and come to some peaceful acceptance of yourself and your calling to lead. Then, commit to “get over yourself” to serve a purpose greater than self, to labor for God’s greater glory.” Therein lies the greatness of this book and why everyone should read it. Leadership is not about your own self gain and glory. It should be for service and the betterment of those around you.
This book is a powerful read filled with many examples from Pope Francis’ early priesthood days through the beginning of his pontificate. If taken to heart the advice and example given within its pages will almost certainly make the reader a much better leader. No matter what your vocation in life is: business leader, department supervisor, elected official, teacher or stay at home parent this book applies to all. Chris Lowney has taken the example of Pope Francis and provided us with an intriguing guide for leadership success.
Read more about this book in my interview with author Chris Lowney, here.
I received a copy of the book for this review from the publisher, Loyola Press