PETE: You mention throughout your book Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads, how leadership skills are not only for the business world but apply to parenting as well. How can parents benefit from reading this book?
CHRIS LOWNEY: I always use one of the dictionary definitions of leadership: to point out a way or direction, and to influence others. By that definition, everyone has a leadership opportunity, because we are all ‘pointing out a way’ by virtue of the values we role model, for example. And could there be any more obvious example of pointing out a way and influencing others than what parents do for children?
The first way parents could benefit is simply by understanding that plain fact: that they are leading….And the second way they could benefit is by understanding that, like Pope Francis, you can’t “point out the way” until you know what “way” you want to point out! What you stand for, for example. A lot of people never explicitly think until late in life what values they want to stand for, what legacy they want to leave (we sort of acquire all this trhough “osmosis,” during our upbringing). And the Pope’s life example suggests to me that you have to get way more explicit and intentional about these sorts of things: who are you? What do you want out of life? What traits do you want your children to have, etc.
PETE: What is your greatest hope for this book? What do you want readers to take away from it?
CHRIS LOWNEY: Well, the book uses the Pope as a case study. But the book is really about us. So I hope readers will be entertained and will learn some fascinating things about the Pope by reading the stories of those who lived with him. But more than that, I hope readers will use the book as a springboard to reflect on their own personal lives and call to leadership. In a way, I hope the book might be a kind of dialogue between the reader and the Pope about good leadership and what it looks like.
PETE: You studied in seminary as a Jesuit. How does that education effect your own work when it comes to guiding people in how to become good leaders?
CHRIS LOWNEY: A lot of us—including a lot of young people—make the mistake of believing that success and good leadership are all about ‘technical skills.’ In other words, if I want to go into Accounting, I will be more successful than anyone else if I have the best understanding of accounting rules and so on. But what we quickly realize in business and life is that these “technical” skills, whether one is a nurse, accountant, mechanic, or whatever, are only the entry ticket. That is, you have to have them, for sure, to operate competently. But what really distinguishes leaders in the end are not those technical skills but broader, more encompassing human skills: like how to make difficult choices; how to treat and lead other human beings; how to cope with challenge and adversity; and so on.
PETE: Time for my signature ending question. This is a blog about books. What is currently on your bookshelf to read?
CHRIS LOWNEY: Uggh…Hard question! I always read interviews with people who have read all these books and who have all these other books they are about to read. It always makes me feel a bit guilty and ignorant! I do read a lot, but a lot of times I am reading things that might be directly related to something I have to write: so it is more like studying or doing research.
But I am in the middle of reading something that is both engrossing yet deeply discouraging: “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin,” which chronicles the horrific human toll across Central and Eastern Europe of the activities of these two monsters. I am engaged to a wonderful German woman whose own parents were refugees (as children) in Central Europe. And it has made me very interested in knowing this part of European history a bit better.
Read my review of Chris Lowney’s book Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads, here.