A storytelling pope and why I stay interested in his story

A storytelling pope and why I stay interested in his story

While the coming weeks will be busy with travel and client activity for me, I do plan to write more about one of the most compelling “storytelling and leadership”  events in recent history–Pope Francis and his use of personal stories of identity.

Before doing so, though, I should make two confessions. The first one is that I had certainly never intended to write for so many weeks, even months now, about any one individual. My readers and friends have speculated that I have become a bit obsessed with the story of Pope Francis for the novelty of following the career of the first pope from the Americas. Others say that my interest stems from my attachment to Argentina, or from the fact the some of my cousins there know him personally.

Of course, none of this is the case. I am interested in this new pope for two overarching reasons: his leadership personality, and the importance of this moment in the history of the Catholic Church, and even the world. As I have studied for many years the phenomenon of quiet leadership, and the effectiveness of humble servant leaders who are often introverts, I am interested to see if the manner of Francis, who truly wishes to be a pope of the people and to implement quiet change in Church management, will be effective in reaching his goals.

In addition, I cannot help but feel that we are living a historic moment. Think about the challenges of leading any type of change in a body such as the Catholic Church. This is an institution that has been hugely successful–if one judges simply by the numbers of its followers–for millennia. Throughout this long history, it has proven itself to be a conservative organization that changes remarkably little, a corporation that endures throughout the ages, with one of the most opaque and byzantine management structures known to humankind.

As someone who has long been fascinated by the ways leaders inspire others and implement change in organizations–and in particular how the most difficult or unlikely transformations happen–I wonder how far Pope Francis might get in his change program, and how much he will be able to succeed. I have seen, read about or consulted for businesses and various groups where the task of managing change was a great challenge, and I have experienced firsthand the extent to which most companies with long histories of success will tend to fight and resist change.

However, I am relatively certain that none of us have never worked inside structures that resist change as fiercely as the one Pope Francis is attempting to transform. Of course, many of us have felt the effect of cultures that resist change, but certainly none like this one. Can we say that the Catholic Church might be considered the Mount Everest of resistance to change?

So, I continue to write about the pope and his change initiatives because I believe that we just may be witnessing the sort of far-reaching historic occurrence that one sees rarely in a lifetime. So, call me a fascinated spectator, or simply a fan of the leader and his courage.

My second brief confession is that I have now gleaned some far deeper knowledge of the Catholic Church, its history, its “corporate culture” and its mindset. Of course, this new understanding is a byproduct of my reading the now hundreds of articles I have looked for daily since July, seeking anything I can find about the pope’s words and views, or about how he is perceived by anyone and everyone.

In order to provide a context for discussion of the pope’s approach, or his decisions and their impact, some of these articles refer to, and even explain, events in Church’s past or elements of Catholic literature and thinking. So, while still no expert, I perhaps am no longer the naive observer I claimed to be when I began this series of posts in August. Some of this new found familiarity with Church history, dogma and philosophy may help lend insight to my musings on the challenges ahead for Pope Francis.

In the coming weeks, and perhaps intermittently for as long as I remain interested, I plan to dissect the pope’s use of various forms of personal stories of identity. I only hope that people will find it as fascinating to read it as I do to write it.


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