Context is the often over looked ingredient in any leadership system. Many a leader has made the fundamental error of solving problems on a tactical level without addressing the larger system in which they operate. Leaders with visionary gifts can lose their true self in trying too hard to solve problems. Doing what they do best will do more to solve problems than giving inordinate amounts of time to individual crisis.
Perhaps there is no leader alive today who faces a more complex leadership “system” than Pope Francis. The pope came into power and immediately faced a dizzying array of problems, including scandals involving sexual abuse of children, corruption in the financial institutions of the church, an Italian priestly mafia controlling the curia, and resistance to change throughout the hierarchy of the church.
Pope Francis has had the impressive ability to address particular problems plaguing the church without losing sight of the greater context: a global community longing for a pastor who is emotionally engaged with the periphery, and not just focused on the center.
There are many leadership qualities of this pope that have allowed him to lead innovation and change, but chief amongst them is an intuitive emotional connection with the people. His style is relational not autocratic.
His engaging personality and warmth, his concern for the poor, his endearing communication style, and his transparent conviction about the mission of the church to serve people has allowed him to ignite hope once again in the church.
This is a lesson for all leaders to learn, not just in terms of leadership style, but in keeping in mind the context in which one serves.