5 Leadership Lessons Pope John Paul II Taught A Young Swiss Guard by Carmine Gallo at Forbes on 25 April 2014.

I’m always extra careful about articles that feature religion or religious figures in the title – the content may automatically be discarded by some.  Whether we know it or not, we all have personal views, opinions, beliefs, biases – VOCL attempts to be as non-secular as possible, and this article pretty much does the same.  If you’ve made it this far, then I think you’ll appreciate the message that the author conveys.

The article surrounds the storyline between Pope John Paul II and a young Swiss Guard named Andreas Widmer, but it could easily be between any great boss and a new member of the organization.  The five leadership observations provided include:

  • Encourage people to dream big and to keep their eyes on the long term.
  • Be fully present for every conversation.
  • Show people that you believe in them.
  • View “work” not as a burden, but as an opportunity.
  • Celebrate entrepreneurship.

My favourite quote:

Inspiring leaders believe in people, often much more strongly than those people believe in themselves.”

For me, believing in people is the most powerful of the five.  I have been fortunate enough to have been under the leadership of some AMAZING people – they all had their own strengths, but this aspect was what they all had in common.  They saw more in me than I saw in myself, they asked more of me (stretch goals for sure but achievable), and showed me that they believed in me.  If you have been on the receiving end of this kind of leader, then you know exactly how powerful this can be.

In the military, you can get yelled at a lot.  It starts in basic training (although it’s much “gentler” now) and can carry on throughout your career depending on how quickly you learn.  As a defence (and survival) mechanism, you learn to tune out the volume while taking in the salient points so that hopefully you don’t get yelled at again.

I recall a time almost twenty years ago when I did not live up to the expectations of a leader who believed in me – the task was well within my capacity, but for some reason that I can not recall, I did not do the task to my usual standard.  “I’m disappointed in you – I know you can do better than this.”  These words, delivered in a quiet, earnest tone, stung far sharper than any amount of ranting that you may have heard  coming from Hollywood drill sergeants (think R. Lee Ermey in Stanley Kubrick’s movie Full Metal Jacket).  Knowing that I had disappointed this person that I admired me hurt me to the core, and I vowed to never let that happen again.   That’s the power of belief.

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