Must Read

SLOW Magazine - - Must Read - By Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms

To­day’s lead­ers must suc­ceed in a world not just of in­sti­tu­tions, but of crowds. As we’ve seen, lead­ing (and stay­ing) in the Crowd Leader quad­rant is a com­plex task. It is one that de­mands a par­tic­u­lar set of skills. And an un­likely new power leader – Pope Fran­cis – can teach us a lot about what is re­quired.

Pope Fran­cis’s first act as the Bishop of Rome was to pray. At the mo­ment he was elected, in fact, he was al­ready pray­ing, over­come by what he has de­scribed as a “great sense of in­ner peace,” one he says he has felt ever since.

But his next three acts were, each in its own way, re­mark­able. He sent back the fancy red cape with the er­mine col­lar that newly elected popes typ­i­cally wear, elect­ing to don sim­ple white robes in­stead. He re­port­edly told the Vat­i­can mas­ter of cer­e­monies, “You put it on in­stead. Car­ni­val time is over!” He then broke with pro­to­col as he greeted his car­di­nals, re­fus­ing the el­e­vated throne, say­ing sim­ply, “I’ll stay down here.” Fi­nally, as he was re­vealed to the world on the bal­cony of St. Peter’s, he did not ask for a bless­ing from his car­di­nals, nor did he ask for the suc­cess of his church. Nei­ther did he, as was the tra­di­tion, of­fer his first pa­pal bless­ing to the peo­ple. In­stead he asked his peo­ple to pray so that “God may bless me through you.”

It is hard to think of a role that is richer in sym­bol­ism than the pa­pacy. And in his first hours as pope, Fran­cis sent strong and res­o­nant sig­nals about how he was think­ing about power, as much by what he did not do as by what he did. Gone was the su­per-hero cape. Out went the throne that raised him above his flock. That evening, he aban­doned the pa­pal limou­sine and took the minibus with his car­di­nals to sup­per. On his first night as pope, he slept in the guest­house apart­ments, leav­ing the pa­pal pent­house palace empty (a liv­ing ar­range­ment that be­came per­ma­nent).

A Latin Amer­i­can car­di­nal with a track record of un­con­ven­tion­al­ity, Fran­cis had not ex­pected to be­come pope. He had other plans afoot, with a place lined up in a re­tire­ment home for priests in Buenos Aires. The book­ies didn’t think much of his chances ei­ther, stak­ing him as a rank out­sider at 33 to 1 in the pre-con­clave bet­ting mar­kets. So he had ar­rived in Rome an­tic­i­pat­ing a quick trip with just a small suit­case.

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