What Your Brand Should Learn From the Pope
Sometimes the savviest business leaders aren't in business at all. Pope Francis has made waves since being elected to his new position, and while all may not agree with his stances on political and religious matters, the Pope is excellent at leading by example.
Here's what every business leader can learn from the Pope:
1. He Talks to Customers Where They Are
Pope Francis picks up the phone and calls perfect strangers and those that have left notes at the church to ask them about religion and their religious life. He has done it so often and at such surprise to the person at the other end of the phone that the newspapers have printed articles on "what to do if the Pope calls."
As the CEO of the Catholic faith, he is doing what all good leaders should do: talking to his customers about what's working and what's not working. This is a great way to stay connected to what he needs to do to make Catholicism more approachable and current.
And unlike many brands and executives who continue to shun social media as a passing fad, the Pope has embraced it as an effective way to communicate with and get his message out to the masses--not to mention to take the pulse of his customers.
2. He's a Living Representative of His Brand
Unlike many executives who purchase big expensive cars (or planes!) because they "deserve it," the Pope continues to shun the trappings that are traditionally part of his role.
Just a few hours after his election, Pope Francis was happy to travel on a minibus to the Sistine Chapel rather than take the chauffeur-driven Vatican limousine. He has chosen to live in a small apartment on the outskirts of the Vatican instead of the palatial Papal residency. He drives himself around in a Ford Focus.
Given his position and the "company" he represents, this is completely in line with the brand he is representing. People want to follow someone authentic. As a company leader, others look to you to see if your actions are in line with the work you do.
3. He is Approachable
Pope Francis chooses to take care of many of his own day to day tasks such as his agenda and bill paying. He doesn't wear the traditional Papal clothing; in fact, he earned the distinction of being named Best Dressed Man of 2013 by Esquire magazine. These small things make him approachable and real--critical for making lasting connections.
Are you putting up any barriers that make you unapproachable? Is it hard to schedule time with you? Look at ways you can make it easier to interact with and learn from those that work for you. In order to break down barriers within my own organization, I schedule lunch with individuals at all levels. It's an informal way to learn about others in my company and uncover what isn't working. Learn from the Pope and take down the barriers.
ERIC V. HOLTZCLAW is a serial entrepreneur who has founded multiple startup companies, including one of the first profitable Internet enterprises. His last company appeared on the Inc. 5000 three years in a row. Holtzclaw advises clients on the whys of business--why customers buy, why teams work, and the all-important "entrepreneurial" why. He is the author of Laddering, and his weekly radio show, The "Better You" Project, shines a spotlight on entrepreneurs' individual business journeys and successes. To learn more about Holtzclaw, visit ladderingworks.com or e-mail email@example.com.
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