I am the CEO of nothing except my own life--and even then... I have ten kids that I attempt to direct onto heavenly paths but then leave the rest to God.
Books on leadership in business are not on my shelves. Yet, I have found meaning in The Pope & The CEO: John Paul II's Pope John Paul II's Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard by Adreas Widmer. He was a mere guard—although guarding the very vicar of Christ—at the time he learned these lessons. They have served him well, not because they were lessons for corporate America, but because they are lessons for authentic Catholic living.
So amid laundry piles and washing floors; negotiating with and leading children, I have learned that JPII's lessons are less about rising to the top of corporate America and more about rising all the way to the very top--heaven.
Widmer credits the experience of guarding the Pope while working for two years as a Swiss guard with helping him to integrate his Catholic faith as a corporate executive and CEO. His compelling story is one of discovery of what is means to be human and integrate faith into all aspects of life.
Widmer's Lessons From JPII
My life is my vocation. It is about listening to God's promptings. His plan for me is unique and infinitely better than my own. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” Jeremiah 1:5
My life is not random or accidental; it is arranged. John Paul used to say that nothing is a coincidence. “On May 13 of that year, while greeting pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, John Paul was shot at close range by the Turkish assassin. He credited his narrow escape from death to the intercession of the Virgin Mary....On that day, sixty-four years before, Mary predicted the fall of godless Communism in Russia. John Paul saw no coincidence in that. Instead, he saw the assassination attempt and his recovery as a sign. That sign, understood through prayer, clarified his vision and made him more resolute in his stand against communism.”
|Widmer with JPII|
Don't settle and don't give up. As John Paul would say, “Don’t ever settle for anything less than the spiritual and moral greatness the grace of God makes possible in your life. You’ll fail; we all do. But that’s no reason to lower the bar of expectation.” Widmer says that JPII often told us to get up, seek forgiveness, be reconciled with God and keep trying.
The power of God reaches us through prayer. “I once overheard John Paul II say that prayer is a learned ability, something anyone can do if he only try. In other words, prayer is not an activity solely reserved for mystics and saints or priests and nuns. It’s also not something to do just on Sundays or before meals. It’s something for everyone, at any time.”
Know what is right. “...approach both life and work as John Paul II did, with a clear moral framework, a system of ethics that can serve as a compass, consistently pointing you in the right direction regardless of what circumstances or challenges you face. “
Plan for the future but live in the present. “A strong leader always knows where he’s going. He sees ahead. Like John Paul II, he also needs to know where he is. He needs to see what’s right in front of him....You need to know where you’re going and why you’re going there.”
Respect each individual. “John Paul II never looked at people in general. He looked at people in particular. He saw faces and stories and all that goes into making each human person unique. He also saw Christ in every person. He saw the mark of God, who made man in his image, became man in order to save him, and destined man for an eternity with him. What John Paul II saw was each person’s innate human dignity.
So he acted accordingly.”
Live a balanced life, all things in moderation. “During my time at the Vatican, I saw how well John Paul II balanced the demands of his papacy with the people and activities he most enjoyed.”
Live with humility and detachment and see meaning in suffering. “What set John Paul II apart... was that he never tried to hide his suffering. He wasn’t ashamed of it. He didn’t think it made him less of a man or less of a leader. He saw meaning in his pain. He believed it had value. He wanted to share that with the world.”
As of the canonization of JPII and John XXII on Divine Mercy Sunday, we can use the title “saint” before their names. Our Popes are not so removed from us, and they are even closer to us now than JPII was to Widmer while he was a guard. The saints are with us as we journey this earth and their lessons lead us closer to Christ.
For more info on this book check out Andreas Widmer's website, which can be found here: http://www.thepopeandtheceo.com/