Change Lessons from the New Pope

popeLast week 1.2 billion Catholics were introduced to their new leader. We all know that the church has many problems and challenges that this pope may or may not address. However, in his first few days he has let people know that his leadership will be different and that there is a potential for change. Here are a few lessons in change we can all take from Pope Francis:

Use language that signals change: By choosing the name Francis, the pope needed to use only one word that, for Catholics, carries huge symbolic meaning. St. Francis of Assisi is known as a reformer, rebuilder, and one who gave up his wealth to focus and live with the poor. It was a name many considered no pope would ever consider taking.

Let the people most impacted know they are important: When a pope is elected, the first thing he does is meet with his direct reports (the Cardinals) and others in the Vatican who will support him during his tenure. After meeting with the Cardinals, he asked the others if they would be their for a while. When they indicated they would, he let them know he’d come back and talk with them later because the people had been standing in the rain waiting to see him and he didn’t want them to wait any longer. He knows these are his stakeholders and he is there for them.

Listen before you speak During his first address rather than providing a blessing to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square he asked for them to bless him. Rather than speaking, he chose to listen.

Show those you are leading you are, in many ways, just like them: Within the 24 hours after becoming Pope, Francis indicated he was the same guy he had been. He went back to where he’d been staying on the bus with the other Cardinals. He showed up at the hostel the next day and paid his bill. He want to a local church, giving them 10 minutes notice, and then crossed the street to say hello to some school kids and people on there way to work. Too many times, leaders give off signals that they are different from everyone else and that he or she is separate from the others who will be impacted by organization change.

The Legacy of Steve Jobs

The Legacy of Steve Jobs

Between an earthquake and a hurricane, we heard that Steve Jobs announced he is stepping down as CEO of Apple. Jobs has been the face of Apple and its innovative environment for two decades. Naturally there is commentary on what his departure means and on what it means across media — from The New York Times to BNET to

The questions remains about what Apple will be like without him and only time will tell. Let’s take a look at the lessons we can learn from Jobs and the culture he built at Apple:


    • The Think Different mindset. Apple has created products that we didn’t know we needed and done it Apple’s way. They are famous for doing things on their timetable and listening to Apple’s own drummer. While most other companies are looking at the best practices of others to determine what they should do, Apple created best in class. Don’t look to others to tell you how you should move forward. 
    • Bring in thinking from the outside in to inform, not to replicate. This is different from search for best practices. It’s about being curious and looking for good ideas. Jobs noted that being ousted as CEO back in 1985 was one of the best things that could happen to him. He built a little company called Pixar that changed movie making and animation forever. He took those experiences from a company that was not a traditional tech company and infused them in Apple upon his return. 
    • Build an environment where taking risks is expected. Risk taking is hard for many people and is especially hard in a really tough economy. Jobs is a natural risk taker and by infusing that into Apple’s way of working, has changed technology, our expectations of the aesthetics and design of our technology, and quite honestly, has literally changed industries (think about it, car manufacturers changed their designs to include ports for iPods). If Jobs were the only risk taker at Apple, it would not be the company it is today. He took that desire and ability to take risks and built it into the culture.
    • Have a successor.  Steve Job’s departure will be smooth because he has had a successor identified for 7 years. His wake-up call came when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004. Because of the time and effort that has gone into grooming his successor, his resignation letter simply had to state that he recommended his successor take over. While I’m sure his resignation was a huge part of the conversations at Apple the next day, there was no doubt that a capable, though different, leader was stepping into the void.


As you approach your work, put a little Steve Jobs swagger into what you do and see what results it brings.