Fr.James Maher, President of Niagara University, offers CRUX his thoughts on what universities can learn about leadership from Pope Francis.

Pope Francis has been hailed as a leader and role model in multiple arenas, even the improbable one of business administration. In truth, leaders of Catholic universities, especially in student affairs, can learn a lot about leadership from watching Pope Francis in action.

Pope Francis has been rightly heralded as an example of how to minister to the world – spiritually, philanthropically and in the human rights arena. But it was somewhat unexpected to see him also noted in the Harvard Business Review as a manager and leader, akin to a CEO.

Gary Hamel, professor at London Business School, wrote that Pope Francis has identified “15 Diseases of Leadership” (a reference to his famous 2014 address to the Roman Curia) and recommends that “leaders turn to the pope for wisdom and advice.”

The current pontiff has exhibited extraordinary managerial ability and finesse as he moves the Church forward. I see him as linking the Catholic Church’s faith and fidelity to the “bread and butter” issues of the 21st century.

University leaders and managers can benefit from the pope’s example by developing a sense of living spirituality in the area of student affairs by implementing three concepts: spirituality of accompaniment, of administration, and of the academy and workplace.

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