Changing jobs? The pope sets a worthy example

| Tom Bengtson | April 9, 2013 | 0 Comments
Pope Francis sits with Vatican workers after celebrating Mass March 22 inside the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where the new pontiff resides. The pope took a seat in the back row as people lingered for private prayer. “Humility is an important virtue for any leader — the bigger the organization, the more important it is,” writes Tom Bengtson. CNS photo / 'Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis sits with Vatican workers after celebrating Mass March 22 inside the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where the new pontiff resides. The pope took a seat in the back row as people lingered for private prayer. “Humility is an important virtue for any leader — the bigger the organization, the more important it is,” writes Tom Bengtson. CNS photo / ‘Osservatore Romano

Changing jobs can be traumatic, which is unfortunate given the number of times most people in the workforce switch jobs during their career.

We’ve probably all known colleagues who did it wrong — leaving without giving proper notice, burning bridges and souring professional relationships.

I know one guy who begged his boss for unearned vacation time so he could take a trip to Europe. The boss granted it, and while the employee was in Germany he called the company collect to announce he was quitting.

Leaving gracefully

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI gave us a good example of how to gracefully exit a job. He gave more than two weeks’ notice, announcing Feb. 11 his intention to resign on Feb. 28. The news was shocking but those who followed the pope closely note Benedict had tipped his hand: In “Light of the World,” a 2010 book-length interview, he said a pope has the right, and in some cases the obligation, to resign.

Sometimes a large organization’s leader, especially a man in his 80s, has trouble letting go even after he officially leaves. This is awkward for the successor; observers naturally look for conflicts between the current and former leaders.

Pope Benedict dispelled any possibility that their could be conflicting messages coming out of the Vatican by saying he would submit to the new pope and that he would retreat to private life.

With some 2,000 years of history, the Church has had time to perfect a good process for selecting a new leader. It’s clear who will make the selection, where the selection will take place, what the timing will be and how the public will be informed.

Every business would do well to have a process articulated on paper so that in the event an executive search is required, board or staff members know what to do.

An organization can sink if it has to go too long without clear leadership. (For small businesses, however, I suggest a press release instead of white smoke.)

Clear vision needed

Equally impressive to Pope Benedict’s exit was the introduction of Pope Francis.

Pundits note his humility, which surely is winning him fans around the world. Humility is an important virtue for any leader — the bigger the organization, the more important it is. Nobody wants to follow a braggart. Given the rarity of true humility these days, it’s a characteristic that intrigues and attracts people.

And in any leader, people want to see real leadership. They want to follow a person who has a clear vision about where he wants to go.

Pope Francis brings renewed emphasis on the Church’s preference for the poor. While Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI gave us the doctrine and the intellectual ammunition to live our faith, it appears Pope Francis will focus on giving us the example.

Beautifully, however, Pope Francis is building on a legacy established by 265 popes who came before him. He is not discarding and starting anew; he is standing squarely on the foundation built by Church leaders over two millennia.

He made that clear with his historic lunch meeting with Benedict XVI on March 23. Symbolically, the meeting solidified the transition. By meeting with the pope emeritus, Pope Francis acknowledged a connection to the past while setting a tone for the future.

I have been in the workforce for 30 years and I have seen many people come and go from various companies and organizations.

Few of the transitions went as smoothly as the recent transition in leadership of the Catholic Church.

Contact Bengtson at http://www.TomBengtson.com.

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Category: Faith and the Workplace