How I wish those desiring to lead our country could take to heart the message Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis gave in his address at the August J.S. Paluch vocations seminar.
Archbishop Hebda listed three qualities of leadership Pope Francis exemplifies best: humility, consistency in values and leading with the heart as well as mind.
“Pope Francis isn’t afraid to admit his limitations,” Archbishop Hebda pointed out. Often the pope has said, “I am a sinner,” a humble admission that is so contrary to leaders who feel the need to appear strong and faultless.
St. Bonaventure gives us a unique insight into humility. For St. Bonaventure, poverty and humility were the source of Christian perfection that need to be brought forth in acts of charity and love. Christ, the ultimate leader, embodied all of these virtues — clearly seen in his humble and loving submission to death on the cross.
Connecting virtues to leadership is crucial and leads to other valuable insights. For example, it teaches us to acknowledge that without God’s support we wouldn’t exist. It exhorts leaders to get off their high horse and to drop to their knees in gratitude to God because without thankfulness, there’s no humility, and without humility, a vital leadership quality is missing.
Often leadership is pictured in terms of people possessing special talents, strong character and inspiring ideas. But from whom did these gifts come ultimately? Is it not from God?
To admit everyone is poor and dependent on God is by no means a sign of weakness. Rather it is a humble way of living the truth. This is difficult because we live in an atmosphere immersed in half-truths, twisted truths and outright lies that weaken our resolve to live the truth constantly no matter the cost.
One look at Pope Francis’ leadership teaches us he is persistent in reaching out to the poor and encouraging the church to be more merciful.
Further examination of his character reveals a man who leads with his heart as well as his mind. In Latin, “mercy” contains the word “heart,” the heartfelt love that Pope Francis desires in the church.
Leadership has always been extremely difficult, needing herculean strength to practice it. Conducting it humbly, balancing heart with mind and consistently following Christ’s model of leadership is the crux of that needed strength.