Whose Successor is Pope Francis?

– What’s the story with paying the hotel bill, riding the bus, and no golden cross?
– Perhaps I misunderstood… They said that I’m successor of a poor fisherman from Galilee, not the Roman Emperor.



  1. Interesting to consider that in the business world at large firms, the CEO or boss doesn’t regularly eat and socialize with the regular workers all the time. This is not because he or she is exalted and above everyone else and wants that understood. It’s because people don’t want the CEO/boss around because his or her presence makes people uncomfortable. He or she ends up dominating all conversations; people must laugh at the jokes and praise the glories of the great one at every minute, or so they believe. This tiresome and exhausting actually. This is why the protocol will typically separate the person at the top from others in the daily course of routine left activities. It’s not to lift up the big shot but to allow everyone else to have a normal life without constantly feeling the need to defer. Maybe there is a form of humility in sparing people the burden of having to show unrelenting deference and caution in your presence.

    1. @Jeffrey tucker – comment #1:
      More likely the CEO would be scared spitless at having to justify “earning” 33,000 times what his lowest-paid worker received. Let’s be honest. Western business people at the top are the new aristocracy. And they don’t mingle with slaves, serfs, servants, and oafs.

      A firm too large for top to bottom mingling is just too large, period. Let’s break ’em up, Jeffrey, eh?

  2. Jeffrey, I have had the privilege of working (in one case, over a decade) with some of the great CEOs, the CEOs of legend, the ones who get written up in The Economist and the Harvard Business Review — and not because they are being sent to prison. Most have been British, but they have included French, Dutch, Indian and American leaders, as well as from various parts of the Middle East. Virtually all of them led giant companies — generally with more than 100,000 employees.

    Some of these CEOs were very formal, some less so. One had lunch almost daily in the headquarters canteen, randomly joining a table of employees. His successor, a leader of great elegance and culture, rarely did, but was nonetheless capable of walking into an operating plant, donning protective gear and engaging the local managers in conversation.

    To a one, though, the best CEOs had the ability to relate to people at every level without making them feel uncomfortable or show deference. They knew that hierarchical power does exist, but they were able to manage it in day-to-day interactions, and without losing their drive to make the company better.

    Jim Collins, the celebrated management writer, calls this ability “level 5 leadership” (google “Collins Level 5 leader” for more).

    It was the mediocre leaders who put on a lot of “show” and made much of their power and status. Some of these “masters of the universe” did end up in prison. Most achieved very little for their firms.

    For the avoidance of doubt: I am not asserting that the Church is a business, or that the models of leadership that work for business are the same that will work for the Church. But since you introduced the analogy…

    From time to time Pope Benedict displayed the same ability to relate to all sorts of people — I remember the way his face lit up when he emerged from Westminster Cathedral to greet the young people who had waited hours to meet him. But it does seem very deep indeed in Pope Francis.

  3. I totally see the point and yet I’ve known many cases in which the “big cheese” chose to mingle closely and often with the people over which he exercised power solely to receive an ego boost. In this setting, their every sentence is treated as golden, their every observation elicits agreement, etc. In other words — and I’m not saying that it is necessarily true in this case — this penchant can actually be the opposite of humility. The point is that eschewing the trappings of high status is not necessarily a welcome thing to everyone and it is not always a sign of lowliness but in fact can reveal the opposite. I’ve seen it too many times – even in the Catholic world.

    1. @Jeffrey tucker – comment #5:
      Jeffrey, I have also seen these settings. And in virtually every one, “the big cheese” has an office that arranges the encounter with “the little people” in advance. In some cases people are told the sorts of questions they are not to ask. Once the CEO arrives, unprompted or uncomfortable questions are met with icy silence or a rebuke.

      That’s not the kind of leadership I am talking about. I don’t think it is what we have been seeing in the last few days, in Rome.

      I am amazed at the suggestion that you have made (though indirectly) and that appears all over the traditionalist web at the moment, that Pope Francis’s preference for liturgical simplicity is actually an act of hubris, “the opposite of humility”, a sort of pretence, even an act of disobedience. Was Pope Benedict “putting on an act” when he brought back some of the older vestments, or arranged the altar as he did? I don’t think so — he was simply expressing his liturgical ideas, trying to teach the Church. I disagree with some of his moves but would never view them as prideful.

      No more are those of Pope Francis.

  4. I’m hardly a CEO, but I am a department chair, and I have a pretty big say on evaluation for compensation as well as, for junior faculty, the all-important decision regarding tenure. Unless I have some tedious meeting that I am required to go to, I eat lunch almost every day with my colleagues. I don’t think they act in a fawning or obsequious way — if they’re trying to do so, they are failing miserably.

    It’s good to recognize power differentials, but I don’t think that by their nature such differentials require those with greater power to remain aloof.

  5. It’s nothing less than fascinating to see you, Mr J. tucker, attempt to argue against Francis’ inspiring actions as we have observed them these last days by opining that they could be indications of the opposite of humility, hubris.
    Perhaps Jesus’ words ‘I am among you as one who serves.’ and his eating with tax-collectors and sinners are really expressions of a similar hubris.

  6. In this case, a CEO is not the model, but Christ. The pope is first and foremost a priest. If one doesn’t feel comfortable being honest around a priest, that’s a huge problem (confession??). Today’s Gospel is a wonderful example. Our pastor wisely pointed out the references to Jesus’ posture in his homily. Jesus sits down to teach the people. Then he bows down twice in the course of his interaction with the Pharisees and the woman they bring to him. Jesus is aware that his posture speaks louder than his words. The more Pope Francis communicates the Gospel with symbols, gestures, and posture the more effective he will be in his mission. Frankly whether it’s genuine humility or savvy leadership, I don’t care… one gets the sense Jesus had both.

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