An Extraordinarily Inspiring Weekend


Last Wednesday was the start of Kellogg’s Fall term, an opportunity for me to begin another quarter of my values-based leadership course. I am fortunate to have another group of great students. In the first class we spent time talking about what really makes an outstanding leader, and I summarized what I call the four principles of values-based leadership: self-reflection, balance, true self-confidence, and genuine humility. As I usually do during the first class, I asked the students who they considered to be outstanding leaders. Many of the usual names came up. Then one of the students asked me who I thought was an outstanding leader. The name that came to my mind was Pope Francis, who for me is an excellent example of the four principles of values-based leadership, and coincidentally, I was leaving the very next day for Philadelphia to participate in the events around his historic visit to the United States.

My family and I arrived in Philadelphia to stay with my former student and good friend, Khalid Ali, and his family. Together we went to Independence Hall all day on Saturday to experience an afternoon of songs, speeches, and prayers by individuals and groups of many faiths and nationalities.

I often mention in class the fact that leadership is really not about positions or titles but the ability to influence people through the ability to relate to people. One’s ability to relate can be incredibly inspirational. To me, Pope Francis exemplifies this attribute tremendously well. I believe Pope Francis’ leadership extends far beyond any religious affiliation. Great leaders are inspirational, focusing on the positive to motivate people to do things they often do not believe is possible. Much of Pope Francis’ message focused on what brings us, as a human family, together. All too often our discussions tend to focus on all the things that separate the many faiths and religions around the world, but what resonates with me is Pope Francis’ message that there is much more that we all have in common, much more that brings us together, than that which separates us.

I got a first-hand view of Pope Francis’ focus on bringing the “human family” together by watching the 9/11 Memorial service at Ground Zero later on YouTube. It wasn’t so much what Pope Francis said but how representatives of many of the world’s religions interacted and embraced one another.

Here’s what occurred at the service:

–a rabbi talked about our responsibility to “love and preserve peace around the world”

–a Muslim clergy stated: “taking one life is the equivalent to taking the life of all of mankind”

–a Hindu clergy stated: “May we be free from hate; may we all know peace”

–a Sikh clergy stated: “God judges us according to our deeds”

–a Buddhist clergy proclaimed: “We are all responsible for achieving world peace”

–a Greek Orthodox clergy quoted from the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers”

The message from Pope Francis was for all of us to move from tolerance to acceptance. Our focus must be on solving our differences through dialogue, not hatred and war. The idea of finding solutions for the common good so that good will prevail. The idea that we should say “yes” to our differences; embrace, appreciate, and celebrate the differences. It is important that each one of us play a role in making it happen.

I often mention in class that the group of people we expect to solve the world’s problems is a mysterious group of people called “those guys”. But who are “those guys”?…..Who are the people that are going to make this happen? It was clear to me in listening to Pope Francis as he spoke at Independence Hall in Philadelphia that WE (all of us) are “those guys”. That we, all of us….need to drive this change through the examples we set in our daily lives.

This was exemplified by the closing song “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

I look forward to your comments.

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