6 Leadership Lessons from a Banker, Pope and CEO

Group of cheerful business people in casual wear standing close to each other and showing their thumbs up
This is a guest post by Rowena Heal, writer at RocketMill. She spends a lot of time with her head in a book or watching too much Sci-Fi. For more information, please check out the Cryoserver blog.

Heading up a team is tough and, unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership doesn’t exist.

From menial tasks, like enforcing a tidy desk policy and coaching best practice for a tidy inbox, to motivating a team to double revenue year-on-year, it’s difficult picking appropriate techniques without falling into the trap of micro-management.

Thankfully, there’s a lot to be learnt from Mario Draghi, Pope Francis and Tim Cook; all of whom have appeared within the top four of Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders List.

Mario Draghi

As President of the European Central Bank, and second on Fortune Magazine’s list, Draghi has a tough job on his hands. Despite this, his abilities to motivate and remain calm are great examples of skills that should be emulated by managers in all fields.

1). Keep your team motivated:

We wouldn’t blame Mario for succumbing to the stress of maintaining financial unity across 18 countries, although he’s yet to do so.

Despite having one of the toughest and most significant jobs in the world, his pledge to do ‘whatever it takes’ to preserve the euro – as well as boasting the nickname Super Mario – highlights his motivational skills.

Managers should take heed of this approach, remembering staff morale often rests heavily on your own emotions; if you’re stressed, rest assure they will be too. If things are getting a little shaky within the business, keep the team motivated – chances are the positivity will help pull you all back out of a slump.

“The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” -Lee Iacocca


2). Stay grounded:

Mario’s often praised for his down-to-earth approach to his job; something arguably unexpected when under so much pressure. Draghi’s less than lavish lifestyle outside the office – his family celebrated his son’s graduation in a pizzeria in Milan – keep him grounded in work, too.

We’re not suggesting you remove all luxuries from your life, just don’t spend hours bragging about big expenses to staff that cannot afford the same – it’ll only create barriers. Remaining down to earth is a great way to ensure team members can speak to you openly and avoids issues with secrecy or intimidation.

Pope Francis

Now a few months into his second year as leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is responsible for economic reforms at the Vatican and has driven a spiralling discussion on divorce and homosexuality throughout the Church.

Author Jeffrey A. Krames believes there are at least 12 leadership lessons we can learn from Pope Francis, but we’ve picked two we deem important and applicable.


3). Listen to advice:

Unfortunately, a manager isn’t always right, so it’s important to accept that decision making isn’t a lone task.

Francis demonstrates enthusiasm for learning from the people around him, creating a Council of Cardinal Advisers comprised of eight members from across the world with ideologically varied views. This group advises him on all major actions and has been deemed the ‘most important decision-making force in the Vatican,’ by John L. Allen, author of The Francis Miracle: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church.

When heading a team, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from staff. Weigh up opinions and come to a conclusion based on this. Even if you still opt for your original decision, it’ll feel reassuring to know others are backing your verdict.


4). Lead with humility:

Asserting authority doesn’t have to go hand in hand with bossiness, and it’s important to remember how important your staff are – you wouldn’t be able to do your job without them.

Be more approachable by immersing yourself into the business – as well as the office. Francis is a clear advocate for leading with humility, and you can imitate this quality, starting with simple steps, like abandoning your office for a desk space next to your colleagues, or spending less on lavish business lunches.

Tim Cook

37 Quotes on the Creative Force Within

Man praying, meditating in harmony and peace at sunset. Religion, spirituality, prayer, peace.


“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” –Albert Einstein


“Creativity doesn’t just love constraints; it thrives under them.” -David Burkus


“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” –Joseph C. Pearce


“Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.” –Henri Matisse


“Quiet people have the loudest minds.” –Stephen Hawking


“Creating open teamwork is the best way to encourage innovation.” -Kay Koplovitz


“You can’t harvest big ideas unless you sow the right seeds.” -Rowan Gibson


“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” –Dr. Seuss


“A thousand dreams within me softly burn.” –Arthur Rimbaud


“The earth has music for those who listen.” –Shakespeare


“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” –Robin Williams


“Creativity takes courage.” –Henri Matisse


“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” -Albert Einstein


“Innovation is the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” -Peter Drucker


“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” –Henry David Thoreau


“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” –Alan Kay


“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” –Vincent Van Gogh


“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” -Thomas Edison


“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” –Carl Sandburg


“Every artist was first an amateur.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Power of the Simple

Red Poppy flowers with black and white background

The Goal of Simplicity

Whether it’s design or instructions, we want things simple—not too simple to the point of insulting, but not too complex and thus confusing. What starts as an admirable goal – simplicity – is actually not a simple subject.


“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” -Thoreau


Dan Ward’s latest book, The Simplicity Cycle: A Field Guide To Making Things Better Without Making Them Worse, aims to help people make good decisions about complexity. After retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel from the US Air Force where he served for 20 years as an acquisition officer, Dan launched his own consulting firm. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Dan about the not-so-simple subject of simplicity.


Why Simplicity Matters

Define simplicity and tell us why it’s so important and a passion for you.

Simplicity is an ironically complex topic, and it means different things in different contexts. In a general sense, something is simple when it does not have a lot of interconnected parts. Of course, the definition of “a lot” changes depending on whether we’re talking about a spacecraft or a pencil sharpener. I write about both of those.


“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius


Simplicity matters because it has such a big effect on us, our technologies, and our ability to communicate. When it’s done well, simplicity makes communication clearer. It makes our technologies easier to use and more reliable. But when it’s done badly, simplicity can actually make things more confusing and harder to use, so it’s important to figure out how to do it well. Ultimately, that’s the point of the book.


Why We Overcomplicate

What Type of Leader Are You?


Know Thyself

The ancient Greeks had a saying, “Know thyself.”  Carved above the entrance to the main temple at Delphi, ancient philosophers including Socrates and Plato taught the importance of introspection.

If you aspire to make an impact, to lead others, or to create change, these are two words that should be an important part of your personal development. Understanding your own leadership style is critically important.


“The final mystery is oneself.” –Oscar Wilde


What’s Your Primary Style? Take Our Quiz Below

We all have a default style of leadership. You may be an autocratic leader. That means that you are more of a commander than a persuader. Or you may be more of a delegator, hiring others to handle tasks and trusting them to get it done right.

We can change our style. The combination of self-awareness and self-discipline give us the ability to change our style depending on the situation we face. We may have a default style, but all of us can learn to adjust and take on a different style when needed.


“To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.” -Winston Churchill


There is no perfect ideal style. But there is an ideal style of leadership for each situation. In other words, you may need motivation in one area of your life. Motivational leadership may provide what you need to get going at the gym. “You can do it!” may motivate you. Find yourself in a crisis and that may not fly. Instead you need someone telling you what to do, in detail, with little room for alternatives.


“Know thyself.” -Ancient Greek Proverb


Knowing someone else’s primary style is as important as knowing your own. I once worked for a woman who was completely hands-off, allowing me a great deal of freedom. Another wanted to provide commands and a checklist for me to report on. If you want to get a high rating at performance time, you need to know your boss’ style. And if someone works for you, it’s even more important. You can increase the odds of success if you choose the leader who best fits a situation.


Leadership Style

So what is your leadership style? Take our leadership test and find out. Have people you work with take it. And it matters at home, too, so have your significant other take it. You will increase your self-awareness and begin to “Know thyself.”