On Tuesday, Pope Francis arrived for his greatly anticipated – and first-ever – visit to the U.S. For many Catholics, and even non-Catholics, Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air, bringing new life to some of the deeply held traditions of the Catholic Church. His efforts to create change are a good case study for the social sector on how we may lead change management initiatives in our own organizations. Here are just a few of Pope Francis’ wins that we can borrow.

His Vision Represents Even the Least of Those Among Us
One of the reasons Pope Francis has been so successful at building urgency around a new vision for the church is that his followers sense that the vision he articulates is not his own, but rather one that represents many voices. He is known for living like an ordinary man, using public transportation and living among his fellow priests. By keeping open paths of communication with his constituents, the pontiff has been able to use his position to elevate issues like poverty and climate change. Since his election to the papacy in 2013, Pope Francis has been so consistent in using his voice for people who are marginalized that media outlets and the public at-large can predict what his message to the U.S. will be. A strong indicator of his success in change management is that his followers and the public alike know what to expect from the Pope. The vision is no longer his alone; it is also shared and articulated by his constituents.

He Preaches on Many Mounts
One of the most important steps in any change management initiative is spreading the message to everyone who will be impacted, and Pope Francis has excelled at this. Instead of remaining tucked away in an ivory tower, he goes out to the people, spreading his message and call to action on all fronts. Any successful communications plan requires leaders to do the following:

  • Identify internal and external stakeholders who need to be informed
  • Determine the specific message each group needs
  • Set a schedule of meetings or communications, including individual interaction for those who will be most affected

Pope Francis has made numerous strategic visits in the past two years and has dedicated time at the pulpit to hammer home the message that the church and the world cannot remain the same. He has also been effective at tailoring his message to increase relevancy for his specific audiences. For example, while in Cuba, he stressed the importance of making peace globally and letting go of prejudices to move forward.

He Models the Way Through the Narrow Gate 
To sustain the changes we hope to make in our organizations, we have to anchor them in the organization’s culture and make decisions that are consistent with our ideals, even when they are tough. Pope Francis has made major strides in reshaping the Catholic Church by trying to do just that. In response to the Syrian refugee crisis, the Pope not only urged other nations to take families in, but also dedicated space at the Vatican to house families fleeing violence. As the leader of the church, he models the change and behavior he wants to see among his congregants. We need to emulate this in our own social sector organizations to propagate change.

We are excited to hear what more Pope Francis has to say throughout his visit to the U.S. If you have been inspired by his grassroots efforts or if his leadership has prompted changes in your own organizations, please share your stories with us. We hope you will join us next week for our blog on emotional intelligence.

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