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On this feast of Pope St. John Paul II, we are so pleased to present this first ever Bellator Society book review.  Liz Banko shares with us The Pope and the CEO by Andrew Widmer.


There is an intersection of faith and business that is sometimes hard to navigate and even harder to justify, to some, its symbiotic relationship.   However, when you have the opportunity to understand the position of POPE in the context of CEO of the largest Catholic organization in the world, you relish every word.

During another flight for me, The Pope and the CEO provided an insight into Pope Saint John Paul II’s leadership style and how it mirrored that of Christ’s.

It’s inspirational as it exemplifies the quadrant of business that does give glory to Our Maker and the talents he bestows.  Perhaps many of these tips you can find in autobiographies of blue chip CEO’s, but seeing how a Saint exhibited them is fascinating.

It is written from the experience of a Swiss Guard – the men who take a pledge to defend the Pope with their life, to shield him with their person —  adorned in Renaissance garb, no less.  However, this guard turned successful entrepreneur in the IT world, when he turned his back on his mentor, was not so successful.

Widmer’s book is rich with the Pope’s quotes, anecdotes and theology.

In this short blog, I will share the 9 rules by which to run your business, life or family. And in a follow up blog, I will share the author’s summary on free will…because that struck a chord in me I hadn’t intellectually felt in a while.  Anyway, here is the list of wisdom with what I thought were the more poignant words of our beloved Pope that are applicable to business.

  • Know Who You Are and the Importance of Vocation … “your vocation gives meaning to your life…and the objective is to receive grace now to receive glory later…to cooperate with God in his work to save your soul.”
  • Know God and the Power of Prayer  “God wants us to pray to ultimately be in a relationship with Him. Prayer is a source of guidance, self-knowledge, knowledge of God and it nourishes the leader with grace.”
  • Know What’s Right, Ethics and the Human Person “A company exists for two reasons: to satisfy the needs of the customers and to enable their investors to earn an living while using their God-given gifts and talents in service to others.”
  • Know How to Choose What’s Right: Exercising Your Free Will ..this  I will just leave to the follow up blog
  • Know Where You Are and Where You Are Going  ohn Paul prayed about his mission down to the smallest details; it gave him the serenity to see everyone in the moment.  He used the problems he saw and created a vision, in the Redemptor Hominis.   Briefly it was to 1) implement the Second Vatican Council2) promote a culture of life and 3) defend freedom by opposing oppression and materialism.   Yet he was able to acknowledge a Swiss Guard’s name, family and plights of sweltering under the Italian sun.
  • Know Your Team John Paul understood great leaders need great teams  – you must be a synchronizer of talent.  “And when you lead as a coach, you put person-centered ethics into practice and help your employees fulfill their God-given talent.”
  • Live as a Witness The Pope understand that the behaviors and beliefs of a leader influence those working for them.  Instead of everyone turning their back on the gypsies that plague the city of Rome and the Vatican, the Pope had St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta build a 74 bed shelter in the heart of the Vatican.  Immediately, he showed how to view the gypsies with dignity.  The Pope saw dignity where no one else did.
  • Live a Balanced Life “The present is the point where time touches eternity” (Screwtape Letters)  It is in the present that God asks you to love Him, to be with Him and to rejoice with Him.  The Pope, under protest of much his staff at the Vatican, brought in the Moscow circus shortly after his assassination attempt.  He understood that we must find the joy of life. “The more you accept the momentary joys and graces God offers, the less susceptible you are to anxiety, insecurity and all the other fears.  The more you relish the moment, the freer you are!
  • Live as Detachment The spirit of detachment is to let every shred of human pride go, to embody suffering.  John Paul was called by God to exemplify this in the latter years of his life, as he suffered from Parkinsons.   The message is that our dignity comes from merely existing as a human, not from our accomplishments, wealth or talents.   John Paul showed us that as he sat in the window for his final good bye, his actions portrayed the humility of just being human.

John Paul saw work more as a path to heaven, and not just the value.  He saw it as a compliment to the God who bestowed our gifts, our bridge to enter eternal life and a way in which to earn spiritual worth.  It has been well documented that CEO’s that provide faith inspired leadership achieve more success and financial performance than even the S&P.   So maybe living simply as the God intended, and the Pope exemplifies, pays off here on earth and in eternity.

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Liz Banko

Liz is a native New Yorker has found herself living in a number of states with husband, Peter, of 25 years for their commitment to Catholic healthcare.

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