The Leadership Style of Pope Francis

Dr. Grazia Geiger, a psychotherapist, author, and coach, analyzes the Pope’s charisma and communicative power.

Silvia Costantini
07.10.2013 // PRINT
Pope Francis is bringing about an authentic revolution in the Catholic Church. But this revolution began from the first day of his pontificate, with a leadership style that puts the more human, more personal, more charitable dimension ahead of the institutional.

With Dr. Grazia Geiger, psychotherapist, coach, and writer, author of the book Number One Woman, we analyzed why Pope Francis is so appealing both to intellectuals and ordinary people, to Catholics and non-Catholics.

Geiger: What stands out from talking to people, and it is also my personal view, is that Pope Francis uses a congruent verbal and non-verbal communication in the sense that he conveys a consistent message in what he says and what he shows with his non-verbal communication.

In fact, his facial expression, smiles, speaking off the cuff, the skullcap worn wrong sometimes, but at the same time the warm tone of voice – in short, the informality of the message that he sends – gives a powerful message of positivity.

What kind of leadership can we see in Pope Francis?

Geiger: He represents the model of “charismatic” leadership. Charisma has to do with an awareness of the gift that each of us has and which can also be received by the other. So this naturalness of his, this way of being a man at the service of others, makes him generous in giving to others what he has received. He knows he has received a great gift. He is aware of it and uses it for the good of others. And simplicity is the mode of his relationship with others: he is a great leader who does not become formal because of the ceremonial aspects or because he has this role. Pope Francis is close to the people.

On the level of non-verbal communication, what are the elements of Pope Francis’s style as a “leader”?

Geiger: His non-verbal communication is the smile, the direct gaze, the fact that he has chosen an image that is closer to the people: he got rid of the ermine, wears the iron cross and black shoes like those of any ordinary priest, uses a car that the Pope does not usually use... these are all actions which send a message, and this “non-verbal” communication is his strong point.

His way of greeting people, of saying, “good evening” with a wave as if he were greeting a neighbor when in fact he is greeting millions of people, makes him feel close. He uses non-verbal language in a very powerful way.

As a coach, I would recommend that Pope Francis keep doing what he is doing. Both he and his message are very appealing just as they are!

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