Charlene Li: I consider Pope Francis to be one of the most interesting engaged leaders on the scene today. He had a mission when he became the pope and that was to bring down this power distance between the pope and the rest of the Catholic Church and frankly the rest of the world. One of his first actions that he did was a step down from the dais to be amongst the people. He doesn’t put on the robes. He drives a common car. And one of the things he started doing digitally was to tweet a lot more, be on Facebook through his various teams. But he also started sitting with people taking selfies. He would go up to people and say take selfies with me.
I think in many ways he very systematically, again, decided how he wanted to engage, how he was going to use these digital tools, these social tools to again break down that power distance, become more connected with his audiences so that they would be more receptive to the messages and objectives that he was trying to spread.
One of the challenges that leaders sometimes face is that there may be resistance to them actually becoming more engaged. So in the case of Pope Francis, when he decided to break down that power distance, step down off that dais, and actually start taking selfies with people, some people felt like that was cheapening of the position of the pope, that he wasn’t taking it seriously, that he should remain up high and above it all.
One of the things that allows Pope Francis to be such an engaged leader is that he has this interesting mix of confidence in himself and his position but also a tremendous sense of humility. This is something that has encapsulated everything about his being from the minute he became a priest. The sense of service and again a tremendous humbleness. So that it was a natural thing for him to step off the dais. And it’s also a very natural thing for him to extend it into these digital channels.