By Beatrice E. Rangel
While drawing the liturgical year to a close, the head of the Catholic Church seems to have presented the world with the gift of wisdom giving brilliant clues to enhance understanding. And while his remarks were directed to the Roman Curia they apply to governments, political parties, corporations, and even NGOs. And his audiences clearly are all those who believe in change.
Pope Francis denounced the lust for power nested in the heart of what he described as “ladder Climbing Clerics” who give up on their true mission which is soul saving to become step watchers for the powerful. For anyone who has worked inside a large corporation -- whether public or private -- this remark pretty accurately describes the ladder to success.
And while planning departments continuously warn about the need for leaders to break the “mirror room,” not many besides Winston Churchill or Steve Jobs have escaped that trap. The mirror is built by ladder climbers who behave, talk and discharge duties imitating the leader. Soon the leader is surrounded by replicas of himself or herself.
In this mirror room leaders see their image everywhere thereby losing touch with reality and impoverishing their decisions because of the absence of dissent. Soon they begin to miss market signals, distress messages or even customers desires. The organization begins to age and the following withers away.
Mirror Room captivity leads to what the Roman Pontiff described as “existential schizophrenia.” Leaders want to be loved but do little to earn that love. In the private sector thousands of innovations that would make life easier for the many are shelved in favor of those that cater to the needs of the few that multiply margins based upon scarcity value. In governments, leaders prefer to follow polls rather than educate and lead citizens. Few like to walk alone.
And then everyone abhors competition. Whether a corporation, a political party; a charity or a country the C word is entombed. Preventing competition is one of the most sought-after talents in any leader's inner circle. Chief Anti-Competition officers are more important than product creators or marketers.
Inside political organizations talent is opportunely pruned so that its growth does not threaten established powers. Talking out problems or talking in cohesion is strictly forbidden, as anti-competition tactics rely heavily in what Pope Francis dubbed the “terrorism of gossip.”
Francis was especially critical of cliques that “enslave their members and become a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body,” eventually leading to death by “friendly fire.”
“These and other maladies and temptations,” Francis said, “are a danger for every Christian and for any administrative organization, community, congregation, parish, ecclesial movement, etc., and can strike at both the individual and the corporate level.”
It is almost needless to elaborate on the accuracy of these observations and the courage of the originator; For many years these issues have been discussed in small circles of scholars or corporate insiders. But none had the courage to launch them to the world in lay language and at a time in the year when humans are beginning to open their hearts to the mystery of love, whether it be Christian, Islamic, Jewish or Confucian.
Pope Francis could deliver this message because he is a native of the Americas and as such during 78 years he has witnessed too many unkept promises, too many abuses perpetrated by authorities and by corporations, too many talented youngsters lost in the trash binds of corruption, and too many countries doomed by dogmatism and fraud. His decision to denounce these scourges is the first step towards redemption -- and towards redressing the shattered destinies of the Americas at large. Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet seriesBeatrice Rangel: The Paint Brush Hanging from the Wall in Latin America
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Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.