Books Catholics Should Read: The Pope and the CEO

January 3, 2012

The Pope & The CEO: John Paul II's Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard, by Andreas Widmer

In a society that increasingly sees business — and in particular, business for profit — as dirty, Andreas Widmer, a Swiss guard turned CEO entrepreneur, delivers an essential message:  For-profit business can be a force for good in the world, especially if its leaders live out a “person-centered ethic.”

Widmer offers a seemingly unlikely model for business leaders today – Blessed John Paul II, namely because of the great pope’s emphasis on the humanity of each individual.  Business, even in a for-profit context, exists to serve man.  It serves employees, who strive to earn a living; it serves customers, who gain a service or product; and it serves investors, who earn returns on financial investment.  The leader who loses sight of the fact that business exists to serve people sets himself and his company up for long-term failure (even if there is material profit in the short-term).

This is not to say that profit is bad, of course; according to Widmer, profit is the incentive that helps us serve employees, customers, and investors even better.  But profit for its own sake, without any concern for man, is dangerous.  That’s why Widmer so strongly advocates for a “person-centered ethic,” so distinctively embodied in John Paul II.

Widmer offers 9 lessons — drawn from John Paul II’s teachings and from anecdotes of personal encounters with the pope — to help the business leader cultivate his ethic, virtue, and humanity.  What makes this book so outstanding, however, is that while it is directed towards business leaders, anyone can apply John Paul II’s teachings to their lives.  Virtue, after all, is to be lived out no matter what your situation in life — whether you are a layman, a CEO, or a pope.

in short…
Content:  9 chapters dedicated to 9 leadership lessons, based on Andreas Widmer’s encounters with the pope while he was a Swiss guard.
Style:  Very colloquial, which makes for an easy and light read.  (Read through it on your next long plane flight!)  Alternates fluidly between (auto)biographical sketches, encyclical quotes, and abstract lessons.
Catholic?:  It’s refreshing to find a businessman and author like Widmer who sincerely tries to live out his Catholic faith in all aspects of his life, instead of compartmentalizing faith, work, and play like so many of us are wont to do.  It is Widmer’s attitude that will leave the reader convinced that business for profit, too, can be a vocation.

Overall:  4/5


A New Year’s Challenge

January 1, 2012

It’s supposed to be a *happy* new year.  But look around, and it’s easy to see that a lot of people aren’t happy; once the smoke of the fireworks has cleared, the cloud of depression, anxiety, and stress still hangs over many.  The economy’s remains in a sorry state, and American politics are polarized as ever.  College students worry about jobs and loans, while families continue to be torn by divorce.  Life is a journey we are meant to enjoy, but its road has countless bumps that can leave us lost, confused, and yearning for the joy we once had.

As we open the new year, here’s a challenge to add to your resolutions:  Instead of waiting for joy to come to you, make the effort to find joy yourself and share it with others.  It’s easy (inevitable, it seems at times) to allow the pressures of the future or regrets of the past to bring you down.  But it’s just as easy to find joy, if you just focus on the blessings of the present, “the point at which time touches eternity,” as C.S. Lewis says.  Take a step back, breathe in the air and feel the sun that God has given us, and thank Him for the intangible blessings — family, friends, life itself.  Happiness will naturally follow after.

For Catholics especially, it’s our mission to bring joy to others.  The Gospels — the life, death, and resurrection of Christ which we are meant to proclaim — is the message of joy.  And in fact, we have a lot for which to be joyful!  If you think about it, it’s pretty cool to be Catholic.  We stand for truth.  Instead of caving in to pressure to adapt Church teaching to the modern world’s problems, Pope Benedict XVI, in the spirit of Blessed John Paul II, holds Church teaching as the answer to the modern world’s problems.  Swag.

The Catholic Church emphasizes the individual while also recognizing man’s identity as a social being.  We have brought together faith and reason, so long misunderstood to be counter to each other.  We’re among the strongest humanitarian forces in the world.  We remain one of the lone defenses of the family.  And by God, we think sex is good — not dirty, as our American Puritan roots conceives it, nor cheap, as our modern world sees it.

Ours is a story of love.  Ours is a story of hope.  Ours is a story of joy.

This year, make resolutions to rediscover joy and share it with others.  Say thank you to those who matter (and even complete strangers for good measure).  Learn something new and invite others to join you.  Bring a friend with you when you pray.  You’ll be surprised at how much the little actions can do.

So find that joy.  Bring that joy to others.

Because if you do, the world will follow.

“it’s funny how you find you enjoy your life, when you’re happy to be alive.”