Peter and the Pope

Pope Francis made headlines this week for describing unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny.”

Peter Drucker, we suspect, would have applauded much of what the pope had to say on the subject (though Drucker’s own views on capitalism were quite nuanced, as we’ve explored before). At the same time, Drucker would have been equally, if not more, taken with Francis’s pronouncements on organizational behavior. Among the topics he addressed in his 84-page “apostolic exhortation” were the importance of facing conflict head-on, recognizing the gaps between what we say and what others understand, and life “in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power.” (We recommend taking a look at the whole thing.)

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Image credit: European Parliament

As for the Church, Francis expressed that it must shake off its stagnancy and “abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way.’” He also wants church leaders to step into the fray and interact with the outside world. “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” Francis wrote. “I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.”

Drucker, for his part, taught that every organization requires a strong sense of camaraderie and pride in order to function properly. “But,” he warned in The Practice of Management, “this esprit de corps must not degenerate into blind acceptance of company tradition as sacred and unchangeable just because ‘this is the way we have always done it.’ It must not become blindness to lack of performance or contempt for the ‘outside.’ It must not be allowed, in other words, to lead to internal dry rot.”

Drucker considered this threat of “internal dry rot” so serious that he recommended several remedies. One was a “truly independent board staffed with capable and hard-working outsiders.” Another was to move managers “into situations where they meet people from other walks of life.” A third was to recruit outsiders into major management positions. And the fourth was to encourage outside interests. “To be known as an ardent and scholarly student of insects (or of Roman coins) is a definite recommendation in a Catholic priest,” Drucker observed.

It’s unlikely that Pope Francis will undertake all four of these remedies, especially since hiring is no simple matter in the Catholic Church. But he has already appointed nine advisors from around the globe in an attempt to remake the church’s bureaucracy. So there’s still plenty of room for surprises.

What do you make of Pope Francis’s efforts to shake the Catholic Church out of complacent tradition?