For the first time in 600 years, a pope in the Roman Catholic Church has resigned. Benedict XVI officially steps down today. In his final public audience, Benedict said,
In these last months, I have felt my strength diminished, and I asked God earnestly in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me make the right decision, not for my own good, but for the good of the church . . . Loving the church also means having the courage to make difficult, agonized choices, always keeping in mind the good of the church, not of oneself.
Regardless of your theology, this is a tremendous lesson for leaders.
Here are two leadership takeaways from Pope Benedict’s decision:
1. Leaders need to know when to stand up and when to sit down.
How many churches and organizations have gone into decline when a leader outstays his or her effectiveness? Leadership is more than a title; it takes energy, passion, and the ability to clearly communicate a compelling vision. When a leader is physically, emotionally, or spiritually worn out, it is time to step aside and let someone else take the reins.
2. Leaders make decisions for the good of others.
Leadership is not an ego trip; it’s a privileged service. A true servant-leader makes decisions for the good of others. Think about the weight of Benedict’s decision. The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415 when the Roman Catholic Church was experiencing an internal civil war known as the Great Western Schism. Benedict could have ridden it out, all the way to national news coverage of his final breath. But he chose what was best for others; not what was best for him.
What do you think about the pope’s decision?