How Pope Francis Could Save Obama’s Approval Rating

April 9, 2014 3 Comments

Pope FrancisThe Pope and the President walk into a bar. The President says, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. My approval rating is 41 percent.” To which the Pope says…

Oh to be a fly on the Vatican wall at last week’s historic meeting between Pope Francis and President Obama. On their agenda was reportedly global economic inequality, but I wonder if President Obama shouldn’t have used the opportunity to get some leadership pearls of wisdom from His Holiness. Based on the Pope’s beliefs and leadership style, here’s how I think his guidance could help the President fix his troubled approval ratings — and the bigger issues lingering beneath.

1. Obamacare

From a broken web site to broken promises to much higher premiums for millions of Americans, the Obamacare launch has no doubt damaged the President’s image.

Pope Francis — who’s received accolades and criticism for washing the feet of prisoners among others — might offer President Obama guidance on walking the talk. I could imagine him saying this: “Require all government employees (including Senators and Congressmen) to enroll in the program. No loopholes or exceptions.

“Setting a standard for you and your team that is different than the standard you set for those you serve sends the wrong message. It tells them you are in a separate class. They resent your privilege and the perception that you ask of them something you would not do yourself. Witness my refusal to live in the papal residence or drive a fancy car. The message those actions send tells Catholics around the world that I am no better than they are. I am their equal and they are mine. Go use the website you built and register for the very programs you mandated millions of people to sign up for.”

2. Russia and Crimea

Russia’s recent incursion into Crimea is the latest international crisis to embroil the Obama administration. Recent headlines on the issue have centered on the President’s defense of his position relative to that taken by Mitt Romney in the last election. President Obama’s arguments about the Russian threat and Mr. Romney’s inaccurate assessment are not resolving the Crimean issue — they’re simply reinforcing the “Washington bickering as usual” perception that has also damaged the President’s ratings.

Again, here’s how I imagine the Pope might guide the President: “Pride is one of the seven deadly sins. We are human and we make mistakes. The world changes around us. Acknowledging that we could have been wrong and focusing on making things right is a sign of strength and leadership — not a sign of weakness.

“Instead of expending energy on rehashing an old argument, focus your efforts on resolving the Crimean crisis. Work with Mr. Romney and see what you can learn from him about how to resolve the situation. Learn from my example; I have evaluated long-standing doctrines of the Catholic Church and determined that a changing world requires revisiting our views on issues like divorce and homosexuality. It is easy to pound one’s fist on the table and continue arguing an old view. It is much more difficult to reevaluate the world and offer new, if unpopular, perspectives that improve the situation at hand.”

3. War with Republicans

Both the Democratic and Republican parties have suffered declining approval rating thanks to acrimony and mutual antagonism. The President has staunchly defended his policies and has joined in attacks on his Republican detractors. For an American public weary of such bickering, this behavior only serves to erode support for all sides.

I suspect that Pope Francis’s counsel would tend toward forgiveness, reconciliation, and pardon: “My namesake, St. Francis, said this: ‘Where there is injury, let me sow pardon.’ Your detractors in the Republican Party have clearly injured your reputation and pride, and you have wounded theirs. Continuing to fight with them lowers you in stature as a leader. Rise above the conflict and pardon the injuries they have caused you. Set aside pride and anger. Seek the common ground and focus on solutions versus expending energy on defending ideologies and policy positions.”

For all his patience and perspective, Pope Francis has never been tested by grueling mid-term elections and open policy battles — that is a fair point. Still, his leadership teachings could be exactly what President Obama needs to turn around his image.

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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3 Responses to “How Pope Francis Could Save Obama’s Approval Rating”

  1. Frank Mona says:

    Even if I weren’t a Roman Catholic and a Pope Francis fan, I would 1000% agree with your assessment on how Obama should proceed if he were to adopt the Pope’s leadership philosophy.

    While you’ve written (and/or your guests) excellent articles on leadership, I think this is your best one!

    • John Crudele says:

      I like your take on this. Nice! Great correlation and connecting the personality and leadership styles. Very respectful of the Catholic faith and the example being set by Pope Francis. I always find it fascinating about how people will say they don’t agree with a Pope. I get how they can say they don’t understand or struggle to get their head and heart around a certain belief or doctrine, but to somehow think that I’m closer to a truth than the Pope and all the combined counsel seems presumptuous. I think Obama and all of us can learn from the example of Pope Francis.

  2. RJ Bradner says:

    Very good article. Points out how the current administration does not “eat their own dogfood” but prefers we unwashed masses sit down for the table scraps left behind at their constant feasts aplenty. Nothing like being World Class Hypocrites and blowing tax dollars while the National Debt is $17.6 Trillion.

    Good article dealing with major Management failures: Arrogance, Hypocrisy, Pride and Lies. There is a lot of senior management who wear all four sins as though they think they are “Good Men and Women”…while they run their businesses and organizations into the ground. It is not with surprise that such same Boards of Directors actually are enticed by such phony leaders.

    As a wise man once said, “everyone has a right to their own opinion, but not everyone has a right to their own facts. ” Kudos for the courage to tell the Truth brother.

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