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John Paul II LeadershipJohn Paul II Leadership


John Paul II (1920-2005)


The ‘people’s Pope’, born Karol Wojtyla in Poland, who spoke up defiantly against communism, war and immorality.

His influence extended far beyond the Roman Catholic Church, which he (pictured right) led after his election as Pope in 1978.


Why was he a great leader?


1. Purpose and principle

He lived to love and encourage people to believe in God and Jesus, so that they could enjoy peace, happiness and salvation.

But he never saw himself as a reformer, being always opposed to

  • abortion and contraception (because of his belief in the sanctity of human life). 
  • sex before marriage and homosexuality  
  • war and capital punishment. 
  • work or governments that destroy people’s dignity and freedom. 



2. Determination and courage

He had to overcome many problems:John Paul II Leadership

  • Parkinson’s disease.
  • the deaths of his mother and brother as a young child
  • hostile opposition to his views
  • an assassination attempt in 1981(in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican, Rome, pictured right at the spot marked by a stone, bottom right) - he met and forgave his attacker.



3. Sacrifice

He gave up everything to serve God and other people:

  • marriage and children.
  • a career in acting.
  • his love of football and skiing.

So he was a servant leader and his motto was “totally yours”.


john paul II leadership

4. Tough but tender

John Paul (pictured right aged 12) steadfastly held onto his beliefs and told people to believe in them.

But he was also an incredibly kind man who inspired everybody with his personal and informal style of leadership.



5. Putting his principles into action

He wasn’t a hypocrite.

People loved him, because he did what he said with the greatest humility.

He never saw himself as the ‘big boss’ of the Catholic Church, but the selfless servant of God and his people.

He distinguished between the two sides of human nature:

  • who I am.
  • who I should be.

He strenuously strove to be a better person, and he wanted everybody to do the same, urging people to build a better future now.



6. Lifelong learning

He learned continually from

  • reflection in prayer. John Paul II Leadership 
  • studying the Bible.
  • other people, including his father (pictured right with his mother at their wedding), who taught him the idea of “creative interaction”.

i.e. the person you are is dependent on your relationships with others.

He read or listened to other people’s views, and then made a decision based on what he thought God wanted.

 john paul II leadership

7. Communication

His speeches were always moving, and his love and integrity shone through.

On his visit to Galway in Ireland in 1979 (pictured rght), these words prompted 12 minutes of sustained cheering:

“Young people of Ireland, I love you”.


8. Hard work

Rising at 5.30, he worked an 18 hour day, until his bedtime at 11.30 p.m.

 John Paul II Leadership

9. Visibility

He didn’t lock himself away in the Vatican, but went out to see people all over the world motoring around in his Popemobile (pictured right in 2004).

Only six months after his election as Pope, he made his first visit to his homeland, Poland, as a gesture of support for its struggle for freedom against communism.


10 Tolerance

 He believed in acceptance of other religions, being the first Pope to enter a mosque.


Key quotes on love

Hatred can only be conquered by love

Anything done for another is done for oneself


Key quotes on stress and pain

Do not abandon yourselves to despair.

The worst prison would be a closed heart.


Key quote on war

War is a defeat for humanity.


Key quote on learning and wisdom

The truth is not always the same as the majority decision.


Key quote on science and religion

Science can purify religion from error and superstition.


Key quote on change

Have no fear of moving into the unknown.

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