Four gunshots reverberated throughout the crowded streets of Saint Peter’s Square, May 13, 1981. A shocked man looked down at his blood-stained once white robe. He was rushed to the Hospital while his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca was detained until arrested. Within four days of being shot, Karol Wojtyla, more commonly known as Saint Pope John Paul the Great forgave the man from his hospital bed and later went and visited Agca and personally forgave the man that shot him.
Millions of people were shocked by the Holy Father’s choice to visit the man that wished him dead, but in doing so, the Pope wordlessly showed his followers what it means to love and forgive others. At the time Pope John Paul II was the spiritual leader of almost 60 million Roman Catholics. He had already acquired a reputation as being a charismatic leader. People came from all over the world to be inspired by his message–that of sacrificial love. Not only did Pope John Paul II lead others, but he lead them closer to Christ.
Considering that he was a spiritual leader, it comes as little surprise that his goal was to lead people closer to Christ, but I think it’s important to note his personal approach. Not only did he tell people what to do, but he showed them. He made a point of showing people that they mattered to him. Be it a follower, an employee or a political figure, he took the time to love everyone. There are countless instances of his generosity towards people, one example is that of a Roman street cleaners daughter that somehow managed to approach the Holy Father and asked if he would be willing to officiate her wedding.
To the surprise of everyone, he gladly accepted and celebrated a private mass for them two months later in the Vatican. John Paul also made a note of personally knowing the Swiss Guards that kept him safe in the Vatican. One Christmas Eve he came across a guard that he did not recognize and asked for his name. Upon noticing the tears in the guards eyes, the Holy Father took the time to personally thank the guard for the sacrifice that he was making in missing Christmas with his family and told the man that he would be praying for him during Mass.
As a leader with so much on his mind, it would have been easy for Pope John Paul II to walk past these people without noticing them, but instead he chose to love them. Pope John Paul II constantly reminded his followers that it’s the people that matter more than results. If people know that they are loved than they will follow and results will come, not the other way around. They will follow because of love and respect rather than fear. My approach to leadership, when it is given to me, is to love each person in front of me as much as I possibly can.
When I say love, I mean the type of love that Pope John Paul II showed when he forgave the man that tried to kill him. In loving that way, my hope is that others will encounter Christ, be it in checking up on people when I can tell they upset, or affirming them when I notice the good that they do. As John Paul II has shown me through the example of his life, leadership should never be about results, but about people. People that through my guidance may one day become the saints that they are meant to be.