Wujek

 

Sometimes lessons of wisdom in management may come from unintended sources.

I was looking for an inspiring book on management skills as another fiscal year closes and the year-end reviews begin at work. It’s time to look back and see what we did well and what needs improvement. Time to look ahead and set next year’s goals, for the organization, for our teams, and ourselves.

These days we certainly don’t lack on choices, from on-line stores and bookshops. If anything, the amount of choices itself can be overwhelming…And yet, I yearned for something different; deeper, more meaningful, closer to my heart.

Inspiration at last came from an individual praised for his multiple traits, and whose management skills had to be more than just solid for him to survive and thrive in the context and environment of his career. Inspiration, by the way, indeed felt like the most appropriate word, considering that its Latin root – inspirare – denotes “to breathe upon” and the Greek word for inspiration – theopneustos – literally translates as “God-breathed”.

By now I have already given away that the individual is a he.

I can also say he was born in a foreign country. See if you can identify my super-manager who –

  • Was known for “his permanent openness” and “mastered the art of listening”
  • Was always ready to talk things out and was never heard to say “I’d advise you to…” ; rather, “You have to decide”
  • Was an accomplished college professor and actor; a published playwright, philosopher, and poet prior to (and while) becoming a world-famous leader
  • Even after being promoted to high positions in his community, found the time to regularly meet with physicists, scientists, engineers, historians, philosophers, physicians (at least four to five times a year), and for entire evenings, to discuss the modern world and human development
  • Was a self-taught polyglot
  • Had dazzling multi-tasking skills and his level of energy, from 5 AM on every day, puzzled his friends and associates
  • Never had a bank account and paid the expenses of faculty and students with the fund he had set up anonymously while teaching, with his modest professor’s salary
  • Considered freedom “a test of maturity, both a gift and a task”
  • Was a magnet for young people, profoundly respected the elderly, and cared deeply for human life
  • Wrote that “the spirit of freedom is the proper climate for the full development of the person. Without freedom, a person is dwarfed, and all progress dies.”
  • Was “not particularly detail-oriented as an administrator” and “had a distaste for making a spectacle of anyone”
  • As a leader and boss to many “never exacted retribution when others crossed him”
  • Had such a long-range view of reality and its problems that it was often hard to follow; “his mind and imagination too many moves ahead of the game”
  • Was, as one of his close friends put it, “a man of the big picture whose ideas turned into institutions”
  • Was “a man determined to shape history through culture”, convinced that ‘we are and will be happy’”, even during the darkest days, as his country plunged into hopelessness
  • Was “a man of deep interiority and acute intelligence with an exceptional public personality”
  • Was surrounded by equally impressive characters when he entered the world’s stage; some with quite important titles – prime ministers and presidents. Some formidable enemies, too; capable of crimes against humanity and atrocities, for whom civil rights never mattered
  • Believed that “the ability to love authentically, not great intellectual capacity, constitutes the deepest part of a personality”, a principle he applied throughout his private and professional life
  • Was often quoted to encourage his vast audience, in public speeches and writings, by saying be not afraid! .

I could write a much longer list of astounding examples of this individual’s brilliance in work and life management – they came from a book almost one thousand-pages long. The examples listed above were collected from the first mere 200 pages; they don’t even put a scratch on the grandiosity of the man’s intellect and heart or the author’s heroic work in depicting such a man. If that sounds too thick to tackle, there is also the DVD based on the book, where some of this man’s genius will come to life in videos, photos, and compelling narration and comments by the author himself.

As the world around my mystery-manager started to disintegrate, while a new one emerged, he insisted that his friends addressed him by his childhood nickname (Lolek) or simply… Uncle. Wujek.

If you didn’t guess it yet, we have been talking about Karol Wojtyla from Poland. Saint John Paul II, in the magnificent book – and DVD – by George Weigel – Witness to Hope – The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) – a New York Times notable book and international bestseller.

I found my management inspiration for this fall. And for life.

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