What Andreas Widmer Learned About Business and Entrepreneurship from the Pope

Front-cover-for-web-194x300 Business entrepreneur Andreas Widmer has a truly great story to tell. His new book, The Pope and the CEO, tells this story and makes a hugely valuable point about both business and poverty. Widmer says, “The pope showed me what real leadership looks like. He modeled for me how to pursue our God-given potential. Not coincidentally, this also makes us and those around us better employees, more capable of and more willing to work hard at building a stronger company. That is something that makes both good human sense and good business sense.” Amen!

Andreas Widmer served as a member of the elite Swiss Guard for two years. The guard is a security detail that protects the pope. (I had the opportunity to talk to some members of the Swiss Guard at the Vatican in March and find their work very interesting.)  In this new book Andreas Widmer gives us a behind-the-scenes look into the life and thinking of Pope John Paul II, “the most authentically human person I’ve ever met.” He reveals how these memories shaped and forged his own success, after he served at the Vatican, as a corporate executive.

Papal biographer George Weigel has called Widmer’s story a powerful example of leadership at work. In this new book Widmer recounts his personal experiences in serving Pope John Paul II and then relates the secrets of successful leadership that he learned directly from the pope. Both the story and the secrets are worth the time and the book.

Widmer moved up the ladder of business success and eventually became senior management in a $600 million company.This company, Dargon Systems, developed voice recognition system for computers. When he helped to sell the company he was involved he relates that he learned a hard lesson. The company that bought the business was fraudulent. He says the leaders of Dragon went with their stomach not their heart and they paid for it deeply. He began to think a lot more deeply about business rather than just balance sheets. The result of this process shows powerfully in his new book.

Widmer What Andreas Widmer says the pope actually taught him was about the value and importance of entrepreneurship. The pope said that when you look at the market you must focus on the goal, not the system itself. He says the pope taught him that the real human goal of any enterprise was human flourishing and prosperity. These results, flourishing and profit making, rests on three legs: (1) The freedom that comes from participatory government. We must be able to vote and have a say in the direction of our human affairs. (2) A free economy. The law must be “blind.” Everyone is the same before the law. Without this freedom, joined with the “rule of law,” economic association will not work properly. (3) A robust public moral culture. This is the only thing that will check the appetites of the first two. Put simply greedy capitalism is a real problem but the solution is not to attack freedom.

You can watch Widmer talk about these principles and his new book on a recent Wall Street Journal interview. The interviewer should have allowed Widmer to talk more but the second half of the interview is worth waiting for it you take eight minutes to see it. Andreas Widmer is part of the Seven Fund. SEVEN (Social Equity Venture Fund) is a virtual non-profit entity run by
entrepreneurs whose strategy is to markedly increase the rate of innovation and diffusion of enterprise-based solutions to poverty. I am also pleased to say that Andreas Widmer also has a relationship with Acton Institute.