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Leadership & Followership of John Paul II

Paper Type: Free Assignment Study Level: University / Undergraduate
Wordcount: 2073 words Published: 11th Jun 2020

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Throughout the history of humanity, there have been people who lived their lives to forever impact and inspire others because of the qualities of  leadership, integrity, respectability and righteousness displayed throughout their life.

One such person who displayed these qualities was Pope John Paul II, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church from 16th October 1978 – 2nd April 2005.

This report will define the different leadership styles and influences whilst also reflecting on how John Paull II effectively used his position as  the former Bishop of Rome and the Head of the Roman Catholic Church as an authentic, compassionate, value- based leader that serves as a frame of reference in today’s evolving leadership styles within Catholic Christology.

Leadership Skills

Leadership style is the manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans and motivating people as seen by the employees, it includes the total pattern of explicit and implicit actions performed by their leader (Newstrom, Davis, 1993) Nearly every aspect of leadership is affected by culture (Bass, B.M, 2008) “the values, beliefs, norms and ideals embedded in a culture affect leadership behaviour, goals and strategies of an organisation”

The purpose of leadership is to create a culture and it can be very difficult to change a culture when leadership changes as well.

When a leader shows concern and values that are important, groups feel inspired and can positively affect a culture.

When the leadership of a group is seen as negative, the culture can have a fast, drastic effect on a positive culture.

When leaders are facing this type of obstacle, they will need to rehash their leadership style.

According to a major study performed in 1939 by Kurt Lewin, it was established that there were three major leadership styles (Lewin, Lippit, White, 1939)

–          Authoritarian or autocratic

–          Participative or democratic

–          Delegative or laissez-fair

Although good leaders use all of these three styles, normally one style is more dominate.

Each of these leadership styles can be described as follows


Style: people who identify with this leadership style often feel guided by “my way or the highway” mantra

Traits: hold power and don’t like to share it with anyone. They also issue directions and orders to others and expect tasks to be conducted with no questions or hesitations.


Style: Leaders who identify as a participative leader encourage participation and collaboration.

Traits: actively seek opinions of others and encourage lively discussions to spark new ideas / trains of thought


Style: these leaders work in a hands off approach and delegate others

Traits: supply the tools and resources needed but then leave those involved to their own devices

However, according to Mary Wroblewski from The Centre of Leadership Studies, there are ten leadership styles which include the following additional styles

Charismatic Leaders

Style: these leaders charm, inspire, engage and motivate others just by the appeal of their personality

Traits: they know how to ‘work their magic’ on others to get the job done

Pacesetting Leaders

Style: fast working with high expectations

Traits: these leaders expect others to watch and mirror their work and behaviour.

Servant Leaders

Style: these leaders emphasise the act of serving others, rather than leading them

Traits: always looking for ways to help and make others’ lives better

Situational Leaders

Style: adapt their words and behaviours to suit a particular group or situation

Traits: have the ability to assess and treat others as individuals and not use a ‘one size fits all’ approach

Transformational Leaders

Style: inspires and rally’s  others around a shared vision

Traits: encourage creativity and like to push others out of their comfort zone but give them the independence they need to innovate

Transactional Leaders

Style: structure and order in the workplace and utilise the ‘stick v carrot (reward v punishment) approach

Traits: this type of leader feels most comfortable when they issue instructions and then either reward or penalise people

These leadership styles can also be influenced by gender. According to research conducted by Leaders Today 2013, there was quite a vast difference in the typical profile of both male and female leaders. This research showed that males tended to have a more aggressive, direct approach on leadership, where females proved to be more emotional, collaborative and used open communication.

Followership Skills

John S. McCallum (2013) stated that “followership is a straightforward concept and it is the ability to take direction well, to get in line behind a program, to be part of a team and to deliver on what is expected of you”

There are four components that attribute to a strong followership

–          Trust: the leader must demonstrate honest behaviour to prove that they can be trusted

–          Stability: leaders with a strong followership remain calm when faced with panic and will always give a sense of calmness and confidence to those around them

–          Compassion: strong followership leaders will demonstrate an unrelenting passion for people and show empathy to those who are enduring hard times

–          Hope: the followership’s leader will demonstrate upmost belief in the product / service and that how it will positively impact the world

Whilst leadership has three pillars (Yu-Kai Chou, 2009)

–          Vision: a leader must have a vision and conviction towards that vision. The leader must know what direction the vision and team is headed towards

–          Motivation: when a leader can successfully emotionally and psychologically connect with all team members, they can find out how each individual feels and thinks, thus having the ability to motivate them which results in better productivity

–          Influence: by knowing exactly what needs to be done to get to the end goal, the leader will be able to influence the group to make absolute sure of progress to the end goal

John Paul II Historical Background

John Paul II was born Karol Jozef Wojtila in Poland, 18th May 1920. His upbringing was encompassed by many personal tragedies and socio political issues from a young child. By the age of twelve, he had lost both his mother and brother and in 1939, Germany invaded Poland and violated his homeland with Nazism. By the age of 21, he lost his father and was now the last standing member of his immediate family.

Despite the tragedies Karol Jozef Wojtila experienced, he decided to become a priest and began his journey to priesthood in 1942 for the Archdiocese of Krakow and on 1st November, 1946 he became ordained as a priest.

In 1958 Karol Jozef Wojtila was ordained auxiliary bishop of Krakow and then in 1962 was appointed temporary administrator of the Archdiocese of Krakow. During the years of 1962 – 1965 he was actively involved in the proceedings of the Second Vatican Council in Rome, where he made positive contributions to different topics that impact on the life and mission of the church.

Karol Jozef Wojtila was installed as the Archbishop of Krakow in 1964 and in 1967, was chosen by Pope Paul VI as a cardinal. On 16th October, 1978, he was elected Pope and took the name John Paul II.

He served as Pope for 27 years and was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. He had a very simple and honest way of communicating that endeared people to him and was not entangled in the power and status that came with his role. John Paul II exemplified the servant – leader role by becoming the servant of the servants of god.

John Paul II leadership Skills

According to Nahavandi, 2012, leadership goes beyond a series of behaviours and actions to include emotional connections, interpersonal relationships, integrity and concern for others.

With this in mind, it is importantly and necessarily noted in the pastoral context which entails ‘spiritual guidance and development, restoration, care, correction, protection, unity and encouragement of parishioners’ (Carter, 2009, p.261)

John Paul II’s success as pope came from his ability to establish a bond between himself and his followers to enhance follower commitment.

His successful leadership style of  personal and relationship oriented approach proved best suited and effective for evangelization fits in with the “servant leadership style”

John Paul II’s leadership qualities have been mapped as below ( Blumenthal 2005)

Personal Values Pastoral Attitude Interpersonal Relationships
Pro life





























John Paul II fellowship skills

There are many examples that prove John Paul II’s successful followership skills/qualities as mentioned above. Firstly, his many visits to different countries around the world – his personalised way of relating to people strengthened the faith of many Catholics, as evident in many videos and photographs. He was a source of inspiration for the people he encountered in his life and misery (noonan, 2005)

Further evidence of his successful followership is his beatification on 1st may, 2011


It can be seen that there are many different leadership styles that can influence culture within a group. Kerfoot (2006) stated that “ leadership traits of the person in charge work either as a magnet to attract, retain and inspire or as a force that repels”  John Paul II fits this sentiment, in that he  was a successful leader that attracted, retained and inspired many within the catholic church as well as those outside of the church.


  • Bass B.M (2008). The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Theory, research and managerial applications. 4th Edition New York: Free Press
  • Carter, J. (2009). Transformational leadership and pastoral leader effectiveness. Pastoral Psychology, 25(3), 261-271. doi: 10.1007/s 11089 – 008 – 0182 – 6.
  • Davis K. and Newstorm, J.W. Blumenthal, D. R. (2005). Now that John Paul II is no longer with us. Cross Currents, 55(2), 234-240(1985).Human Behavior at work :Organizational Behavior: 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company
  • Kerfoot, 2006, Authentic leadership. MEDSURG Nursing, 15(5), 319-320
  • Lewin, K.; Lippitt, R.; White, R.K. (1939). Patterns of aggressive behavior in experimentally created social climates. Journal of Social Psychology 10: 271–301
  • Nahavandi, A. (2012). The art and science of leadership. Boston: Prentice Hall.
  • Noonan, P. (2005). John Paul the Great: Remembering a spiritual father. New York: Viking Penguin.
  • McCullum, J, followership: the otherside of leadership, 2013
  • Yu-Kai Chou, 2009, vision, execution, empathy https://yukaichou.com/entrepreneurship/7-types-leaders-based-vision-execution-empathy/


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