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As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these 12 Southern California fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

Take a look in the mirror

Q: Pope Benedict XVI's efforts to deal with the Church's sex scandal raises this question: Can a leader hold managers to account on an issue where his own past performance is in question?

Nearly 30 years ago, as a German archbishop, Pope Benedict XVI allegedly mismanaged several abuse cases involving priests under his supervision. No one is sure, however, whether the Pope actually considers his handling of these past incidents a mistake. Faced with a similar, more magnified situation, his ability to act effectively will depend on how accurately he's judged his past actions.

Leaders, like all of us, need opportunities to learn from past mistakes and evolve. But in the tumultuous trenches of history, do-overs are neutral. There is no guarantee that a second opportunity will end up any better than the first. A meaningful mulligan begins with a candid acknowledgment of past errors and a conscious effort to prevent them from happening again. Only then can a leader turn a past mistake into a future improvement.

It will be difficult for the Pope to hold anyone truly accountable without such reflection. Based on his current stance, his understanding of justice appears to be different than that of many critics outside the Catholic Church. His responses to the current scandal are absent of any acknowledgment of the Church's wrongdoing and lack any plans to change the Church's management of such abuses in the future. There seems to be little difference between his thoughts on abuse now and his thoughts 30 years ago. Unfortunately, it appears that many of the victims who have recently come forward will not receive the justice they seek.

At some point, a leader's inability to recognize past errors impacts his authority. The infamous biblical story of King Saul, often used to highlight the perils of human hubris and impatience, also provides a poignant lesson in poor leadership. King Saul's insistence on animal sacrifices, despite repeated warnings against it, ultimately leads to his down fall. He undermines himself because of his inability to learn from his previous errors. Hopefully, the Pope uses this story as motivation to acknowledge his past mistakes, redefine his understanding of justice, and take decisive action on the Church's latest flood of scandals. --Lanre Akinsiku

By Coro Fellows

 |  March 30, 2010; 6:32 AM ET
Category:  Religious leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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