The Pope’s Advisory Board

Strangely we can learn some valuable lessons from the Vatican’s board process for our own family business advisory boards.

One of Pope Frances’ first actions a year ago was to establish an advisory board. Made up of eight cardinals from around the world, their first task was to provide suggestions for repairing the troubled Vatican. The major mandate was to find new methods for improving the communication and feedback between Rome and the churches and also included issues involving compensation and term limits. This move towards a more horizontal governance structure was considered radical but refreshing, and reversed a previous trend of keeping power within the Vatican.


3 Takeaways:

1. Reasons for Establishing an Advisory Board

The need for a board was created by a series of scandals and crises in the Vatican and the churches.

Going outside of the Vatican for guidance and advice was the most effective way to change the culture.

You don’t have to wait for a crisis before establishing your family business advisory board. Effective boards can help you be more proactive and prevent crises.


2. Composition of the Board

The advisory board is made up of eight cardinals outside of the Vatican.

They are from a diversified group of countries to fairly represent a wide variety of cultures.

The cardinals have very different experiences providing a different set of opinions and advice.

Choose advisors different from you that can bring new advice and experience to your advisory board.


3. Improve Communication

Opening up communication with the churches helps builds trust and invites cooperation.

Encouraging feedback from the churches makes them feel more inclusive and willing to share ideas.

Family business advisory boards are one of the most powerful methods of sharing the business strategy from within the family out towards the others in your company and ultimately creates a more open culture for gaining new ideas and direction.


And remember his famous quote:

“You shouldn’t blindly accept a leader’s advice. You’ve got to question leaders on occasions.”

– (Richard Branson), not the Pope