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Benedict XVI Versus Bieber - Who's The King Of Twitter??

Pope Benedict XVI has caused media mayhem with today's unprecedented resignation, but I'm concerned about what will happen to his Twitter account?!

This was supposed to be a short article on leadership parallels between the Catholic church and commerce. I'd hoped say a few erudite things about running a 'business' with 1.3 billion stakeholders and the types of leadership lessons you might impart on cardinals at business school. Instead I've been completely de-railed by a frenzied social media foray into Pope Benedict No. 16.

He is famously the first ever Pope to tweet. Apparently he likes the intellectual challenge of condensing God's words into 140 characters.

And on the day of his shock resignation, no surprises, he's been trending at No. 1 on Twitter.

But, what I found more surprising was that I've just counted nearly 150 Twitter profiles for Pope Benedict - many claiming to be his 'official' Twitter handle, although of course most are not.

Some of my personal favourite 'fakes' include:

@Faux_Pontifex - Welcome to the official fake page of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI - Now taking tweeted confessions...

@IAmJoeRatzinger (the Pope's real name) - Theologian, faith healer, soothsayer, shepherd, potentate, CEO, infallible voice, humblest of men. I know when you've been sleeping; I know when you're awake.

There are a whole host of other laugh-out-loud imposters who I'd love to showcase for their dark wit, but fear backlash from the Christian Right. Check them out for yourself.

The Pope's actual 'official' Twitter has more than 1.5 million followers. Not bad for an 85 year old, although a rather paltry Twitter flock when compared to modern religious icons such as Justin Bieber (34 million followers), Barack Obama (27 million) or Britney Spears (24 million). 

Also, another notable contrast, when I checked Google search volume for His Holiness it transpired that there are only 18,000 global exact monthly searches for 'Pope Benedict XVI', whereas the Almighty 'Justin Bieber' gets more than 6 million global exact searches a month.

I'm not sure where my moral compass points on "Bieber versus Benedict". Does Justin Bieber still uphold his 'No Sex Before Marriage' vow, or is this old news - I've lost track?

I'm not religious and can't claim to know the first thing about whether Pope Benedict XVI has been a good leader or not, but like many other Gen X agnostics who occasionally watch the news, I can't help to have noticed the disarray of the Catholic church in recent years and the blight of sex scandals. Surely a man who was given the role of the Vatican's chief enforcer (in charge of errant priests) but omitted to take action despite increasing evidence of pedophilia, should be made to stand to account?

We've hauled Benedict's CEO banking counterparts through senate investigations and select committee hearings - will he too now be subject to 'Pinochet-style' law suits when he no longer has the immunity of being a 'head of state'. I wonder why Pope Benedict has managed to be so active on Twitter and yet so inactive on fundamental issues that have been tearing the church apart?

In purely practical terms it seems jolly sensible for the Pope to step down. A leadership writer for Forbes magazine, John Baldoni, put it nicely in his article today: "What is important to recognize is that when it is time, it is time and wise leaders always exit stage early, often to acclaim rather than to shame." The Catholic Church is the same size as China and an Octagenarian has been in power for eight years (the max for any US president) - maybe this is enough?

What's particularly exciting is that the front runner successor is a West African Cardinal - Peter Turkson. Wouldn't that be a positive reflection on modernism, to have a black Pope for the first time in the history of the Vatican?  On the subject of his possible promotion, Cardinal Turkson has said: "if God so wishes then his wishes will be done".

It doesn't seem that the Cardinal has set up his own Twitter account yet, but he needs to get moving - in the time that I've written this story I've noticed two unofficial Twitter handles mystically appear for Pope No. 17 - maybe it is God's will? Or maybe Bieber can provide some advice on how it's done.

You can read other leadership lessons on BusinessBecause, such as Leadership Lessons from Barack Obama or Leadership Lessons from the Kind of Jordan. Remember to register on BusinessBecause to be part of the world's first business school network, with fresh daily b-school news, jobs and updates!

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