WHAT will change for the SNP and Yes movement as a result of the SNP leadership election?

The possible answers to that question could fill every page of this paper. However, the most obvious – and perhaps most important – answer is that the winner will adopt a very different leadership style.

None of the candidates could be described as a second Nicola Sturgeon, which means something good will be lost, but also something new, and potentially even better, can be gained.

I hope that the candidates are reflecting seriously on the sort of First Minister they hope to be. It is fair to say that the next leader’s style is likely to be less presidential, in part because they will be more obviously a first among equals in terms of experience.

In days gone by, both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon stood out from the pack, whereas today any new cabinet team will be more evenly balanced. The sun shines bright but, when it sets, we realise that the sky is filled with a multitude of other stars.

A more collegiate approach to leadership, especially if it flows out from the cabinet and government to the party and movement, will be a big part of giving us the renewed energy and push we need to take Yes to the next level. It means a leader more in the style of a “convenor”, drawing on and drawing out the many and varied talents within the party and wider movement.

I am confident that this team approach is the route to renewed success because it was at the heart of all that worked best for us in 2014. It was the broad-based, decentralised, empowered grassroots campaign, out of which emerged a whole host of new voices and leaders, that almost won it for us then. A similar approach can be the springboard as we begin to build support again.

Leadership style is multi-layered and, as I reflect on the best examples of leadership in the world today, my mind keeps returning to one man, even though he is not a politician (at least in the traditional sense). Over this past week, Pope Francis has marked 10 years in office. It has been a life-giving period for the Catholic Church, in large part because of the approach to leadership that Francis has adopted.

The phrase I keep hearing about Pope Francis is “servant leadership”. He is not there for his own aggrandisement or simply to enjoy the perks of office. Like any person he is not perfect, however, what shines out is his personal integrity and humility. Love, rather than power, is what most clearly shapes his outlook and approach.

For me, though, the hallmark of Francis’s leadership is an idea he has described himself as a “culture of encounter”, something he has not only expressed but, more importantly, also embodied.

What does a culture of encounter mean and how might we understand it in a Scottish context?

There are two elements, both of which have been captured in different ways by the two front runners in the SNP leadership race, which is encouraging. It tells me that they get it, and together they get it completely.

First, is the open table that Humza Yousaf has spoken about, or to adapt one of Yousaf’s own phrases, the idea of a First Minister who is also First Mediator. That is, someone who is able to bring people together around the same table for difficult conversations. A leader in this mould can certainly take a side, based on their own deeply held beliefs and principles, but they do so in a way that does not exclude.

Difficult problems rarely have simple solutions and no one side has the perfect answer. Indeed, we can all learn from our engagement with the “other”.

Encounters with those “on the other side” can help rub off some of the harder edges in our own arguments. They can reveal our blind spots and shine a light on our unwarranted and unhelpful absolutes. Such encounters make us better, and our case more rounded and, thus, more persuasive.

Looking purely to the party and movement, after this leadership election there is some healing to be done. That is not to say this has been the “civil war” that some have tried to suggest. Drawing on Pope Francis again, conflict is not necessarily a bad thing.

Disagreement, done well, can be driven by a creative rather than a destructive tension. What we are witnessing in the SNP is closer to the former. It is a tension between two contrary positions, rather than two contradictory ones, and that is why it can be a source of renewed energy moving forward.

Second, is Kate Forbes’s focus on efforts to engage with and understand better those who are currently No voters.

Pope Francis explicitly contrasts a culture of encounter with the prevailing, and too dominant, cultures of suspicion and division. Suspicion, which looks for the worst in what a person says or does, and division, where the focus is on what separates us and the opponent is seen simply as an enemy rather than a potential future ally (if not in all things, then at least in some).

Division and suspicion are not steps on the path to Yes success. Victory will not happen if we become closed off, or if we talk only to ourselves. We win by patient persuasion and that does not happen by simply brandishing another “fact” to prove our case or shouting ever louder that the other side is wrong. We grow support by drawing people towards us, in other words by being attractive, in a process that is not all that different from making friends.

I make this case not because it is nice, but because I believe it is necessary. We live in the most challenging of times and have big decisions to take about our future. None of this is easy, but it will be helped by a way of doing politics, including political leadership, that embraces difference and deals with it in a way that builds up and unites.

Stephen Noon was chief strategist for Yes Scotland (2012-2014) and has begun a PhD research project at the University of Edinburgh looking at Scotland’s political culture.