The Benedictine Rule of Leadership

Written in AD 530 the Benedictine order survives to this day in no small part thanks to the this management guide. While much has changed in the world around us, human nature has remained stubbornly consistent, and thus this book relevant. There are three parts and 15 total rules that make up the framework. Many familiar themes make an appearance: provide alignment on a common goal, hire the best, recognize merit over seniority, devolve power to individuals, encourage debate (questioning status quo), insist on ethical behavior. Leadership is done by example and with humility.

A couple of items don’t resonate as strongly in a modern environment: stability is one of the tenets with members making a lifetime commitment. While a degree of stability is necessary to encourage taking risks, lifelong commitment would tend to limit the vital cross pollination of disciplines required for success today, there is a great deal more specialization than in the sixth century. The section on discipline reads like a PIP. While again, smart risk taking is to be encouraged through a sense of security and fairness (a-political analysis of failure) , changing underlying personality or performance through a formal process is generally less effective than making smart cuts.