Leadership Monk-style

There are more leadership books in circulation today than there areactual leaders.

I don’t know if that’s a factual statement, it just seems right so I said it.

It does highlight that leadership is both a) an issue and b) something that people need to learn about in order to do well. For all the “natural leadership gifts” that are out there (and I’m not discounting Romans 12:8, etc. just in case you’re wondering) there’s a great deal of nuancing and training that still needs to happen for those gifts to grow and develop.

This seems like a perfect place to talk about an Italian monk from the 5th Century.

St. Benedict of Nursia is most well known for something called the “Rule of Life” – a set of principles that gave life and organization to the desert-style monks that were running around wildly during the collapse of the Roman Empire. He brought monks together in community, 12 at a time with an additional monk serving as head or “abbot” over the group, to do the work of prayer and service for the Kingdom of God.

In the midst of the “rule” (and I have to thank Richard Foster & Gayle Beebe for this in their book Longing For God) are St. Benedict’s principles for leadership.

Honestly, if our leaders today – whether they are church leaders, civic leaders, or any other person with influence over others – would embody these principles the world would change rapidly and deeply almost overnight. Foster and Beebe use the word “abbot” to echo Benedict where I will put the word “leaders”.


  • Leaders hold the place of Christ and should show forth his goodness and holiness by his deeds rather than his words, being an example of integrity.
  • Leaders should call together the council of “monks” and weight their input while making his decision.
  • A leader gives an account of his behavior to God.
  • The leader is learned in divine law.
  • The leader is sober and chaste.
  • The leader prefers mercy to justice.
  • The leader hates sin but loves the brothers.
  • Even in his corrections, the leader exercises prudence.
  • The leader keeps his own frailty and shortcomings ever before himself.
  • The leader cuts off vices in each brother as he determines, distributing guidance to each as they have specific need.
  • The leader works to be loved rather than feared.
  • The leader is not violent, anxious, obstinate, jealous or prone to suspicion.
  • In all matters, the leader is prudent and considerate.
  • The leader is discreet and moderate so that the strong may have something to strive after and the weak nothing at which to take alarm.
  • The leader observes The Rule in all things so that he may reap his eternal reward.

My challenge to you is this: where in this list do you need the Spirit of God to do work in you? Pray that God would help you make space to grow in these characteristics.