So, what can a nearly 1500 year old Catholic monastic community teach Leadership Foundations (LF)? LF is 50-years old, multi-denominational, and organized to engage the postmodern urban realities of the 21st century. The monks of Mount Angel Abbey are a Benedictine community founded in 1882, maintain a monastic tradition that has been a vital part of the Roman Catholic Church for almost 1500 years, and dedicate themselves to a life of prayer and work. Although this ancient community may seem worlds apart from LF, it has had much to offer us over the years and, in particular, this past month.
In early January, the LF Central Office staff visited Mount Angel Abbey in Saint Benedict, Oregon for our annual planning retreat. Surrounded by black-robed monks, ivy covered buildings, and an eight-bell tower, we went to work planning our year amidst these trappings that find their place of origin over a millennium ago. Over the course of four days we created our annual work plan, measuring each decision as to whether it helps further the LF Central Office’s mission to develop, strengthen, and sustain the more than 70 local leadership foundations throughout the world.
Our time together was meant to form this strategy. However, something deeper moved among us: the awareness of all we could learn from this venerable community. What the monks of Mount Angel Abbey have lived out for 133 years is the answer to Robert Greenleaf’s famous question regarding leadership, and a question we often ask of ourselves: Are you a leader who serves or a servant who leads? The monks understand the importance of this question and willingly live into its simplicity and its challenges with grace. For four days they demonstrated this grace and taught us that for a community to prosper we need to be servants who lead rather than leaders who serve.
Join us every month as we seek to live out these deep truths of an ancient but still relevant community in cities around the world.