Five leadership secrets of the Trappist monk, in the Washington Post

Posted by on Aug 18, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Meath Conlan posted a July 14th Washington Post article that comes close to the point of In Otherhood, learning from monastic tradition. Head over to Conlan’s blog to read “5 leadership secrets of the Trappist monk,” by Stephen Martin.

Trappist monks, Martin points out, are some of the best social entrepreneurs on the planet. It is from this perspective that he extracts some unique lessons from Trappist tradition, each of which relates to one or more of In Otherhood‘s Elements of Monasticism.

Here’s the list (with my own summaries and comments):

  • “Get (really) disciplined” – This needs no explanation [See “Elements of Monasticism » Discipline]. Some would say you discipline is a muscle you can build with practice.
  • “Throw away the key” – Learn to trust the people in your community. Build a community where you can trust people. [See “Elements of Monasticism » Community]
  • “Know your customer” – “[T]he work of monks ‘is not to be understood primarily as a product for consumers in a marketplace. …The fruits of the monk’s labor are sold as a means of livelihood, but they are sold to persons, real people with deep needs, not bottom-line consumers.'” [See “Elements of Monasticism » Right Livelihood]
  • “Shut up” – Silence would also need no explanation, but Martin is referring more to humility and renunciation. [See “Elements of Monasticism » Silence and Renunciation]
  • “Live in the margin” – Monasticism is counter-cultural, Martin suggests. “Trappists make their home in the margins. They labor in obscurity, their chosen path makes little sense to most people, and they’re criticized, sometimes even by fellow Christians, for closeting themselves away when they could be out in the world helping people with urgent problems.” Martin argues that this social status (perhaps similar to that of artists?) has helped Trappists take risks and innovate. He quotes Thomas Merton: “The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men.” [See “Elements of Monasticism » Mirror for Society“]

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