Ancient knowledge of management from a religious order

He leads 24 men and heads a house that has existed since 696: Korbinian Birnbacher takes advantage of the knowledge that the founder of his order wrote 1500 years ago.

He is standing by the altar in the college church with a small book, constantly reading in German, choosing Latin passages, and telling a group of Salzburg managers: “In any form of management, listening is important. Regardless of whether is a competitor is in the store or an employee in their company – it is essential that bosses open up, listen and consider their actions.The willingness to dialogue and debate is essential – as it is an extremely important step to put in action action. So leadership means not just speaking, but also acting. ”Corbinian Birnbacher is the Elder of St. Peter and therefore not just a monk, but a leader. in the Benedictine monastery in the middle of Salzburg’s old town.The 55-year-old also controls the property of St. Peter’s businesses.This includes the center of the garden He glhof, monastery kiln, restaurants, agriculture and forestry. “We are a player in the city, we have some valuable properties and houses and the common good in Salzburg depends on good cooperation.”

Rules of coexistence exist in everyday life

The rules Birnbacher follows as a leader – listening, dialogue, action – are not his inventions, though they are as important in management and leadership as ever. They go back to a man who was born around 480 in Nursia (now Norica) in Italian Umbria and died around 529 in Montecassino. But what makes the 1500-year-old words of St. Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine order to which Birnbacher belongs, so powerful that they are still valid today? An essential point is probably the approach that “everything should be done to the right extent”. The rules written by Benedict of Nursia reckon with human weaknesses. This means: They exist in everyday life – whether in the monastery association or in the economy. This is evidenced by the economic situation in which St. Peter is. Birnbacher: “We are not poor, but we have to work for it and manage and develop our goods well. We can not afford anything else.”

Empathy plays a big role

The Archabbot, in his long black clothes, crosses several pages in the little book he holds in his hand. He emphasizes that it would be good for the economy not to be guided only by the principles of profit maximization. Obstacles and failures are part of the path to growth, he says. St. Benedict had this realistic and responsible view about a thousand and a half years ago. It is clear from his ancient lines that empathy played a major role in leadership even in his time. Thought and empathy were crucial to overall success. “We talk about success today when everyone involved gets a piece of cake,” Birnbacher explains. “However, in business jargon, it is also a success when someone cheats on their competitor and then maybe even rejoices. This is a human reaction to the daily struggle, though not good and not even worth imitating,” he points out. ai. Keeping in mind proportionality was important to Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century.

Positive motivation instead of orders from above

The native Bavarian (Birnbacher comes from Rupertiwinkel and entered the convent in 1987, he has been elected chief of staff since 2013) advises chiefs and those in positions of responsibility that they “never communicate from their high horse”. For him, the reasons are clear: “Such behavior only encourages passive resistance on the part of the other person. If there are differences, then it is good to explain them with humility and reason. Yes, it takes time and can be “annoying. because it’s supposedly distracting from the most important things. But anyone who just gives orders without explanation has to wait for an unpleasant reaction.” A few pages later, Corbinian Chief Birnbacher gets stuck in a sentence. He looks at the people sitting across from him in the chancellery of the collegiate church and says, “To lead means to raise people, not to rule.” Translated into today, it always means positive employee motivation. And again the proper measure, of which he has already spoken, comes into play. “Reason, realism and being grounded are important for Benedictines, but also in modern business. But with all the consistency, flexibility is needed.” This makes the Benedictines charming, the priest explains, because they are good at listening to the signs of the times and cope well with constant change. “Willingness and willingness to give up the known means changing yourself – and you need to be able to correct mistakes. Because it is clear that they will happen.”

Image: SN / Franz Neumayr

“The boss has to open up, listen and then act.” Korbinian Birnbacher, Chief Peter St.

What St. Benedict of Nursia created a good 1500 years ago is still just as valuable today as it was then, says Birnbacher. The key virtue, “the right measure”, is what matters when it comes to leadership. Listening is a benchmark and one goal is for managers to stay firm in principle but remain flexible in implementation. “Always stay dynamic, calculate human weaknesses and take a good look at those who need support,” says the abbot what the founder of the order proclaimed and lived in the early Middle Ages. His last sentence, based on ancient wisdom: “Do not have favorites, do not give privileges.”

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