Monday, February 25, 2008

The Rule of Stability: Finding a Happy Home

When he [the new member] is to be received, he comes before the whole community… and promises stability.
-The Rule of St. Benedict (Rule, 58)

One of St. Benedicts contribution to leadership comes from the notion of community stability, or in Latin, stabilitas loci.

Stable organizations provide continuity – continuity in leadership succession, in organizational ideals and culture, and in job security.

From the Family Grows Organizational Stability
The concept of stability was not new to Benedict. Stabilitas loci was a well established tradition of organization and leadership during the peak of Roman culture.
This grand tradition of organizational stability was a natural outgrowth of the time-honored Greco-Roman notion of family.
The extended family provided stability, commitment, and the primary structure of organization. Parents, children, uncles, aunts, cousins, and even ex-spouses and in-laws were all formally networked together into a cohesive organization.

• Each extended Roman family had a formal head, typically an older male.
• The family head held enormous power over almost all activities, from marriage proposals to business contracts.
• Commerce was built around family ties, and politics relied upon family connections.
• Each extended family developed its own system of customs and governance.

But in the declining years of the Roman Empire, extended families began to act more like petty gangs pursuing economic rewards than caring social units.
By Benedict’s time, the family leader had the feel of a crime boss or dictator, not a concerned and compassionate father.
Institutional and political commitment no longer existed.
To Benedict, virtues of stabilitas loci seemed completely lost.

However, Benedict still firmly believed in the organizational power of the traditional family model. To Benedict, it provided a clear and definable sense of organizational commitment within an uncertain world.
Benedict’s Rule reestablished stability as a pillar of organizational power. It continually reminded the reader of stabilitas loci:
“When he [a new member] is to be received, he comes before the whole community… and promises stability.” (Rule 58) And
“Any clerics who wish [may] join the community… but only if they, too, promise to keep the rule and observe stability.” (Rule 60)

Stabilitas loci is essentially a contract.
Each individual member and the organization promise certain things to each other. The member promises to work and obey. The member expresses a desire to perform to the best of his or her abilities. And, above all, the member makes a commitment to stand by the organization, in good times and bad.
But stabilitas loci is a two-way street. As in a cohesive family, if the leader asks for stability from his followers, he must also provide it for his supporters. The promise of stabilitas loci made by the organization to its members involves community, fairness, and tenure.

Three Keys of Stability
  • Community
    Under stabilitas loci, the organization has to be committed to the notion of community.
    All members, from novices to those most senior in position are considered members of the family.
    There is a sense of belonging and security
    People support one another in a family, even though there are different roles, responsibilities and levels of authority.
  • Fairness
    Under stabilitas loci, the organization must also be committed to the notion of fairness.
    According to St. Benedict, fairness implies a sense of even-handed application of discipline and rewards.
    There are no favorites. Everyone is subject to the same expectations, rules and rewards.
  • Tenure
    Under stabilitas loci, the organization must be committed to the notion of tenure.
    Benedict believed that cohesive families were not meant to be revolving doors communities.
    Members were to be nurtured and encouraged, problems addressed and worked through, jobs kept secure, and errant behaviors forgiven and hopefully modified.
    Only in the most extreme situations would members be “disinherited.”

Stability is Management Creedo
The rule does allow for organizational transfers, but only under proper conditions and if a certain process if followed. The rule warns, for example, “The leader must take care never to receive into the community another monk from known monastery, unless the monk’s abbot consents and sends a letter of recommendation.”

Leadership the Benedictine Way

Stable organizations provide continuity in leadership succession, organizational ideals and culture, and job security.
Stability bonds the members to a particular organization.

Stability is a real contract inherent upon the organization and each individual member promising certain things to each other.

Stability is a standard of organizational commitment, not a penalty.
Stability provides the foundation for the daily rhythms of work and business.

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