The rule of Saint Benedict and corporate management: employing the whole person

Birgit Kleymann (IÉSEG School of Management, Catholic University of Lille, Lille, France)
Hedley Malloch (IÉSEG School of Management, Catholic University of Lille, Lille, France)

Journal of Global Responsibility

ISSN: 2041-2568

Publication date: 15 October 2010



The “classical” logic of organisations existing as generators of shareholder value, with the human “resources” seen as a means to this end, has been the subject of criticism regarding alienation in its members and the instrumentalisation both of work and of people. This paper aims to look at the way a medieval monastic rule is used to govern secular for‐profit organisations and trace its potential relevance as an alternative example for the structure and governance of organisations today.


Based on an in‐depth case study, the paper critically discusses the feasibility of applying aspects of the rule of Saint Benedict (RSB) to modern organisations.


Some of the principles of the RSB (such as fitting jobs around people, inverse delegation, and a critical attitude towards organisational growth) are quite different from standard management practice. Yet these monastic organisations turn out to be highly successful businesses with remarkably low employee turnover and high profitability.

Social implications

The paper claims that the principles of the RSB can contribute, outside of the monastic context, to the creation and running of more “humane” organisations.


The paper illustrates that several of these monastic communities are important commercial organisations in their own right, producing goods and services for the market place. Some are businesses with multi‐million euro turnovers, the scale of whose activities compels them to rely on lay employees from outside the monastery on conventional contracts of employment. Yet these outsiders are managed under the same principles of the RSB as the monks.



Kleymann, B. and Malloch, H. (2010), "The rule of Saint Benedict and corporate management: employing the whole person", Journal of Global Responsibility, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 207-224.

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