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Augustine on Leadership

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Augustine by Sandro Botticelli

Saint Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, was an early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings were highly influential. Without a doubt Augustine was one of the most important figures in Western Christianity during the 4th and 5th centuries. He is also considered by many to be the early father of the Reformation. Two of his most prominent works were The City of God and The Confessions.

Augustine was also a great mentor of leaders. I have written a previous post about this aspect of his life and some of his methods. Through his sermons and writing Augustine had much to say about leadership. In many ways he was a forerunner of the servant leadership philosophy.

In one of his pastoral sermons Augustine uses Ezekiel 34 as a background text to describe some of his convictions about leadership. Ezekiel 34 stands as a strong rebuke from God towards the religious leaders of Israel. They were to be watchful shepherds over God’s flock. Instead, they proved to be wayward shepherds only interested in bettering themselves.

Here are some of Augustine’s translated leadership principles from this sermon (Sermo 46, 1-2: CCL 41, 529-530):

. . . true shepherds take care of their sheep, not themselves.

I must distinguish carefully between two aspects of the role the lord has given me, a role that demands a rigorous accountability, a role based on the Lord’s greatness rather than on my own merit. The first aspect is that I am a Christian; the second, that I am a leader. I am a Christian for my own sake, whereas I am a leader for your sake; the fact that I am a Christian is to my own advantage, but I am a leader for your advantage.

Many persons come to God as Christians but not as leaders. Perhaps they travel by an easier road and are less hindered since they bear a lighter burden. In addition to the fact that I am a Christian and must give God an account of my life, I as a leader must give him an account of my stewardship as well.

Here are a few other quotes from Augustine with implications for leadership:

Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.

No man can be a good bishop if he loves his title but not his task.

Order your soul; reduce your wants; live in charity; associate in Christian community; obey the laws; trust in Providence.

Other related posts:

Leadership the Augustine Way

15 Augustine Quotes That Helped Shape Modern Christian Thought