St. Patrick: 10 Lessons in Leadership

March 17, 2014

St. Patrick was a man who very early in life was made aware of his strengths and weaknesses. He was empathic, persuasive and had a strong vision of what he wanted to achieve, he regularly used conceptualization (his use of the shamrock is his most famous) and he had strategic foresight in laying out his mission.

The keys to St Patrick’s leadership, from which we can learn for our own leadership development today most closely relate to Servant Leadership. Spears identified ten characteristics to Servant Leadership and St Patrick’s approach, work and impact fits perfectly into each of these characteristics.

  1. Listening - The time he took to listen, talk and answer questions was a recurring theme.
  2. Empathy - Based the trials of his own life his empathy was displayed when he encountered the trials of others. This was especially clear in his letter to Coroticus.
  3. Healing - At the end of his Letter to Coroticus he offers the opportunity for them to repent, even after what they had done, the chance for healing.
  4. Awareness – He was clearly aware of his own weaknesses and the culture of the Celtic Irish.
  5. Persuasion - His ability to convert strong leaders, Chieftains and Kings.
  6. Conceptualization – The use of the shamrock to articulate the Trinity.
  7. Foresight - The strategy he employed in charting his mission throughout Ireland, carefully choosing each step.
  8. Stewardship - He saw the future of Ireland and the care of its people as the core of his mission.
  9. Commitment to the growth of people - He trained clergy and so sustained and consolidated each location before moving on to the next.
  10. Building community - The sites he used as Churches were at or near the seats of Chieftains and Kings, many were founded as monastic settlements and became population centers at a time when few existed.

So while St Patrick is with us today in annual national and international celebrations, in prayer and pilgrimage as well as imagery and national pride, he is also an example of leadership that can influence us in our daily work lives.


Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

Denis is co-author of The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence.