A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”- Henry Ford

St. Patty’s Day- usually a time of festivities, parades, Irish music, Irish beer, claddagh dance, and stories of ole.

When many of us think of St. Patrick, our only association with this mysterious saint is that of the joyous holiday. But could his sainthood mean something more? And how does his legacy have anything to do with business leadership today? While much is not known of the saint, what is known can be derived from “The Declaration;” one of two letters written by St. Patrick.

St. Patrick was born Patrick of Roman Britain, modern day Ravenglass in Cumbria. At sixteen Patrick was captured and taken into slavery in Ireland. For six years Patrick worked as a herdsman under rather dire conditions, and it was during this time his faith blossomed. After six years in captivity, Patrick finally made his way back home to his family in England. While home, he grew in spirit and in mind.  It was also during this time that he decided to make his way back to the land that held him captive, against his families many pleas for him to stay. It was in Ireland where Patrick carved his own path; eventually becoming St. Patrick, Patron Saint against sins and “Apostle of Ireland.”

The story goes that he went back to Ireland to find the “master” that held him captive. Upon hearing of Patrick’s return, the master killed himself. So why would Patrick go back to a place that took him as a slave and treated him so inhumanely……. to forgive. Patrick’s only intention was to forgive; to forgive all those who had done harm, and to teach others how to forgive and lead by example. As a missionary, Patrick had to climb many mountains. Religious teachings and leadership was a volatile career path in 430 A.D. It was also a time of great battles, great sacrifice, and little patience. Through perseverance Patrick converted noblemen, royals, and women into life of conversion. He dedicated his love and patience into working with the unfree and the poor. During his time in Ireland, Patrick developed 450 leaders among Irish communities, and helped establish 300 churches. He rose to meet his challenge. He taught compassion, patience and how to carve your own path, even among resistance.

So what can business leaders in today’s marketplace learn from St. Patrick?

The first thing to realize is that leaders are not born into this world; they rise up to meet the challenge. That said, there are some born with certain leadership traits or qualities, but it takes more than having the right traits to be an effective leader. It takes the right circumstances and the willingness to persist, that truly makes someone a leader among men. It also takes strength; strength to make difficult choices in crisis situations, strength to be a team player, strength to recognize you may not always have all the answers, and the strength to do what’s best for your team and your business. An effective leader also has to have empathy; the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Without empathy, you can’t build trust; without trust, you will never be able to get the best effort from your employees. In today’s marketplace having the foresight and understanding of why empathy is so crucial, helps leaders motivate their employees to reach toward future goals, by tying the goal to personal rewards and values.

Rapid changes in the world today, combined with the need for sustainability and information overload result in an inability to know everything. While still valuable, reasoning and logic are no longer the founding principles that can see you through all situations. More and more leaders are learning the value of using their intuition and trusting their gut when making decisions.

While still humble, Patrick learned from his circumstances; rising to meet the challenge, which led to the establishment of many churches and future leaders of Ireland. Many today are taking what they learn from their circumstances to become truly amazing leaders of tomorrow!