Good morning Gentle Reader. On November 14th I will have open-heart surgery. I am not sure when I will be able to write and post again. When I am able to do so I will. I invite you, Gentle Reader, to continue to immerse yourselves in Greenleaf’s writings and I also invite you to continue to develop your servant-nature so that you are able to more fully serve.

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Finally, Gentle Reader, consider that a servant-leader is. . .

Concerned with Choice.  Here are some of the choices that the servant-leader makes:

Choosing to be awake & aware — and therefore, choosing to be disturbed [Greenleaf]

Choosing to be motivated by [is aware of what motivates him or her and chooses his or her motivation]. . .[e.g., fear, love, care, control, anxiety, certain virtues and/or certain vices, deep tacit assumptions, stereotypes, prejudices and certain guiding life-principles]

Choosing to be unconditionally response-able & choosing to be appropriately reactive — NOT choosing unconditional blame.

Choosing to ‘grow’ and to enable/support the growth of others [P.I.E.S. & Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test’] — developing one’s gifts, talents, abilities and capacities

Choosing to be fully human — that is to be living paradoxes (Greenleaf)

Choosing to act with intentionality and purpose and to accept the intended and unintended consequences

Choosing, to the best of one’s ability/capacity to use his or her power ethically — and to develop a greater capacity to do so

Choosing to be a ‘reflective-participant-observer’ in one’s own life — experience plus reflection is the learning

Choosing to ‘close the gap’ between what one espouses and what one ‘lives out’ 

In closing this five part piece I invite us to reflect upon the words of the great German Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke.  Rilke writes:  I would like finally to advise you to grow through your development quietly and seriously. . .you can interrupt it in no more violent manner than by looking outside to questions which only your inner most feelings in your most silent hour can answer.

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Consider Gentle Reader that the servant-leader is. . .

Concerned with certain Disciplines.  In previous entries I offered some of my thinking about what I continue to perceive as some of the disciplines that seem to benefit the servant, whether leader or led.  As a reminder, here are the disciplines: Being Present, Reflection, Listening Intently & Receptively, Framing Effective Questions, Framing ‘Aching Questions,’ & Balancing ‘Being Faithful’ with ‘Being Effective.’ 

Concerned with Being Authentic.  If one ‘googles’ the question: ‘What does it mean to be authentic?’ a legion of ‘hits’ surfaces.  I prefer to keep it simple (hopefully, not simplistic).  Being Authentic means that there is close alignment between what we ‘espouse’ and what we ‘live.’  We are not perfect and so there will always be a ‘gap’ between the two.  One of my challenges is to become aware of the gap and then to commit to closing the gap a bit.  Given this, being authentic, is not directly related to being moral or ethical or friendly, or caring or. . .  One can espouse that he or she is untrustworthy and live in a way that affirms his or her not being trustworthy and this person will be living ‘authentically.’  I am thinking of a Senior Executive who was an angry, critical and verbally intimidating AND he knew it and he lived it (being this way generally got him what he wanted); it seems to me that he was being authentic.  Organizations are not being authentic when they espouse that ‘our employees are our most important asset’ and then they ‘use them up’ (they call it ‘getting more with less’). 

Concerned with consciously making Essential Life Agreements.  We all make agreements; some of them are even essential to who I am and to who I am choosing to become.  Traditionally the agreement between the organization and the ’employee’ has been called the ‘social contract’ or the ‘psychological contract’ — I remember one owner who spoke of it as a ‘moral contract’ (talk about upping the ante!).  I insert the word ‘Life’ because not only are these agreements ‘essential’ they are the ones I will, to the best of my ability, honor during my life-time.  During these past 52+ years I have helped a variety of folks discern the agreements that they have made and then have explored with them the value of affirming them, of keeping them, of enhancing them, or of letting them go (and replacing them).  Here are four such agreements that four different servant-leaders discerned and affirmed [in no particular order]: Speak rooted in integrity, Listen with undefended receptivity, Inquire from a place of trust & ‘not knowing,’ & Act from a core of deep love. 

Concerned with the Difficult Things servant-leaders need to do.  O.K. I get it — there are many difficult things that leaders are faced with so what’s the deal here?  Well, allow me, Gentle Reader, to share a few examples and perhaps this will help.  These are five difficult things that five different leaders have shared with me.  For other leaders some or even all of these will not be ‘difficult’ — for these five, however, the following were.  Here are the five [again, in no particular order]: Return love for hate, Include the excluded, Admit that ‘I’ am wrong — seek forgiveness, Offer forgiveness & seek healing, Be vulnerable (i.e. be transparent, take risks and ‘carry the wound gracefully’) [Note: You might remember, gentle reader, that ‘vulnerable’ comes from the Latin root ‘vulnus’ and ‘vulnus’ means ‘to carry the wound gracefully’].  So, Gentle Reader, what are the ‘difficult things’ you need to do or do more consistently? 

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Gentle Reader, consider that a servant-leader is. . .[Note: this entry is longer than most as I was not able to discern a way of splitting it; I edited it and was able to shorten it a bit.]

Concerned with Problems, Paradoxes & Dilemmas.  In our culture we take pride in our ability to solve problems.  Today, more than ever before, however, there are many more paradoxes to be embraced and dilemmas to resolve (or dissolve) than problems to be solved.  The servant-leader develops his or her capacity to discern and then respond to all three.  Here is a common paradox: short-term vs. long-term.  Problems solvers tend to focus on one at a time.  So they put their energy, time and capacities into addressing the short-term issues and challenges. After some time they realize that the long-term has been neglected (sometimes this is crisis driven) and so the focus is switched to the long-term.  After some time they realize that the short-term has been neglected.  And so the cycle continues.  Short-term and long-term is not a problem but a paradox.  Both must be addressed at the same time with equal time, energy and capacities; the ‘either-or’ becomes a ‘both-and’ [as a reminder, a paradox is a seeming contradiction that is actually a sign of interdependence; we need to engage both polarities and we need to engage both of them at the same time].  Another common organizational paradox is: individual-community (or team-department or division-organization).  Gentle Reader, I invite you to pause and reflect and emerge other ‘common paradoxes’ that you are charged with embracing. 

There are a number of ways of exploring Dilemmas.  For our purposes, a dilemma is a forced choice; I must choose one of two.  We resolve the dilemma by choosing one or we can dissolve the dilemma by emerging/creating a ‘third-way.’  Unfortunately, the number of dilemmas that leaders encounter continues to increase (or the intensity or severity of a common dilemma increases due to external circumstances).  There are two types of dilemmas.  A common misunderstanding is that one of them is a ‘right-wrong’ dilemma.  Right-wrong dilemmas do not exist (so far, I have not been able to discern one, even in theory).  The two common dilemmas that leaders encounter are: right-right dilemmas and harm-harm dilemmas.  A common right-right dilemma is: At this moment it is ‘right’ for me to serve your (the individual’s) highest priority needs (this is what a servant-leader is called to do) AND at this moment it is ‘right’ for me to serve the highest priority needs of the community (team, department, division, organization).  At this time I can only serve one and in doing so the other will not be ‘purposefully harmed.’  One might well be ‘frustrated’ (frustration = not getting what one wants or getting something one does not want) and one has the capacity to adjust if one’s highest priority needs are not going to be addressed at this time.  Leaders do not like ‘right-right’ dilemmas.  Yet, they will take them every time in lieu of a ‘harm-harm’ dilemma.  

Problems to be solved can be challenging.  Paradoxes to embrace can be challenging.  Harm-Harm dilemmas are, at best, daunting.  Unfortunately the frequency of harm-harm dilemmas continues to increase.  Here is a common one that many of us are familiar with.  Our organization is in a financial bind and we have determined that we must reduce the number of folks that work for us as a result (Catholic elementary and high schools have been facing this dilemma for a number of years and it does not appear as if it will ‘go away’ — not soon, but ‘ever’).  As a servant-leader I am well aware that if I lay-off Fred or Mary or John or Martha that they will be harmed.  If I do not lay them off then the organization will be harmed.  No matter my choice, harm will occur.  In the early 1980s I was a thought-partner to a very successful organization when the recession fell upon us.  It was determined that up to 20% of those employed would have to be ‘laid-off.’  The question that guided them was: ‘How can we lay-off folks in the most human and humane way possible?’  Harm will occur to those folks and the organization will be able to keep its doors open.  Now, Gentle Reader, you might remember that both the metaphors we use and the questions we muse will often determine the path(s) we choose.  So after listening for some time to the 12 people who were holding the question I invited them to pause and hold another question: ‘How can we guarantee that we won’t have to lay-off anyone?’  As they grappled with this question they began to realize that they could dissolve the harm-harm dilemma; they could ‘make it go away.’  And they did.  This organization is still alive and vibrant today; I believe partly as a result of their being able to hold a different question and then discerning a response that would enable them to dissolve the dilemma (i.e. make it go away). 

Rapid change will continue to be the norm in our culture.  Given this, we can then be quite sure (not perfectly sure) that both paradoxes and dilemmas will increase both in number and intensity.  Servant-leaders will, especially when things are going well, make sure that leaders (both role defined and situation-defined) will develop the capacities that will enable them to respond to them when paradoxes and dilemmas ‘show up.’  Servant-leaders will also help folks prepare in such a way that if they have to react (which at times they will for being responsive will not be a clear option) they will be able to do so appropriately. 

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Gentle Reader, consider that a servant-leader is. . .

Concerned with Consciousness, Character, & Conduct.  Consciousness = being awake and aware, intentional and purposeful, being fully present — now.  Being conscious also means that one follows Socrates’ advice: To know thyself — to know one’s virtues and vices, to know the deep assumptions that often determine what one chooses, to know one’s core values and guiding life-principles, to know what motivates one, and to know why one chooses what one chooses (or to become aware of these ‘whys’ upon reflection).  What enables you to be conscious and what hinders your desire or ability to be conscious?  Character = What sort of person should ‘I’ be?  What sort of person am I choosing to become?  What are my deep core assumptions and why do I continue to hold these?  What are my core values and guiding life-principles and why do I continue to hold these?  What are my ‘favorite’ virtues and vices and why do I continue to nurture and sustain these?  Conduct = What do I habitually choose to do and think?  Aristotle reminds us that our habitual behavior is rooted in our habits of thought.  What is the effect of my conduct upon myself and upon the other(s)?  What is the ‘affect’ of my conduct upon myself and upon the other(s)?  For example, am I and are you more fearful as a result?  Am I and are you more at peace as a result?  What do I project upon the other(s)?  For example, do I project that they are not trustworthy? 

Concerned with how we nurture and deplete our P.I.E.S.  Greenleaf provides us with a ‘growth concept’ and so it is crucial for the servant-leader to become awake and aware and intentional and purposeful when it comes to how he or she nurtures and depletes the four dimensions of self: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spirit(ual).  We each have developed our favorite ways of nurturing these dimensions and we each have developed our favorite ways of depleting them.  Each dimension impacts the other three.  My current thinking is that we each have a ‘favorite’ dimension that dramatically affects the other three; for me, it is my Spiritual dimension.  I also know a person whose Physical dimension dramatically affects the other three.

Concerned with the metaphors we use for they powerfully determine the path(s) we choose.  Our culture was, for years, rooted in an agricultural metaphor.  This was displaced with an industrial and mechanical metaphor — and this metaphor is still operative today in many organizations.  Our current cultural metaphor is a banking metaphor (e.g. people are assets, investments, commodities and resources) and we are beginning to integrate a technology metaphor.  We have also wedded together two other metaphors so that they are interchangeable.  One is a sports metaphor and the other is a war metaphor.  Beginning with the first Gulf War our generals began to debrief the public using a sports metaphor (and most of us knew what they were talking about) and frequently coaches use war metaphors to describe the game to both participants and to viewers (and, again, most of us know what they are talking about).  Greenleaf used an organic metaphor (human beings grow and develop and must be cared for and the same is true for organizations) in his ‘Best Test’ and in his ‘Credo.’  In organizations conflict occurs when metaphors don’t align.  For example, an individual might use an organic metaphor, his or her supervisor might use a mechanical metaphor and the organizational culture might be well be rooted in a banking metaphor.  Thus, a concept like ‘health’ will be interpreted differently by each and might well lead to conflict.  Spending time discerning the metaphors we use might serve us well — at minimum this understanding will provide us the ability to consciously choose whether to retain them or change them.

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