Greenleaf writes: Legitimacy begins with trust. No matter what the competence or the intentions, if trust is lacking, nothing happens.  …two kinds of [negative] trust: blind trust and trust generated by leadership charisma.   …The only sound basis for trust is for people to have the solid experience of being served by their institutions in a way that builds a society that is more just and more loving, and with greater creative opportunities for all people. 

Trust = a firm belief in the integrity, reliability, and truth of someone.  ‘Competence’ and ‘Intention’ are important AND yet, if these are not rooted in ‘Trust’ then they become ‘clanging symbols.’  There are two types of trust that are more harm-full than they are help-full. 

The first of these is blind trust.  This type of trust results in ‘blind loyalty.’  The number of harm-full acts committed as a result of these two ‘blinds’ is legion.  I knew a young accountant who sacrificed her career and her marriage as two consequences of her ‘blind loyalty’ to the CFO.  She even stated that her ‘loyalty’ to the CFO was more important to her than her ‘loyalty’ to the Organization.  By the by, Gentle Reader, one powerful antidote for ‘loyalty’ is ‘commitment.’ 

‘Commitment’ means that I care enough to challenge, to think critically, to act rooted in integrity, to question, and to, if necessary, ‘blow the whistle.’ 

The other type of trust that is ‘harm-full’ is the trust generated by leadership charisma.  The poster-child for this type of trust remains Adolph Hitler.  An entire Nation was seduced by his charisma.  The Nation was looking for a savior and Hitler used his gifts and talents and abilities and stepped into the void and saved the Nation (for a brief period of time). 

Charismatic leaders can, ironically, become seduced by their own charisma – they come to believe their own press clippings.  When this happens, as it did with Hitler, then ‘delusion’ takes over.  The consequences are, too often, catastrophic.  Ask the Germans or ask the folks that worked in GM when a certain charismatic leader was its President. 

Greenleaf knew that large institutions did and would continue to shape our society.  His ‘Big Dream’ was that several of them would transform into ‘Institutions as Servants’ and serve by helping to build a society that would be more just, more caring and more loving.  They would also provide greater creative opportunities for all people.

During the past 50+ years how many large institutions have served our nation so that our society has, indeed, become more just, more caring and more loving?  How many of them have served so that all people have had greater creative opportunities?  Some have – many more have not.  Perhaps they have not because ‘We The People’ have not demanded that our society become more just, more caring and more loving. 

The paradox, of course, is that Greenleaf’s ‘Big Dream’ requires both ‘I’ and ‘We’.  To what extent do I choose to be more just, more caring and more loving and to serve in ways that promote and support one or more others to be more just, more caring and more loving?  To what extent do I bring my voice to a ‘WE’ voice that calls for our society to serve one another so that a more just, more caring and more loving society will emerge?  Greenleaf, even today, continues to challenge us and in challenging us helps us become more aware and a bit more, if not a great deal more, disturbed. 

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Greenleaf writes: Part of the problem of moving our institutions along is that persons outside the institution either do not know enough to make a pertinent criticism, or the institution has its guard up and the external critics cannot penetrate it.  Those inside who might be critics are sometimes suppressed by an arbitrary discipline, or encumbered by loyalty and do not appreciate the importance of criticism to the health of the institution.  Sometimes they do not know how to make their criticism effective.  It is a major trustee role to build legitimacy by being sensitive to critical thinking from all quarters…trustees should exploit their inside-outside position to become an instrument of understanding.

Criticism = the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything; the act of passing severe judgment, censure; faultfinding.

Given this definition is it possible to offer pertinent criticism without the recipient reacting defensively?  Given this definition, ‘Criticism’ engenders and promotes defensiveness in the recipient.  Consider an alternative: To engage with the other in critical thinking.  The quality of our life is directly related to and impacted by the quality of our thinking.  A few thousand years ago Aristotle noted that our thinking determines our identity.  We can learn to think critically and at the same time minimize the ‘criticism’ that promotes defensiveness in the other(s). 

Consider that, among other things, a person who thinks critically:

  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them as clearly and precisely as possible;
  • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively;
  • Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • Thinks open mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences;
  • Thinks critically with others in order to emerge critical questions, discern potential responses/solutions, and emerge agreements when it comes to taking action.

The more diverse the learning and thinking styles are of those engaged in a critical thinking process the more likely the thinking will indeed be ‘critical’ rather than ‘criticism.’

 Organizations that develop and employ what I call ‘Good Thinking Teams’ are more likely to engage in critical thinking and are less likely to become bogged down in the type of criticism that promotes defensiveness in folks. 

We know that: Everyone thinks. It is our nature to do so. Sadly, too much of our ‘criticism-thinking’ is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced. The quality of our thinking is directly rooted in the quality of our relationships (the first relationship is the one we have with our self).  Then, the quality of our thinking directly impacts the quality of our decisions and actions.  ‘Poor’ thinking is costly – the ‘costs’ are too many to name here; my hunch is that each of us can each emerge an extensive list of the ‘costs.’  Excellence in ‘Critical Thinking’ can – and does – minimize ‘costs’ and at the same time enhances ‘benefits’ – my hunch is that each of us can also emerge a detailed list of the ‘benefits’ of good critical thinking. 

‘Criticism’ = ‘Part of the Problem.’  ‘Critical Thinking’ = ‘Part of the Solution.’ 

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Gentle reader, with this posting I will continue to offer you Greenleaf’s words without comment.  I also invite you to take some time and reflect upon his ideas and I invite you to sit with others and together engage in one or more searching conversations as you strive to embrace and engage Greenleaf’s ideas.

Greenleaf writes: Both the operator and the conceptualizer are result-oriented.  The operator is concerned primarily with getting it done.  The conceptualizer is primarily concerned with what ought to be done – when, how, at what cost, in what priority, and how well it was done.  They work together as a reinforcing rather than a counteracting team.

The achievement of such optimal balance is hindered by a stubborn fact: whereas conceptualizers generally recognize the need for operators, the reverse is often not the case.  A conceptualizer in a top spot is quite likely to see that strong operators are placed where needed.  But an operator in a top leadership post may not, without some help, see to it that able and influential conceptualizers function as they must.  Consequently, if the top post in a hierarchical administration (as opposed to a council of equals) is filled by an operator who is not sharply aware of the need for adequate conceptual influence, the institution does not have a bright long-run future no matter how able the top person or how brilliant its current performance…

Long concentration on one of these talents diminishes the possibility that a switch can be made to the other.  A substantial penalty may ensue if a person who has devoted several years, successfully, to one of these talents moves into a key spot that requires an exceptional level of the other because, once established as an operator or a conceptualizer, one is apt to make any position one holds fit one’s habitual way of working…

Able operators are always required for good performance in any institution.  An organization may perform well in the short run…with an all-operating management.  But for long-run good performance, able conceptualizers, rightly placed in top leadership, are absolutely essential.  To build and sustain a great institution, one must be able to identify these talented men and women and see that they are always in place where their influence is needed…

Conceptualizers usually emerge when the institution makes a strong push for distinction…

A critical trustee function is to identify those with exceptional talent as operators and conceptualizers and to select for the top administrative team a balanced group that will give the institution strong leadership and sound administration. 

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Once again, Gentle Reader, I have decided to quote Greenleaf without adding my own comments or observations or questions.  I invite you to spend some time reflecting upon his ideas and I also invite you to invite others to join you in a searching conversation or two or three in response to his ideas. 

Greenleaf writes: The prime force for achievement through service in any organization is…optimal balance between operators and conceptualizers.

The operating talent carries the institution toward its objectives, in the situation, from day to day, and resolves the issues that arise as this movement takes place.  This calls for interpersonal skills, sensitivity to the environment, tenacity, experience, judgment, ethical soundness, and related attributes and abilities that the day to day movement requires.  Operating is more administering in contrast to leading

Conceptual talent sees the whole in the perspective of history – past and future states and adjusts goals and analyzes and evaluates operating performance, and foresees contingencies a long way ahead.  Long-range strategic planning is embraced here, as is setting standards and relating all the parts to the whole.  Leadership, in the sense of going out ahead to show the way, is more conceptual than operating.  …The conceptualizer at his best is intensely practical.  He is also an effective persuader and relations builder.

Highly developed operating and conceptual talents are not completely exclusive.  Every able leader-administrator has some of both, even though he is probably exceptional in only one of the two.

Both of these talents, in balance and rightly placed, are required for sustained high level performance in any large institution.  By optimal balance between the two is meant a relationship in which both conceptualizers and operators understand, respect, and depend on one another, and in which neither dominates the other.  …the council of equals with a primus inter pares serves best when it is predominantly conceptual.  Whoever in the council has the greatest team-building ability should be primus

What is a team-builder?  He or she is a strong person who provides the substance that holds the team together in common purpose toward the right objectives.  How is this done?  By asking the right questions.  If a group is confronted by the right questions long enough, they will see through to the essence and find the right way.

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Gentle Reader, as I noted in PART I and PART II, rather than comment upon Greenleaf’s ideas, I have decided to offer you his ideas and I invite you to take some time and reflect upon them; to deeply consider them – to seek to understand them and then to think critically about them.

Greenleaf writes: Being in the top position prevents leadership by persuasion because the single chief holds too much power. The chief often cannot say persuasively what one would like to say because it will be taken as an order. No one else can effectively speak for the chief because the listeners rightly want to know what the chief thinks.

When more converges on the single chief than that person can handle, but yet must appear to be handling alone, resort often is taken to concentrated briefing…  As the job is structured there is no alternative. In the end the chief becomes a performer, not a natural person, and essential creative powers diminish. Thus the concentration of power tends to stunt the growth of the one person in the institution who should be the model of growth in stature, awareness, communication, human sensitivity. And this growth frustration is inevitably projected downward and imposes its limitation on everybody.

Finally, the prevalence of the lone chief places a burden on the whole society because it gives control priority over leadership. It sets before the young the spectacle of an unwholesome struggle to get to the top. It nourishes the notion among able people that one must be boss to

be effective. And it sanctions, in a conspicuous way, a pernicious and petty status striving that corrupts everyone.

The above paragraphs have summarized some of the arguments against the concept of the single chief. Against this it can be argued that some men and women perform brilliantly in the office as it is now structured. This may be because…sheer survival in the job is accounted as brilliant performance.  If the quality of the best of our institutions is as bad as described here, then the heads of these institutions cannot be accorded a high rating merely because they keep the institutions afloat.

In summary, concerning organization…the organizational steps are, first, a new role for the trustees and their chairman, with a new career pattern for evolving chairmen; second, a trustee-designed executive office and assignment of responsibilities and a setup whereby the chairman, on behalf of the trustees and with the support of their own staff, closely monitors the performance of an administrative and leadership team which is a group of equals with one of them “first among equals.” Beyond these first steps, the details of the organization structure will result from decisions made from day to day in specific situations and with regard to (1) the human and material resources available, (2) the complex of relations and influence among people, (3) the assets and liabilities of the individuals involved, and (4) the central goals of the institution. The aim is distinguished performance as a serving institution.

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