THINKING ABOUT MY ‘CURRENT THINKING,’ PART II

We are sentenced to live with who we become. –Max De Pree

Let us continue and briefly explore the following two statements [see Part I for the context of what follows].

SERVANT, Greenleaf writes: ‘. . .by acting with integrity and spirit, [the servant] builds trust and lifts people and helps them grow.’ 

 LEADER, Greenleaf writes is one ‘. . .who is trusted and who shapes other peoples destinies by going out ahead to show the way.’   

At this point it might be helpful to define three terms:

INTEGRITY = the state of being whole; an adherence to moral and ethical principles

SPIRIT = the vital, animating principle in humans; a principle that animates thoughts, feelings and actions [Greenleaf called this ‘Entheos’]

TRUST = reliance on the integrity of a person; the responsibility imposed on a person in whom confidence is placed

The Servant and the Leader are charged with different, yet complementary, challenges.  The Servant is a ‘trust-builder.’  For Greenleaf, being a ‘trust-builder’ is a key characteristic of the Servant [the question, of course, is ‘How does one go about building trust?’].  The Servant is also charged with ‘lifting people up.’  This ‘lifting’ occurs after people have stumbled and fallen (and as imperfect beings we are all guaranteed to have this experience many times over during our lifetime); hence, forgiveness, healing (‘to make things whole’), and reconciliation also come into play. 

‘Lifting up’ also means that the Servant helps others live into and out of their potential and helps others develop, or develop more fully, their gifts, talents and abilities so that they can serve the needs that exist in their world. 

The Servant is also charged with helping people ‘grow’ — since Greenleaf is interested in ‘seeing things whole’ one’s growth will also occur wholistically within the four following dimensions: the Physical, the Intellectual, the Emotional, and the Spiritual.  When the Servant acts, he or she does so with ‘integrity’ and ‘spirit’ [‘Entheos’ – the spirit that sustains us]. 

The Leader is ‘trusted’ by the led; they are trusted because they stay ‘true’ [the questions are: What do they stay true to? Whom do they stay true to?].  The following question might be one helpful guide: ‘What do the led ‘trust’ in the leader?’  Individuals will respond to this question differently; at least this is my experience. 

Greenleaf also says that the Leader ‘shapes other people’s destinies.’  The Leader does this in a very specific way, ‘by going out ahead and showing the way.’ 

People’s destinies are directly connected to whether they choose to follow ‘the way’ or not.  Their destinies are also connected to the ‘attitudes’ they carry with them as they choose to follow.  Greenleaf is clear that there are two types of Leaders — one is by role and the other is by situation.  Thus, anyone is capable of ‘going out ahead and showing the way.’

One risk for the Leader occurs when he or she goes out ahead to show the way.  Another risk occurs when others decide to follow the Leader; they entrust themselves to the Leader.  Trust is perhaps the major tap root that nurtures both the Servant and the Leader.  My current thinking is that this is so.

Do those served grow as persons? –Robert K. Greenleaf

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THINKING ABOUT ‘MY CURRENT THINKING,’ PART I

Experience plus Reflection is the Learning. –Charles Handy

I am a searcher and a seeker and hence my thinking shifts, changes and even transforms over time (transform = a fundamental change in character or structure).  Even after 47 years, I continue to be attracted to and influenced by Greenleaf’s writing because he noted that his writing is ‘a record of thinking in transition.’ He wrote that his thinking is ‘drawn from experience and searching.’ 

What is required of one if one’s thinking is always in transition?  What is ‘thinking’ and what is ‘transition?’  If one is going to learn from ‘experience’ it seems to me that one must be awake and aware of the experience itself — while it is unfolding; reflection in the moment — and one must also take the time to reflect upon the experience and to do so with an attitude rooted in searching.  This, as most of us know, requires time, energy, commitment and perseverance [i.e. discipline].

It also requires that one approach the search with an attitude that one might well be influenced by what one learns — primarily, perhaps, about what one learns about one’s self.  My experience, with myself and with others, is that once one has ‘found the answer’ (the truth, the one right way, the answer, etc.) that one ceases to be open to the search; one no longer needs to search.  In addition, it is but a small step for one to move from having ‘found it’ to one moving into ‘surety’ [when one is ‘sure’ one can easily become threatened by or resist or deny any information that might challenge one’s position].  The dark-side of ‘surety’ is fanaticism. 

Greenleaf noted that his ‘concern’ is for ‘the individual as a ‘serving person’ and that the serving person’s ‘tendency is to deny wholeness.’  For me, this idea is crucial for a number of reasons.  First, Greenleaf was clear that his ‘theme’ was one of ‘servant’ not leader.  Throughout the years folks have shifted his emphasis from ‘servant, first’ to ‘leader, first.’  For me, if I am going to seek to understand Greenleaf then I must become rooted in his concept of ‘servant, first.’  No matter the role — and leader is but a role for the servant — one is called to be ‘servant, first.’  In addition, the person who seeks to be ‘servant, first’ is also called to be ‘whole’ and that this in itself is a daunting challenge for us humans.  We tend to fragment or divide ourselves; we live our lives in ‘categories’ [check out Parker Palmer’s book, ‘A Hidden Wholeness’]. 

So, briefly:

SERVANT, Greenleaf writes: ‘. . .by acting with integrity and spirit, [the servant] builds trust and lifts people and helps them grow.’ 

 LEADER, Greenleaf writes the leader is one ‘. . .who is trusted and who shapes other peoples destinies by going out ahead to show the way.’   

We will continue our exploration of ‘My Current Thinking’ next time. 

We convince by our presence. –Walt Whitman

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3 ‘Cs’ – GREENLEAF’S LEGACY, PART III

In PART I, I briefly introduced my current thinking regarding Greenleaf’s Legacy and offered three definitions and then briefly focused on ‘Consciousness.’  In PART II, I briefly focused on ‘Character;’ today I will briefly focus on the third element of his Legacy, ‘Conduct.’  As a reminder, here are the three definitions that help inform my current thinking. 

Consciousness = the state of being aware while seeking to understand one’s own needs, attitudes, behavior, values, beliefs, perceptions in order to be open to understanding others’ needs, attitudes, behavior, values, beliefs, perceptions. 

Character = the moral and ethical traits and principles that form the individual nature of a person [e.g. trustworthiness, caring, response-ability/responsibility, integrity, respect — the golden rule, open-mindedness, etc.]

Conduct = personal behavior; a way of acting; a way of ‘managing’ one’s self. 

Charles Handy reminds us that experience rooted in reflection is the learning.  So it is with Greenleaf.  The servant learns as a result of reflecting upon his or her conduct.  Consciousness and Character informs and helps guide what we choose to do — our Conduct — and our ‘doing’ informs and reinforces our Consciousness and Character. 

So what is the ‘Conduct’ that the servant engages?  In a number of his writings, Greenleaf states that servants ‘listen, first.’  Servants listen with what I call undefended receptivity and a major outcome of the servant’s listening is to seek to understand.  And Greenleaf also informs us that servants ‘are listening carefully to prophetic voices that are speaking now.’  Being ‘Conscious’ [or ‘being present’ or ‘being awake and aware in the now’] is the tap root that feeds this type of listening. 

In his ‘test’ for the servant Greenleaf states quite clearly that the servant’s conduct enables those served to grow as persons and that in serving, others’ highest priority needs are being served [it is important to note that Greenleaf does not say that others’ needs are ‘met;’ their needs are ‘served’].  Servants are called to reflect upon the effects of their conduct on themselves and on others.  In a deep sense, servants care for people and this caring is reflected in how they conduct themselves in the world. 

Servants also use their ‘power’ ethically [I define ‘power’ as one’s ability to act ethically, rooted in deep reflection] — to, the best of their abilities, to do no harm [this is a tricky one for there are instances when one, when acting with integrity, will inflict harm upon others; this occurs for example when the servant is faced with a ‘harm-harm’ dilemma].  Servants seek ways to help build societies that are more just and more caring; their conduct nurtures more than depletes. 

Finally, to conclude our brief foray into ‘Conduct’ the servant accepts that he or she is always ‘response-able’ — he or she prepares one’s self so that when the time comes, one will be able to be appropriately responsive or appropriately reactive.  With preparation and intention, the servant is always response-able.

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3 ‘Cs’ – GREENLEAF’S LEGACY, PART II

In my last posting, I briefly introduced my thinking regarding Greenleaf’s Legacy and offered three definitions and then briefly focused on ‘Consciousness.’  Today I will focus on ‘Character.’  As a reminder, here are the three definitions that help inform my current thinking. 

Consciousness = the state of being aware while seeking to understand one’s own needs, attitudes, behavior, values, beliefs, perceptions in order to be open to understanding others’ needs, attitudes, behavior, values, beliefs, perceptions. 

Character = the moral and ethical traits and principles that form the individual nature of a person [e.g. trustworthiness, caring, response-ability/responsibility, integrity, respect — the golden rule, open-mindedness, etc.]

Conduct = personal behavior; a way of acting; a way of ‘managing’ one’s self. 

Character: What are some of the ‘moral and ethical traits and principles that form’ the ‘nature’ of the servant?  Regarding ‘nature’ one can be a servant via ‘first nature’ or ‘second nature.’  ‘First nature’ means that when one is born, ‘servant’ is in his or her nature [or ‘hard-wiring’ or ‘potential’] and that the person’s ‘charge’ is to develop his or her ‘natural’ capacity as servant.  For the rest of us (the majority of us?), we come to be a servant via ‘second nature.’ 

Greenleaf suggests that the development of this ‘second nature’ requires ‘rigorous discipline’ on our part.  We must be intentional and purpose-full when it comes to building our capacity to be servants.  At some point during this process we will integrate what we practice such that what we integrate becomes ‘second nature’ to us. 

It is like riding a bicycle.  We practice and practice and practice, we fall down, skin our knees and elbows, get back on the bike and practice some more.  Eventually, riding the bike becomes second nature to us.  This means that I might not get on a bike for years and then one day I decide to get on a bike and if I don’t have an organic or emotional limitation I will, very quickly, ride the bike with ease [it has, indeed, become second nature to me].  So, given this, let us return to the question: ‘What are some of the moral and ethical traits and principles that form the nature of the servant?’ 

Trait = a distinguishing characteristic of one’s personal nature

Principle = a personal basis of conduct; a guiding sense of the obligations of right conduct

Traits: As I reflect upon Greenleaf’s writings — which includes his lived-experience and his good thinking — some of the characteristics that distinguish the servant include (but are not limited to) the following: Curiosity, Open-Mindedness, Love of Learning, Perspective, Being Response-able/Responsible, Growth-supporting [holistic growth — Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual], Reflective, One is always searching [the search, not the destination, is what is important], Knows ‘self’ — Who am I?  Why am I here? Where am I going? Why am I going there?  What motivates me? What are my Virtues? What are my Vices?  When the pressure is on, which Virtue and which Vice do I ‘naturally’ demonstrate? 

Principles: Some of the principles that form the basis for the servant’s character include (but are not limited to) the following: Integrity, Hope, Faithfulness, Trustworthiness, Respect for self and for others, Friendship, Love, To Listen intently and receptively in order, first, to understand, To Reflect upon and learn from life-experiences, Forgiveness [seeking and offering], Trust ‘entheos’ — the spirit that sustains me, Being ‘authentic,’ Being ‘vulnerable.’

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3 ‘Cs’ – GREENLEAF’S LEGACY, PART I

In 2001, I was guiding a ‘work-treat’ [part workshop and part retreat] for the cohort of physicians who were participants in the Physician’s Leadership College at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis [I had the privilege of guiding these ‘work-treats’ for 14 years for the physician participants].  One of the physicians asked me what I thought Greenleaf’s Legacy was.  I had never been asked that question, nor had I ever spent any significant amount of time ‘holding’ that question.  I held the question for the rest of that day and then I spent a number of hours that night reflecting upon it.  I had been, for a number of months, playing with ‘C’ words and so I began to list out words that began with the letter ‘C’ — words that might capture Greenleaf’s legacy.  Within 3 hours I had them: Consciousness, Character, and Conduct. The following captures my current thinking regarding these three concepts and I expect my thinking will shift some as I continue to reflect upon Greenleaf’s Legacy. 

Consciousness = the state of being aware while seeking to understand one’s own needs, attitudes, behavior, values, beliefs, perceptions in order to be open to understanding others’ needs, attitudes, behavior, values, beliefs, perceptions. 

Character = the moral and ethical traits and principles that form the individual nature of a person [e.g. trustworthiness, caring, response-ability/responsibility, integrity, respect — the golden rule, open-mindedness, etc.]

Conduct = personal behavior; a way of choosing and acting; a way of ‘managing’ one’s self. 

For Greenleaf all three of these were crucial when it came to one choosing to be a servant whether one was called to be a leader or not [for Greenleaf, one is ‘servant, first’ and ‘leader’ is a role that can and will go away]. 

Consciousness means choosing to be awake and aware and choosing to be intentional and purpose-full.  Consciousness means that one is aware of who one is and who one is choosing to become.  Consciousness means that one is aware of one’s strengths and growing edges (aka ‘weaknesses?’].  Consciousness means that one is aware of the ways one chooses to nurture one’s Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual dimensions and is also aware of the ways one chooses to deplete these dimensions (we all have our favorite ways of doing both). 

Consciousness means that one is aware of the values, beliefs, principles, stereotypes, prejudices, deep assumptions, and attitude that inform and help guide his or her life.

Greenleaf suggests that when we choose to be conscious [i.e. awake and aware] that we might well be disturbed by what we discern; awareness does not bring comfort and solace — often it brings disturbance. 

Consciousness is also required if I am going to be ‘present’ to myself and to you; if I am going to be living ‘in the Now.’ 

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