In our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself. –Leo Tolstoy (‘Three Methods of Reform’ – 1900)

Greenleaf writes: ‘…it is important that one find in his work that which is uniquely oneself. …No other achievement, no other end sought will be worth the effort if through the work that occupies one’s best days and years one does not find a way to fan his own creative spark to a white heat.’

Greenleaf then offers us some ‘Considerations’ (‘To Consider’ means to reflect upon and NOT to immediately accept nor immediately reject). 

Greenleaf writes: ‘All work…both develops and limits.  It stretches one out in some ways and narrows one in others; it both fans the flame and seeks to quench it. …Whenever I think I have really achieved something, up come those powerful lines from Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” – Now understand well/It is not provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a great struggle necessary.

Greenleaf adds: ‘The greater struggle that will be necessary comes because long exposure to stress and responsibility tends to narrow the intellect unless a valiant effort is made to achieve an ever-expanding outlook. …The intellectual life must expand constantly.  The great risk which the bearers of responsibility assume is that intellectual curiosity and the capacity for a “feeling” response will atrophy and that only a calculating rationality will remain.

[When] one has a problem on which it is appropriate to act, and [when] one doesn’t know what to do…one should turn to the search for greater depth of understanding about the problem.  The main reason one will ever feel the pressure of a problem, ANY kind of problem, is that one’s understanding of himself, of the other people involved or of the area in which the problem lies is limited.  Therefore, the search for understanding is most practical, even though the “practical” people often spurn it.  …It is difficult to seek to understand when the heat is on.  …One should learn to seek to understand when the heat is not on; make a firm habit of it, and try to be aware that this will only serve one well if the habit is firmly enough fixed so that one can manage it when the going is rough, when the stakes are real and when the consequences of failing to understand may be overwhelming.

Well, Gentle Reader, this seems to provide us enough to reflect upon.  Next time I will offer some of what emerges for me as I reflect upon Greenleaf’s words.  Until next time – reflect, search, seek and pay attention to what emerges from within you. 

Search in order to understand. –Robert K. Greenleaf

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Experience plus Reflection provides the learning. –Charles Handy

Greenleaf writes: As one learns to manage his own life he seeks to avoid error; but he accepts the consequences that only error can teach…and then starts afresh…

I have suffered enough from error so that I know how hard this is to do.  It is particularly difficult as one moves toward what he ought to be: sensitive, considerate, responsible, conscientious, venturesome.  To be as one should, and yet be able to clean the slate and start afresh without guilt feelings, takes a special view of the self.  There must be a sustaining feeling of personal significance and worth. 

This feeling of significance and worth comes from the inside (it is not reputation).  I am important to myself.  I am not a piece of dust on the way to becoming another piece of dust.  Each of us is a unique possibility of creation, unlike any that has ever been or ever will be.  No matter how badly we may be shaken, no matter how serious the failure or how ignominious the fall from grace, by accepting and learning we can be restored with greater strength. 

As I read, re-read and reflect upon Greenleaf’s words I begin to recall a number of stories that capture ‘forgiveness, reconciliation, encouragement and affirmation.’ 

The first story concerns James E. Burke.  As a young Project Manager Burke was hired away from a company in order to become the Project Manager of an important project at another company.  As he was managing the project he made several crucial decisions that directly led to the failure of the project.  The day after it was clear that the project had indeed failed he was called to a meeting with the President/CEO.  When Burke entered the President’s office he noticed that the President was looking through a stack of papers.  He looked up and asked: ‘Burke, do you know why I called you here?’  Burke replied ‘Yes, because I made these decisions that directly caused the project to fail and that you called me here to fire me.’  The President looked at Burke and said, ‘That’s what I thought you would say.’  The President continued: ‘Why would I fire you, I just spent $20 million dollars educating you.’  He paused. ‘I will tell you when I will fire you.’  He continued. ‘I will fire you if you ever come close to making those decisions again or anything like them.’  He paused again.  ‘I will also fire you if you stop taking risks.’  He finished with: ‘Now, get out there and do your job.’  25+ years later Burke was the President/CEO and guided the organization through its most challenging time. 

The second story is well-known to most Christians.  Two men betrayed Jesus.  One was Judas and the other was Peter.  Judas betrayed Jesus by taking 30 pieces of silver in return for setting Jesus up.  Peter betrayed Jesus by denying that he knew him – 3 times.  Both men wept bitter tears.  One, Judas, despaired and committed suicide.  The other, Peter, repented was forgiven and in doing so he finally became ‘the Rock.’ 

Gentle Reader, what’s the story that comes to mind for you as you reflect upon Greenleaf’s words?  What is a story others would tell of you? 

My life is the message. –Gandhi

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People should not consider so much what they are to do, as what they are. –Meister Eckhart

Greenleaf writes: ‘…there was a long “wilderness” period in which I sought resources outside myself.  Good years went by.  No answers came.  A long time was spent in discovering that the only real answer to frustration is to concern myself with the drawing forth of what is uniquely me.  Only as what is uniquely me emerges do I experience moments of true creativity; moments which, when deeply felt, give me the impulse and the courage to act constructively in the outside world.’

When I was 27 years old I knew I needed a ‘Mentor’.  As Greenleaf had done, I had spent years searching for resources outside of myself.  I had been living as others wanted me to live (this was not a ‘bad way’ of living it was, however, not ‘my way’ – I did not ‘own’ my way of living).  I believed that if I held an intention that a ‘Mentor’ would appear – my charge was to identify and invite the Mentor into my life. 

One afternoon my friend, Mark, approached me and said that he had two tickets to a lecture that was to be given that evening.  He said that his fiancé, Leslie. a nurse, had to go to work and cover for another nurse.  I asked Mark what the topic was and he replied that Leslie had an interest in it and that the topic was based upon a book: ‘I’m O.K. – You’re O.K.’ I asked Mark if he had read the book and he, in his usual manner quietly responded that Leslie had and that the topic interested her.  I was a bit intrigued and had nothing else to do that evening and so I agreed to join Mark.

That decision dramatically impacted my life.  The speaker, Lowell Colston, was the Mentor that I needed.  We spoke briefly and he said that he was sure that he was supposed to be in my life and could we meet and talk.  I had the same feeling.  We met. We talked. We knew that we were meant to be in a Mentor-Mentee relationship.  Lowell was my Mentor for 6 years (one morning he said to me, ‘Richard, I think it is time that you stopped being my Mentee and that we continue to be friends and colleagues.’  We did). 

Via inquiry and searching conversations Lowell ‘called forth’ from me gifts, talents and potentials that I was not aware of possessing (or that I was not willing to affirm that I possessed).  He drew forth that which was ‘uniquely me.’  Slowly I developed the ‘courage’ (‘Courage’ is rooted in the Latin ‘Cor’ which means ‘Heart’) to ‘be’ and ‘affirm’ who I was and who I was choosing to become.  With Lowell’s support – which included affirmations, invitations to ‘consider’ and challenges – I, again slowly, began to discern ways of serving so that I and those I served grew as persons (Lowell introduced me to Greenleaf’s ‘The Servant as Leader’ essay in March, 1975 and via inquiry and searching conversations I embraced and integrated Greenleaf’s concept into who I was becoming).  I also experienced ‘moments of true creativity’ – ‘moments’ that I had never imaged before. 

Gentle Reader, who and what has drawn forth that which is uniquely you?  As I conclude this piece I am reminded of Tolstoy’s burning question.

How then shall I live? –Leo Tolstoy

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When the seeker is ready the Mentor will appear. –Thanks to Lao Tsu

In 1962 – eight years before he published his essay The Servant as Leader – Greenleaf wrote ‘Uniqueness, Paradox and Choice.’  Beginning today, Gentle Reader, I will quote from his essay and invite you to reflect upon his words and I will offer some of what emerged for me as I reflected (and continue to reflect) upon his words.

Greenleaf writes: In my early business experience I had a mentor who believed that every man has the seeds of greatness in him, that the inward experience is man’s most dependable guide…’ 

Consider, Gentle Reader, that there are significant differences between ‘Mentor,’ ‘Coach,’ ‘Guide,’ ‘Teacher’ and ‘Role-Model’ (there are other roles but these will suffice for now).  Now one person might engage two or more of these roles – I had a number of Mentors that did so.  I will focus on ‘Mentor’: A ‘Mentor’ invites, challenges and ‘calls-forth.’  A ‘Mentor’ invites one to ‘go inside’ and discern (become ‘aware of’ and ‘acknowledge’), and then to consciously choose what to nurture, what to sustain, what to develop and what to ‘let go of’ (this ‘letting go’ is one of the most challenging things for us to do). 

What are we to discern?  Consider the following (again this list is not exhaustive): Who I am. Who I am choosing to become.  Why I am choosing ‘this becoming.’  What are my core values, core guiding life-principles, core deep tacit assumptions, core stereotypes, core prejudices (‘core’ means that to the best of my ability I will never compromise it)?  What is my ‘Purpose’ (Why do I exist?)?  What is my ‘Vision’ (‘Big Dream’)?  What is my ‘Call’ (Call = using my gifts and talents to serve the high priority needs that exist in my/the world)? What are my gifts, talents and abilities – AND – What are the dormant gifts, talents and abilities ‘seeds’ that I am called to nurture into life and then live into/out of)?  What is my ‘Mission’ (Mission = what I am called to do every day that helps me live into/out of my ‘Purpose’ and ‘Vision’)?  What are my favorite ways of nurturing and depleting my Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, and Spiritual/Spirit Dimensions?  When and Why do I choose to deplete one or more of these rather than nurture them? 

The ‘Mentor’ helps us think about and engage these challenging questions via inquiry.  The ‘Mentor’ believes that the person, given time to reflect and observe and engage in searching conversations with the Mentor, will be able to discern and frame a response that is helpful to the person searching and seeking.  Some of the Mentor’s challenging questions might include: Why did you choose that?  Does the way you______get you what you want?  What do you want? (The person responds to the ‘What do you want’ question first.)  What motivates you to choose nurturing each of the P.I.E.S. Dimensions?  What motivates you to choose to deplete them?  What motivates you to listen with undefended receptivity in order to understand?  What motivates you to refuse to listen with undefended receptivity?  What are the virtues you have embraced and integrated?  What are the vices you have embraced and integrated?  What emerges for you when you reflect upon Greenleaf’s two statements: ‘Each of us is a living paradox of good and evil.’  ‘To refuse to examine the assumptions one lives by is immoral.’

Well, Gentle Reader, those questions should hold us until next time. 

We become what we habitually think and do. –Aristotle

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Good Day Gentle Reader.  I invite you to read PART V for the context of my post today.  In PART V I invited you to reflect upon Greenleaf’s words and then pay attention to what emerged for you during your time of reflection.  Today I will share some of what has emerged for me.

SPIRIT.  In his writings Greenleaf frequently used the word ‘Entheos’ to describe ‘Spirit.’  ‘Entheos’ comes from the Greek ‘EN’ – meaning ‘Within’ and ‘THEOS’ – meaning ‘Spirit.’  Thus ‘Entheos’ is the ‘spirit within that nurtures and sustains us.’  Greenleaf expands on this: ‘spirit is the animating force that disposes one to be a servant to others.’  For me, there are two ‘key words’ in his definition: ‘to be.’  As he notes in his other writings, the servant is who one is at one’s core – his ‘being’ (either by first or second nature).  ‘Being’ precedes and informs/forms ‘Doing.’ 

Greenleaf reintroduces us to his ‘test’ for ‘servant.’  For me there are three important challenges contained in his ‘test.’  The first is ‘that those served grow as persons.’  In order for one to serve in this way one must ‘see’ and ‘experience’ the one being served as a human being – not as a ‘resource,’ ‘commodity,’ or ‘asset’ (these labels reinforce our Culture’s embracing of the ‘Banking Metaphor’ – a metaphor that de-humanizes us). 

The second is ‘AND what is the effect on the least privileged in society’?  In order for us to become aware of the ‘effect’ we must be awake, aware, intentional and purpose-full (Greenleaf reminds us, time and time again, that this ‘being aware’ often causes us to become disturbed by what we ‘see’).  We might not directly serve the ‘least privileged’ but there is a very good chance that some of those we do serve will serve the ‘least privileged.’  If I serve you and you grow there is a good chance that you will serve the other(s) so that growth occurs.

The third is, for me, the most challenging: ‘No one will knowingly be hurt by the action, directly or indirectly.’  There are times when one can serve so that ‘no one will knowingly be hurt.’  There are also times when ‘hurt’ will occur – it is inevitable in fact.  Consider this one idea:  There are times when the one serving will be confronted with a ‘Dilemma’ (a ‘Dilemma’ is not a ‘problem,’ or a ‘polarity’ or a ‘paradox’ – it is a ‘forced choice’ challenge).  There are two types of Dilemmas: ‘Right-Right’ and ‘Harm-Harm.’  For example: The challenge is that ‘I must choose’ between the ‘person’ and the ‘group’ (team, community, etc.).  It is ‘right’ for me to choose either and the ‘Dilemma’ is that I must choose one.  The ‘Harm-Harm Dilemma’ means that no matter which I choose (in this case, whether I choose for the person or for the group) harm will occur.  Think: Our organization is in great difficulty and if we don’t ‘lay people off’ then the organization will be greatly harmed and if we do ‘lay people off’ in order to protect the organization then those people who are laid off will be harmed.  So, for me, Greenleaf’s challenge can, at times, be embraced and given a ‘Harm-Harm Dilemma’ no matter which is served harm will occur.  Now, Gentle Reader, there is ‘hope.’  For a ‘Dilemma’ can be ‘resolved’ or it can be ‘dissolved.’  ‘Dissolving’ means that we make a choice so that the ‘Dilemma’ no longer exists. 

Well, Gentle Reader there are additional thoughts that emerged – and continue to emerge – for me AND what I have shared with you today will have to suffice for now.  Next time I might invite you to reflect upon POWER.  Then again…

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