SERVANT-‘BEST TEST’ REVISITED, PART VI. . .

The way to do is to be. –Lao Tzu

Good morning Gentle Reader, we have one more question respond to before we continue with our exploration of Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test’ for the ‘Servant.’  As a reminder, here is the question: Is ‘Serving’ one-directional or multi-directional?

And, as another reminder, here is Greenleaf’s 1980 iteration of his ‘Best Test’: Do those being served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  And what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will she or he benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?  No one will knowingly be hurt by the action, directly or indirectly.

Is ‘Serving’ one-directional or multi-directional?  More than twenty years ago my friend and colleague, Tamyra, and I were engaged in one of our long conversations; our conversations would last two or three hours.  They were in-depth, searching conversations.  One topic that emerged was captured in this question: Is Greenleaf’s concept of ‘servant-first’ a self-sacrificing concept?  The sibling question is: Is ‘Serving’ one-directional or multi-directional?

A literal reading of his ‘Best Test’ and his ‘Credo’ [His ‘I believe’ statement] can lead us to the following responses: Greenleaf’s concept is one-directional and hence, over time, is self-sacrificing.  At its worst, it will morph into what is commonly referred to as the martyr’s syndrome.

As I recall, there are only two references by Greenleaf in his writings that provide us an alternative.  Greenleaf tells us that in serving one is also served.  He tells us that in serving the other so he or she becomes ‘whole’ (think: is ‘healed’) that the one serving also becomes ‘whole’.  The question: ‘Is this a given?’

Does it logically follow that if I serve your highest priority needs that I, too, am served?  If my serving you facilitates your becoming ‘whole’ does it follow that I, too, will become ‘whole’ (think, again, ‘healed’)?

As far as I know, Greenleaf never directly addresses these questions.  He does, however, provide us a guideline via another question that he does offer us to consider: ‘When is serving potentially immoral?’

For me, serving become immoral when my serving becomes self-sacrificial.  It also becomes immoral when my serving promotes a relationship rooted in dependence (I need the other to become dependent upon me; my ‘value’ is directly connected to your need for me).

Greenleaf also reinforces this when he addresses the issues of ‘power.’  We are, as servant-first leaders, challenged to use our power ethically (you might remember that his first Center was ‘The Center for Applied Ethics’).  As servant-first leaders we can avoid creating a dependent relationship by embracing the concept that ‘leadership is a by-product’ of the relationship between the leader and the one who ‘freely’ chooses to follow.  This helps transform the leader-led relationship into an interdependent relationship; a relationship rooted in trust, care and serving the priority needs of both.    

I leave us with this question: ‘When is serving immoral?’

Next time we will continue with our exploration of Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test.’ 

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

 

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SERVANT-‘BEST TEST’ REVISITED, PART V. . .

The only journey is the one within. –Rainer Maria Rilke

Good morning Gentle Reader.  We have two more questions to respond to:

What does it mean for one to ‘become healthier’?
Is ‘Serving’ one-directional or multi-directional?

As a reminder, here is Greenleaf’s 1980 iteration of his ‘Best Test’ for the ‘Servant’: Do those being served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  And what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will she or he benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?  No one will knowingly be hurt by the action, directly or indirectly.

What does it mean for one to ‘become healthier’?  For Greenleaf there are a number of ‘Servants.’  The first is the individual.  The second is a collective of individuals; for Greenleaf two metaphors are crucial: a garden and a community.  The collective can be a Board of Trustees, or an organized group of two or more folks (a department, for example).  The third is the organization.  For Greenleaf an organization is a living organism.  Thus, all three can ‘become healthier.’  All three can also become ‘dis-eased.’

Gentle Reader, I invite you to keep in mind all three as I respond to the question, ‘What does it mean for one to ‘become healthier’?

Simply stated: ‘Healthier’ means that we nurture more than deplete the one being served (again, the ‘one’ can be an individual, an organized group of two or more and/or an organization).  Well, then, what is it, exactly, that we seek to nurture more than deplete?

Consider, Gentle Reader, that there are five dimensions that define the one being served.   I call these P.I.E.S.S.  There is a Physical Dimension, an Intellectual Dimension, an Emotional Dimension, a Spirit(ual) Dimension, and a Social (think: Relationship) Dimension.  For some, ‘Spirit’ resonates and for some ‘Spiritual’ resonates.  For me, I seek to honor both Dimensions.

‘Do those served become healthier?’  Consider these questions: How is each Dimension ‘served’ so that each is nurtured more than depleted?  What are some ways that each Dimension could be served (or is served) so that more nurturance rather than depletion occurs?  Does the one serving have ‘favorite’ ways of nurturing and favorite ways of depleting the one(s) being served?  What are these ‘favorite ways’?  In serving, is the one serving paying attention to and serving the other(s) ‘highest priority needs’[NOTE: For Greenleaf, serving the other(s) ‘highest priority needs’ is a major indicator that one is serving more than that one is ‘self-serving’.]

In serving, the one doing the serving cannot guarantee that more nurturance and less depletion will occur.  One can only be awake, aware, intentional and purpose-full in providing the opportunity for more nurturance and less depletion to occur.  The one being served must help identify the ‘highest priority needs’ and then choose to accept and embrace more nurturance and shun efforts at depletion.

Simply stated: ‘Serving’ involves a relationship between the one serving and the one being served.  Serving becomes, or borders on being, immoral when this relationship is not interdependent but dependent (how many times have folks said, ‘I was only trying to help’ when it was clear that the ‘help’ served the helper more than the one that was to be helped).

This opens the pathway to our next question: Is ‘Serving’ one-directional or multi-directional?  We will explore this next time and we will continue our exploration of Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test’: ‘…wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants.’ 

Leadership is a serious meddling in other people’s lives. –Max De Pree

 

 

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SERVANT-‘BEST TEST’ REVISITED, PART IV. . .

You can quit your job but you can’t quit your calling. –Lissa Rankin

Good morning, Gentle Reader.  I concluded PART III with this: …it appears as if we have three more questions to respond to, for this first statement.  So let us continue. . .  As a reminder, here is Greenleaf’s final iteration (1980) of his ‘Best Test’ for the Servant:

Do those being served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  And what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will she or he benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?  No one will knowingly be hurt by the action, directly or indirectly.

Here are the three questions I left us with last time; this morning we will focus on the first of these:

What are the implications of the phrase ‘while being served’?
What does it mean for one to ‘become healthier’?
Is ‘Serving’ one-directional or multi-directional?

What ae the implications of the phrase ‘while being served’?  For more than forty-five years now I have returned to this phrase, ‘while being served.’  ‘Growth’ is not just an immediate effect of ‘being served;’ the one being served ‘grows’ during the process of ‘being served.’  The implications of this are numerous; here are a few of them.

  • When I serve I hold an intention that the one served will have an opportunity to ‘grow.’ I cannot guarantee that the other will grow; I can provide him/her an opportunity to do so.
  • I consciously hold five dimensions when I serve; my intention is to seek to nurture one or more of these as I serve the highest priority needs of the other(s) [Greenleaf counsels the servant to serve the highest priority needs of the other].
  • I call the five dimensions: P.I.E.S.S. I seek to intentionally provide the one being served an opportunity to nurture (more than deplete) one or more of these dimensions and I invite the one being served to discern and embrace how he/she might nurture more than deplete each dimension.  The five dimensions: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Spirit(ual), and Social (think: Relationships – first the relationship one has with one’s self and then the relationship one has with the ‘other’).
  • The experience can be brief – a smile, a recognition of the person as a fully human being (an aboriginal tribe in Australia greets one another with ‘I see you.’ A wonder-full, humanizing way of acknowledging the presence of the other).  The experience can occur over time as it does when I am serving those who participate in my ‘work-treats’ (part workshop and part retreat).

My commitment – to myself and to those I serve – involves my being awake, aware, intentional and purpose-full as I strive to serve the highest priority needs of the other(s).   

Our life is what our thoughts make it. –Marcus Aurelius

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SERVANT-‘BEST TEST’ REVISITED, PART III. . .

Responsible people build; they do not destroy.  They are moved by the heart. –Robert K. Greenleaf

Do those being served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  And what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will she or he benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?  No one will knowingly be hurt by the action, directly or indirectly.

Do those being served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier?  Every time I read and hold this first question I quickly become whelmed over by the multitude of implications contained within it.  Who are the ‘those’?  What does it mean to ‘grow as persons’?  What are the implications of the phrase ‘while being served’?  What does it mean for one to ‘become healthier’?  Is ‘Serving’ one-directional or multi-directional?  There are others, but these will suffice for today.  Let us briefly explore a few of these today.

Who are the ‘those’?   In order to serve as Greenleaf defines ‘serve’ must I be awake and aware and intentional, purpose-full and focused.  For example, must I form an intention to ‘serve’ or might I develop an ‘attitude’ of always striving to serve? [NOTE: As imperfect human beings we are ‘always striving’ – becoming more consistent is the goal, not becoming perfect which is a trap.]  I embrace a ‘both-and’ approach.  I strive to hold an ‘attitude of serving’ AND I strive to become intentional with my serving.  Thus, my capacity to serve a wider group of ‘those’ dramatically increases.

What does it mean to ‘grow as persons’?  It seems that in order to respond to this question we need to define ‘grow’ and ‘persons.’  Let us begin with ‘person’.  A person is a human being.  This helps but it is still, I believe, too general a concept – even too abstract.  What do all human beings have in common?  Consider, Gentle Reader, that we all have the following five dimensions in common: A Physical Dimension, an Intellectual Dimension, an Emotional Dimension, a Spirit(ual) Dimension and a Social Dimension (think: Relationship with self and with another).  [NOTE: For some ‘spirit’ resonates and for others ‘spiritual’ resonates.]

We know that as human beings we do – and need to – grow in each of these AND that our growth is a life-long process.  We also know that we can – and do – deplete each of these dimensions (we are, as noted earlier, imperfect human beings).  Consider that the greatest violence done to us is ‘self-violence.’  Consider, also, that each of us has developed our favorite ways of depleting each of these five dimensions in ourselves.  Add to the ‘self-violence/self-depletion, we also deplete these dimensions in others (we do violence to them via the depletion done).

Given our two definitions we can begin to see how we might respond to the question: What does it mean to ‘grow as persons’?  Simply stated, it means that we strive to serve so that more nurturance than depletion occurs in one or more, if not in each, of the five dimensions.  We serve ourselves, we serve others, we help others serve themselves and we are served by others so that I-You-We-They grow (are nurtured more than depleted) in each of these five dimensions.

Greenleaf focuses on individuals AND on two organized groups, Boards of Trustees and Institutions (a variety of them).  As organic entities each embodies all five of these dimensions and hence each can be ‘served’.  This is one of the ideas that still makes Greenleaf ‘counter-cultural’ today.

Well, Gentle Reader, it appears as if we have three more questions to respond to, for this first statement.  So let us continue. . .

What are the implications of the phrase ‘while being served’?

What does it mean for one to ‘become healthier’?

Is ‘Serving’ one-directional or multi-directional?  

 Responsibility requires that a person think, speak and act as if personally accountable to all who may be affected by his or her words, thoughts and deeds…Awareness is important. –Robert K. Greenleaf

 

 

 

 

 

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SERVANT-‘BEST TEST’ REVISITED, PART II. . .

Here is Greenleaf’s 1980 iteration of his ‘Best Test’ for the Servant:

Do those being served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  And what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will she or he benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?  No one will knowingly be hurt by the action, directly or indirectly.

Yesterday my friend Jim sent me an email containing one question (in response to PART I).  Here is Jim’s question:

To what degree do you believe that we could substitute ‘Leader’ or ‘Leadership’ for Greenleaf’s Best Test for the Servant (or at least the first part)?

As I sat holding Jim’s question three initial responses emerged into my consciousness: (1) Greenleaf is clear in his writings: He is writing on the servant theme (his words).  Thus, his Best Test is for the Servant and the Servant, first Leader.  (2) A person could substitute ‘Leader’ or ‘Parent’ or ‘Teacher’ or ‘Mentor’ or ‘Counselor’ for ‘Servant’ and, I believe the ‘Test’ would hold as a ‘valid test.’  (3) Ever since Greenleaf’s first iteration of his ‘Best Test’ (1969) people have sought to refocus Greenleaf’s theme from Servant to Leader.

It seems that the concept of ‘Servant’ continues to be too challenging for us; it continues to be counter-cultural for we are a culture that has fallen in love with the concept of ‘Leader.’  Greenleaf is clear: Servant is who one is at one’s core; Servant is the Being and this nature (first or second nature) cannot be taken away (it can, however be given up).  ‘Leader’ is a role; it is the Doing.  The role can, and will, be taken away or it will ‘go away’ when the person no longer wears the mantle of leader.

I invite you, Gentle Reader, to hold Jim’s question and see what emerges for you in response to it.  Perhaps the most challenging question is implied in Greenleaf’s writings: Am I willing to be or become (by first or second nature) a ‘Servant’ at my core?  Greenleaf, as is his wont, ups the ante.  Are Trustees willing to become ‘Servants’ at their core?  Are Institutions willing to become ‘Servants’ at their core? [AN ASIDE: For Greenleaf it is possible for an institution to become a Servant at its core because institutions are organic entities.]

Let us continue and explore more deeply Greenleaf’s Best Test for the Servant and the Servant, first Leader.

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SERVANT-‘BEST TEST’ REVISITED, PART I. . .

To refuse to examine the assumptions one lives by is immoral. –Robert K. Greenleaf

Gentle Reader, if you have been following my blog these past years you will have noticed or read a number of postings that alluded to or directly addressed Greenleaf’s Best Test for the Servant.

Recently I was re-reading for the umpteenth time Greenleaf’s 1980 essay, Servant: Retrospect & Prospect.  Near the end of this essay Greenleaf offers us what I believe is his final iteration of his Best Test for the Servant (his first published iteration appeared in his 1969 essay – the ‘inspired’ essay, the one he wrote for and addressed to college-university student leaders – The Servant as Leader).  During the next 11 years additional iterations or parts of his Best Test would be offered to us for our consideration.

So, without further ado, here is Greenleaf’s 1980 iteration of his Best Test for the Servant:

Do those being served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  And what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will she or he benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?  No one will knowingly be hurt by the action, directly or indirectly.

Gentle Reader, this morning I invite you to read and re-read Greenleaf’s Best Test and to reflect upon his words and the implications they might hold for you and for us.  Beginning next time, I will offer some of what has emerged into my consciousness as I read, re-read, held, savored and reflected upon Greenleaf’s final iteration of his Best Test.

When is serving potentially immoral? –Robert K. Greenleaf

 

 

 

 

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POEMS. . .

Robert K. Greenleaf offered me a powerful organic metaphor; a metaphor that helps me move away from our dominant inorganic cultural metaphors: Mechanical and Banking.  These two dominant inorganic metaphors dehumanize us and allow us to guilt free marginalize and harm the other(s).

This morning, Gentle Reader, I invite you to consider Greenleaf’s ‘Garden Metaphor’ and perhaps you will find that it might also serve you well.  In order to aid you in your consideration I will offer you the words of several other folks who have embraced a ‘Garden Metaphor.’

The first is a poem by the great Spanish poet, Antonio Machado.  Machado wrote this poem in the early 1900s.  I was introduced to his poems in 1990 and I have carried this poem with me since then.  Here is Machado’s ‘garden poem.’

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

 “In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”

 “I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.”

 “Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”

 The wind left. And I wept. And I said to soul:
“What have you done with the garden entrusted to you?”
–Antonio Machado

In 1996 I was guiding a two day ‘work-treat’ for leaders who were interested in learning more about Greenleaf’s concept.  During the lunch break on the second day a participant approached me and handed me a poem.  We had, that morning, been exploring the garden metaphor.  The participant, Sandy Shugart, told me that a poem had emerged into his consciousness during one of the periods of reflection.  He had written out the poem and he handed me a copy – the original he said.  Here is Sandy Shugart’s poem (which, by the by, he put in his book about leadership).

Gardens

The formal landscape stands
an ordered monument to mastermind and hands

 Each subservient row
disciplined by shear and hoe

 In organic symmetry, sculpted sphere and line.
Not for love of life, but devotion to design,

 Was this infertile illusion crafted
every uniform blade and clump to one will drafted

 Bearing no largesse toward riotous leaf or unruly root
the master gardener’s tyrannous vision absolute.

Yet there are other gardens
whose verdant chaos is infested with creative possibility
borderless communities of bright souls, they
blend, compete, complement, propagate.
Fertile diversity caresses eye and cheek and olfactory
embracing with equal passion prima donna poppy,
dusky humus, sultry fern, honest grass
Each sworn only to Mendel’s oath of self-expression.
There is a caretaker here, as well
inconspicuous in quiet devotion to serve, not control,
to nurture with extravagant love
each unplanned form and unconscious, self-absorbed delight
for love of the sheer surprise of life. –Sandy Shugart

The third poem – an excerpt from a longer poem – is a gift to me/us from Longfellow.  I came upon this fragment five years ago.

Kind hearts are the gardens,
Kind thoughts are the roots,
Kind words are the flowers,
Kind deeds are the fruits, Take care of your garden And keep out the weeds,
Fill it with sunshine, Kind words, and Kind deeds. –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Gentle Reader, perhaps there are other garden poems that speak to you.  Or, if you do a little research you might find a garden poem or two or three or more that speak to you.  I leave us this morning with the words of Alice Walker:

In search of my mother’s garden, I found

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