How does one learn good judgment?  à Experience!  AND, how does one gain experience? à Bad judgment. –Anonymous

Process and Content are inseparable.

Consider, Gentle Reader that our Culture is caught up in separating ‘process’ and ‘content.’  What does this mean?

Think about this:  Executives seek to improve fragmented policies and strategies without addressing the fragmented and competitive relationships among the managers who formulated them.

Twenty years ago I spent a year working with a senior executive and the twenty managers who reported to him.  Our focus was on ‘relationship development.’  The executive had spent months attempting to get his managers to improve what he and they deemed were fragmented policies and strategies without exploring the relationships between and among all of them.  Only when they switched their focus to their relationships and addressed their relationships were they able to successfully address the fragmented policies and strategies.

An Understatement: Relationships are crucial.  This includes the relationships between and among the human beings and the relationship that involves process and content.  Too often people in organizations ignore, or minimize the importance, of both.

Consider: ‘Bad News!’  How often do organizations embrace a ‘culture’ that is fear-full of ‘Bad News’?  Many years ago the Board of Directors of a large not-for-profit asked me to work with a CEO who was not able to invite nor embrace ‘Bad News’ [I am now thinking of Roger Smith of GM who, many years ago, told his direct reports that he did not want to hear any bad news and learned about GM losing 20% of their market share to the Japanese via the newspaper.  When he confronted his direct reports they reminded him that he was clear: He did not want to hear any bad news from them].

My work with the CEO and his senior leadership team involved exploring their own reactions to hearing about ‘problems’ – especially problems that were brought to them by their direct reports.  Over time they were able to surface and acknowledge their own fears and their own defensive responses to them.  As they developed more effective ‘acceptance and coping’ skills and capacities they were able to co-create a culture that was more open to and accepting of (actually a ‘seeking out’) ‘Bad News.’

Charles Handy reminds us that reflection plus experience is the learning.  My experience is that a ‘Culture’ is more open to learning in this way (reflection-experience) if the people in the ‘Culture’ are able to embrace their ‘fears’ and discern a ‘need’ to learn (think: shift, change, transform, evolve).  Many years ago my mentor, Lowell, told me to ‘embrace your fear and as you are holding your fear look behind it and you will discern courage waiting to be called forth.’

This image continues to serve me well and it has also served others well these past 45 years.  Lowell’s counsel reinforces the power of imaging.  Professional athletes, for example, know well the power of imaging – if you can see it you can do it.  This ‘power’ can also serve all of us well – if we have a ‘need’ to develop the discipline.

Too often our idea of learning is not transformational but is more likely to be transactional.  In fact, in our Culture, the conventional notion of learning is transactional…

Consider: the more basic and therefore the more potent an assumption the less likely it is to be examined. –R. W. Smith



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


In honor of the 4th of July I offer our Nation’s ‘Declaration’.

The Declaration of Independence (1776)

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Massachusetts: John Hancock

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple

Massachusetts: Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire: Matthew Thornton


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Caring is the essential motive. –Robert K. Greenleaf (‘Advices to Servants’)

Becoming a servant-led organization rooted in learning requires a commitment to performance (seeking, in Greeleaf’s words, to shun mediocrity and embrace distinction) and practice (remember, Gentle Reader, practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent – so an organization must be clear as to what it chooses to practice).  Performance and Practice require a commitment to Reflection (Reflection plus P & P opens the pathway to and supports Learning).

This complex developmental (evolutionary and perhaps ‘transformational’) process will not occur simply because people are well-intentioned.  The process is too important to be left to simply being well-intentioned.  This developmental process requires generational commitment.  It could be that the ‘vision’ will be realized with the advent of the third generation – How many organizations have the patience for this?  (Remember, Gentle Reader, we are a Culture that is addicted to speed; we are suffering from a dis-ease called ‘hurry sickness’.)

Consider this: ALL high achieving ‘teams’ are committed to continuous learning and continuous development.  They are constantly experimenting and evolving.  They are constantly discerning what they need to let go of and what to take on.  By the by, when it comes to ‘letting go of…’ they will also seek to identify and let go of what has worked in the past but no longer serves their needs (this is one of the most difficult ‘letting go of’ challenges).

Servant-led learning organizations do not seek to walk the talk for this is a trap (being imperfect human beings it will be impossible to do this); they will, instead, embrace this mantra: Stumble the Mumble!  This mantra allows all to be fully human – the learning process itself involves some stumbling and mumbling about.

Here are a few guidelines that might help you, Gentle Reader, as you reflect upon what I have to offer.

  • The learner determines what the learner needs to learn. As Howard Behar reminds us, the person who uses the broom chooses the broom that will best meet the needs.
  • If one is given the ‘power’ to act (power = one’s ability to act) one must also be given the ‘power’ to learn.
  • How ‘leadership’ answers the following question will determine the path(s) chosen: Do you want the learner to comply, adapt, buy-in or emotionally own the…?
  • Learning how to learn as a ‘team’ – where support and accountability are balanced – is more powerful than individual learning.
  • ‘Space’ and ‘Time’ must be created in order to help maximize the learning experience – Learning must be intentional and purpose-full; ‘theory’ is rooted in ‘experience’.
  • Learning involves a never-ending cycle of experience, experimentation, reflection, response and improvement.

Given this, it is crucial to remember – or to learn – that the process and the content are inseparable.  What?

Caring, as we know, is an exacting and demanding business. –Robert K. Greenleaf (‘Advices to Servants’)


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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

In 1990 Peter Senge published his seminal work: ‘The Fifth Discipline.’  He introduced us to the concept of the learning organization.  In 1993 Peter wrote this: ‘Learning Organizations are built by communities of Servant-Leaders.’  He followed this with ‘Servant-Leaders are the ones walking ahead, regardless of their management position or hierarchical authority… Servant-Leadership is inevitably collective.’

Traditionally, in our Culture, our conventional notions of the ‘leader’ are embedded in a myth – the myth of the leader as hero.  We forget, or deny, that leadership is a by-product of the relationship between the leader and the led.  Greenleaf’s concept is inherently relational and communal (two reasons his concept resonated with Peter Senge – he told me this when I met him in 1994); it is also inherently ethical.

Within an organization, the hero-leader has never existed.  It has always been – and it will always continue to be – the ‘led’ who determine whether the leader is a hero or not (there have been, of course, individuals who acted as heroes and this is important to remember; these heroes emerge ‘situationally’).

Today, more than ever before in history, our rate of learning must be equal to the rate of change.  This means that no one person can learn at a fast enough rate in order to keep up.  This means that learning must be communal learning – Senge’s ‘Learning Organization’ is one way to enhance communal learning.

Cooperation and Collaboration must replace Competition.  The Community must take precedence over the Individual. The Team must replace the Person.  These endeavors are no easy charge for our Culture – a Culture that is rooted in the primacy of the person – a Culture that is rooted in the Individual more than the Community.

One of the reasons that Senge embraced Greenleaf’s concept is that he was able to discern that the servant-as-leader concept combines idealism & pragmatism.  As an ideal, Greenleaf’s concept appeals to one’s values, beliefs, guiding-life principles, dignity, self-worth and social nature (we humans are social beings).  Greenleaf’s concept is also practical, and, I will add, demanding.  High achievement and working with distinction are goals to be embraced and lived.  At the same time, the highest priority needs of those in the Organization are consciously addressed (we ‘address’ needs, we cannot ‘meet’ them).  All are served so that they, while being served, grow as persons.  Because the servant-leader is relational and because leadership is a by-product of the relationship between the leader and the led, the health of the community is crucial (the metaphor: organization is community becomes a core-value).  ‘Health’ involves the Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual and Social (think: Relational) health of the person and the community.

The emergence and embracing of ‘communal leadership’ does not mean that there are no designated leader-roles.  CEOs and Executives and Managers will continue to exist.  Their existence is necessary and their existence also poses a core challenge for servant-led learning organizations.  This is a challenge that must be embraced – it is not a problem to be solved.  There are guidelines that can help AND there are no specific blueprints to follow (this is one reason it is a challenge – ‘guidelines without specific blueprints’).  This challenge results in dis-ease running amok within organizations.

Dis-ease always infects us when we are confronted by transformational change. –Richard W. Smith

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


…one is always searching. –Robert K. Greenleaf

Good morning, Gentle Reader.  This morning we will conclude our brief exploration of some of the disciplines.  As a reminder here are the disciplines, we have explored five thus far:

  • Listening, first
  • Being Aware
  • Inquiry
  • Imaging to help with preparing
  • Withdrawal
  • Making Whole-Healing
  • Being Responsible
  • Seeking-Searching
  • Understanding

Let us continue.

Seeking-Searching.  For Greenleaf the discipline is not the seeking-searching.  The discipline is the seeking-searching without the goal of ‘finding’ – the process itself is what is crucial to the discipline.  What hinders this type of seeking-searching?

Consider the following hindrances (if not direct blocks to the process):  If I am ‘sure’ then I have no reason to seek and search.  If the ‘way’ I do something – parent, teach, serve, lead, etc. – gets me what I want then I will have little, if any, motivation to seek and search.  When my ‘identity’ is threatened then I will not be open to seeking and searching (who wants to give up his or her identity).  If I have ‘found___’ then I am less likely to seek and search.

Seeking-Searching is risky.  I might be influenced by what I encounter (in order to seek and search I must hold an openness to being influenced).  I might have to let go of…and take on….—I might have to shift or change or, what is more challenging, I might have to transform (transform = a fundamental change in character or structure).

This discipline is connected to the next discipline.

Understanding.  How many folks have difficulty seeking to understand because they have equated understanding with agreement?  This equation embodies the typical adolescent argument (in our Culture): If you understand me then you will agree with me!  Their mantra: You don’t understand! Means: You don’t agree!  We perfect this during our adolescent years and carry it into adulthood.

Greenleaf is clear: Develop the discipline of listening first in order to seek to understand.  If one engages in this discipline one runs the risk of being influenced by what one learns (being open to the possibility of being influenced is crucial to seeking to understand).

What do I seek to understand?  First, I seek to understand what I have integrated and then to seek to understand if what I have integrated continues to serve me and others well (for servant, first folks this means to serve so that others grow).  For example, what are the 2-3 core values I have integrated and what are the 2-3 deep tacit assumptions I have integrated and what are the 2-3 core guiding life-principles I have integrated AND do these serve me and others well?

Seeking to understand myself is, indeed, a life-long endeavor.  As I seek to understand myself I also seek to understand the other and his/her core values, deep assumptions, etc.  Again: Understanding does not mean that I will agree with…

For those who choose to embrace Greenleaf’s concept these disciplines are a given, they are integral.  They help individuals and relationships (all organizations are individuals and relationships writ large) serve one another in ways that support his ‘Best Test’ and embrace his ‘Credo’ (of course, each person and each organization is called to develop their own ‘Credo’ and not simply accept Greenleaf’s).

We will be returning to this topic at some point but these entries will have to suffice for now.

…seek first to understand. –Robert K. Greenleaf



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Good morning Gentle Reader.  I have decided to step-aside this morning and offer you the following post.  I will continue with ‘Is Greenleaf’s Concept Realistic’ next time.

Awareness does not bring comfort or solace.; it brings disturbance –Robert K. Greenleaf

One of the most challenging things for us to do is to wake up, become aware, listen to what is emerging from within oneself, listen to what is emerging in the ‘world’ and to ‘see.’  We don’t want to engage this process of ‘seeing.’  For example, the Capitalist does not want to see what is good and healthy in Socialism.  The rich do not want to ‘see’ the poor.  The tribe does not want to see the full humanity of the stranger.

Why don’t we want to embrace this process of ‘seeing’?  Consider this, Gentle Reader, if one engages in this process two things might occur: The one ‘seeing’ might well become disturbed by what one ‘sees’ and given what one ‘sees’ one might be called to change or transform [transform = a fundamental change in character or structure].

If one looks and one becomes disturbed one begins to sense a potential loss of control – the loss of the control of the life that one is holding onto.  If one chooses to embrace and engage in this process of ‘seeing’ one must also embrace the possibility that one will have to, at minimum, change or at maximum, transform.

When it comes to our ‘seeing,’ Anthony de Mello offers us three questions to hold, consider, embrace and live:

  • How much are you ready to take? [think: How much ‘seeing’ can you embrace]
  • How much of everything you’ve held dear are you ready to have shattered, without running away?
  • How ready are you to think of something unfamiliar? [think: hold the possibility that you will have to change or transform as a result]

As one embraces and engages this process of ‘seeing’ one – because one is awake and aware – becomes disturbed by the ‘fear’ that is emerging from within.  This is not the ‘fear of the unknown.’  Actually, one cannot become fear-full of the unknown.  It does seem, however, that what one fears is the loss of the known. (Think, for example, the loss of ‘identity’ as one of the potential losses that helps generate and sustain this ‘fear of loss’.)

A second fear one has is the fear that comes with the awareness that one will have to change or transform and in order to embrace and engage this process one will have to let go or empty in order to make room for the new (think: the ‘new’ way of seeing, for example).  Who wants to give up his/her identity?

A third fear one becomes aware of is the fear of isolation or abandonment or shunning by one’s ‘tribe’ (think: family, religious group, political party, club, etc.).  We are social beings and being ‘part of’ is crucial for our well-being.  What will I do if I am ostracized by one or more of these ‘tribes’?

One of my role-models is Jesus.  Jesus was awake, aware and often disturbed by what he saw.  One of the things Jesus modeled for me was how comfortable he was with ‘sinners’ and how uncomfortable he was with ‘the self-righteous.’  Jesus never, not once, indicated that he was better than the ‘sinner.’  Jesus modeled what it was to embrace all human beings without embracing their actions.  He ‘saw’ the fully human being and he responded to the fully human being.

This leads me to the fourth fear.  This is the fear of ‘seeing’ each person as a fully human being.  The implications of ‘seeing’ each person as a fully human being are legion.  By the by, all faith traditions tell us that God will judge each of us based on how we have ‘seen’ and ‘responded’ to our ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ human beings.

If I see you as a fully human being then I must treat you as I want to be treated – for most of us this means that we will treat THE OTHER(S) with compassion, care, love and forgiveness.  We will feed the hungry and shelter the home-less and tend to those who are sick (physically, intellectually, emotionally, and/or spiritually).

Given all of this it is no wonder that so many of us continue to choose to not wake up and become aware and ‘see’.

I am called to be faithful. –Mother Teresa


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world, as in being able to remake ourselves. –Gandhi

Good morning, Gentle Reader.  This morning we will continue our brief exploration of some of the disciplines.  As a reminder here are the disciplines, we have explored five thus far:

  • Listening, first
  • Being Aware
  • Inquiry
  • Imaging to help with preparing
  • Withdrawal
  • Making Whole-Healing
  • Being Responsible
  • Seeking-Searching
  • Understanding

Let us continue.

Making Whole-Healing.  If those of us who espouse Greenleaf’s concept of servant, first and serve so that others grow as persons and so that as servant-institutions we strive to help co-create a society that is more just, caring and loving then we are, it seems to me, also committed to helping people heal; to help them become whole.  Greenleaf also reminds us that the root of Religion is religio – is to re-bind and make whole.

In order to serve in this way we must also strive to help ourselves heal and become whole.  For me, this is where Greenleaf’s metaphor of Community becomes crucial.  To serve in this way requires the support of a community.  The concept of community, then, has significant implications for any organized group of two or more folks who, individually and collectively, espouse Greenleaf’s concept of servant-first.  ‘Community’ is rooted in trust, safety, compassion, forgiveness and love (to name a few of the virtues and strengths of a Community).  A Community co-creates an environment where a person can bring all of him/herself; each person can be fully present.

This leads me to the next discipline:

Being Responsible.  Responsible = having a capacity for moral decisions and therefore accountable for things in one’s power.  Therefore, to act at all times rooted in moral integrity.  [Power = one’s ability to act.  The unabridged dictionary definition.  Here is my definition of Power: the extent to which one chooses to link an outer capacity for action with an inner capacity for moral reflection that is rooted in love, empathy and compassion.]

Many years ago a mentor of mine, Lowell, counseled me that in order to be responsible I need to learn to be unconditionally response-able.  He also strove to help me learn how to prepare so that I could choose to be responsible and, when necessary, to be appropriately reactive (years later, fire-fighters reinforced this idea when I had the privilege of serving them – depending upon the situation they are responsive or reactive).

Twenty years ago I had the opportunity to spend time with the owner of a number of businesses.  At that time he was 74 years old.  He told me that on his 34th birthday he made a commitment to himself (and by extension to others) that from that day forward he would not make a business decision that was not rooted in love.  This commitment was a powerful way of being responsible.

You are given three names in life.  The one you inherit.  The one your parents give you and the name you make for yourself. –Abraham Lincoln




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment