Greenleaf writes: Who is the enemy? Who is holding back more rapid movement to the better society that is reasonable and possible with available resources? Who is responsible for the mediocre performance of so many of our institutions? Who is standing in the way of a larger consensus on the definition of the better society and paths to reaching it?
Not evil people. Not stupid people. Not apathetic people. Not the ‘system.’
…The better society will come, if it comes, with plenty of evil, stupid, apathetic people around and with an imperfect, ponderous, inertia-charged ‘system’ as the vehicle for change.
…The real enemy is fuzzy thinking on the part of good, intelligent, vital people, and their failure to lead, and to follow servants as leaders. …too little preparation for and willingness to undertake the hard and high risk tasks of building better institutions in an imperfect world, too little disposition to see ‘the problem’ as residing in here and not out there.
Greenleaf wrote these words during the turbulent period of the late 60’s – unrest on college and university campuses, social-racial unrest, a growing unrest with our nation’s involvement in Vietnam. Many folks were attempting to seek out and name the ‘enemy.’ Today, more than fifty years later, we are experiencing similar dynamics and we are also seeking to name the enemy (for some it is our elected officials, for others it is racially-focused, for some it is the ‘stranger,’ or it is a faith-tradition or it is China).
I find Greenleaf’s words to be, as they were in the 60s, important words to ponder – especially for those who espouse to be servant-leaders (or servant-first folks). He continues, fifty plus years later, to challenge those of us who espouse his concept. He held up to us the two keys: institutions and society. How are servant-leaders impacting each of these today? This is the challenging, if not disturbing, question. To what extent do those of us who espouse his concept contribute via our ‘fuzzy thinking’? To what extent have we intentionally prepared ourselves to serve and to lead? To what extent are we continuing to prepare ourselves? To what extent have servants emerged as ‘action-takers’? How many of us seek to follow servant-first leaders?
How are we helping ‘natural servants’ to develop so that when they are called to lead – or when the opportunity to lead presents itself – that they are able to respond affirmatively with conviction and strength? How are we helping those who are not servants-first by ‘nature’ develop their ‘second nature’ – so serving-first becomes ‘second nature’ to them? We seem to be enamored with ‘leader-first’ — even those institutions who espouse ‘servant-leadership’ seem to emphasize ‘leader-first’ rather than ‘servant-first.’
The question, of course, is not what is happening ‘out there’ but is: ‘What is happening IN HERE – inside of each of us who espouse Greenleaf’s concept?’ This is the challenging and the disturbing question, I think. How does our clear and/or our fuzzy thinking affect our response to this question?
In desperate times, much more than anything else, folks need perspective. For perspective brings calm. Calm leads to clear thinking. –Andy Andrews