…if one is servant or leader, one is always searching. –Robert K. Greenleaf
Consider that Greenleaf’s concept is inherently moral-ethical. There are few leadership concepts that are; most are amoral (neither inherently moral nor immoral). Given, this, Greenleaf is clear: Power must be used ethically-morally (remember Greenleaf’s first center was ‘The Center for Applied Ethics’). Let’s explore this concept: Power.
Consider this first definition from an unabridged dictionary: Power = one’s ability to act. This is an amoral definition. It is also a definition that challenges many of the definitions of ‘power’ that we generally hold (think: coercive power, for example). Given Greenleaf’s concept that power must be ethically-morally grounded I have emerged the following definition for power.
Power = the extent to which one chooses to link an outer capacity for action with an inner capacity for moral reflection.
Given this, consider the servant-first and the servant-leader and his/her Moral-Ethical Use of Power: to purposefully do no harm; to serve others’ highest priority needs; to act at all times rooted in integrity; to be motivated by ‘love-care;’ to commit to serving so that self and others grow as persons; to embrace the paradox that at our best we humans are living paradoxes of ‘good and evil’ (Greenleaf’s words; others soften these with ‘virtue-vice’ or ‘light-darkness’ or ‘light-shadow’).
A Moral-Ethical Use of Power also means that one will choose to be unconditionally response-able and responsible; to prepare in order to be able to appropriately respond.
A Moral-Ethical Use of Power also means that one will intentionally and purposefully prepare in order to be able to appropriately react.
A Moral-Ethical Use of Power also means that one will, at specific times, choose to be faithful to… rather than choose to be effective. For example, one will choose to be faithful to acting rooted in integrity even if this ‘acting’ might put ‘being effective’ at risk (remember, J&J chose being faithful to their ‘Credo’ and experienced, as a consequence, the loss of profit and market share. J&J did recover…however, when J&J made the decision there was no guarantee that they would recover).
Before we explore four ways leaders use their power let’s stop and reflect a bit on the concept of Powerless. Consider the following:
- Powerless = devoid of resources
- Powerless = lacking the authority or capacity to act
- One is Powerless When:
- One chooses ‘Not to Act’
- One chooses not to act with ‘Moral Reflection’
- One choose not to develop the ‘Outer Capacity to Act’
- One chooses not to develop the ‘Inner Capacity for Moral Reflection’
- One’s position-role limits or prohibits one from ‘Outer Action’
We become our habits. –Aristotle