‘Everything begins with the initiative of an individual. The forces of good or evil in the world are propelled by the thoughts, attitudes, and actions of individual beings.’ [The Servant as Leader circa 1969, p.12]
Each of us contains the seeds of ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ Each of us, therefore, is capable of doing great good and of doing great evil. History continues to prove this to be true. An important, if not crucial, question for each of us is Do I truly believe that I am capable of doing great good and that I am also capable of doing great evil? A corollary question: Do I believe that human beings are inherently good or do I believe that human beings are inherently evil? My responses to these questions will dramatically influence, if not determine, how I will serve, follow and lead.
Both good and evil are propelled by our consciousness – our thoughts, by our character – our attitudes, and by our conduct – our actions. For me, this short statement sums up Greenleaf’s Legacy: Consciousness, Character, Conduct. The key is not ‘out there’ nor is it simply contained within ‘what we do.’ The key, the essence for Greenleaf, always begins with the ‘individual’ – a blending of three: Consciousness, Character, Conduct.
Each dimension is of equal importance. The additional dimensions, Relationships & Organizations are simply manifestations of the individual writ large.
Greenleaf continues to be counter-cultural in that in his writings he calls us back, again and again, to the fact that as a human being, at my healthiest, I am a living paradox; I am good and evil, I am light and darkness, I am virtue and vice. If I am going to be a servant, either follower or leader, I must as Socrates admonished us many centuries ago come to know myself. This is the starting point. Our culture continues to marginalize if not totally ignore the first two dimensions: Consciousness and Character. Our culture continues to emphasize what we do. Our culture is also enamored with the concept of ‘leader.’ As a culture we struggle with the concepts of serving and following — we seek to be the leader; we can see the many ways each of us has integrated this aspect of our culture into our lives if not into who we are . The ‘leadership books’ and workshops, seminars and courses – even many of those espousing a version of servant-leadership – continue to emphasize and focus on leading and on the doing part of leadership.
Greenleaf calls us to something greater, broader, deeper and more complex and hence something that is truly counter-cultural; he calls us to weave together, to integrate if you will, these three dimensions: Consciousness, Character, Conduct.
Here is a photo of Bob that his son Newcomb sent me. This is not a photo of a man that is simply doing–centered.