In 1980 Greenleaf wrote: My position is: if we are to move toward a more caring, serving society than we now have, competition must be muted. . . I believe that serving and competing are antithetical; the stronger the urge to serve, the less the interest in competing. . . The servant is importantly concerned with the consequences of his actions: those being served, 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 they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived? And, no one will knowingly be hurt by the action? – the servant is strong without competing. But, unfortunately, we have decreed that ours shall be a competitive society.
This is one of those challenging and stimulating passages that have consistently given me pause. When I have shared this with business folks (I almost typed in ‘fools’ rather than ‘folks’ – Freud would have been proud) their verbal response was akin to: ‘This is airy-fairy stuff; the real world does not act this way – the real world is competitive by nature.’ Ah, but is it? Greenleaf suggests we spend time reading, reflecting upon and talking about (via searching conversations) Peter Kropotkin’s book ‘Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution’ – for Kindle books this is a free download and one can also find the complete book free on-line in a pdf format. Kropotkin invites us to consider that we humans, by nature, are communal and cooperative – not competitive. More recent research regarding ‘caring’ and ‘empathy’ support his idea.
Of course, in order to actually search one must, according to Greenleaf, be a seeker. A seeker is open to the possibility that he or she will be influenced by the search; people who are ‘sure’ do not need to search and seek for they already ‘know.’ Searching and seeking are rooted in doubt and curiosity and inquiry and possibilities.
Greenleaf also provides us with an ‘antidote’ to competition. Serving – with distinction. This directs us to the concept of ‘high achievement.’ Walt Disney was rooted in ‘high achievement’ and ‘serving with distinction’ more than ‘competition.’ He needed (not just wanted) his competitors to be successful. Why? Because he believed that if they were successful (and he also helped a number of them become highly successful) he would be able to achieve more and become even more distinctive (and he was able to do so on both accounts). Professional athletes who are ‘true’ superstars also want their opponents to be high achievers for if they are then it will enable them to continue to function at a high level (many superstars spend time helping their counterparts improve).
High achievement is rooted in an abundance mentality/model. Competition is rooted in a scarcity mentality/model. Currently we are four weeks into the National Football League schedule. The high achievers like Brady, Manning, Brees, and Luck continue to help make those around them better; the ‘wanna be’ stars (who will go nameless at this time) continue to complain that they do not have the defense or the offensive weapons necessary to compete. The former are rooted in an abundance mentality and continue to be high achievers; the latter are rooted in a scarcity mentality and continue to be rooted in competition and continue to be under-achievers (by the by – ‘talent’ is not the difference here for a number of these under-achieving ‘leaders’ are quite talented). How about you, gentle reader, are you rooted in an abundance model or in a scarcity model? Do you seek to be high achieving or do you get caught up in mere competition? Is Walt Disney your mentor?