Before I continue to quote from what I call Greenleaf’s ‘Inspired Essay’ (his first iteration of ‘The Servant as Leader’ written in 1969) I invite us to pause and reflect upon a few of Greenleaf’s ‘Characteristics’ of the Servant-first Leader. The following ‘Characteristics’ appear in Greenleaf’s ‘Inspired Essay.’
• Acts with Integrity
• Acts with Spirit
• Builds Trust
• Lifts People Up
• Helps People Grow
• Is Trustworthy
• Shows the way (therefore, helps ‘shape destinies’)
• Natural Men, Acting Naturally (In 1969 most writers used the word ‘Men’ to signify both Men and Women)
• Mortal Men – subject to error and deserving forgiveness
Both the Servant and the Leader ‘make hard choices’ and both ‘undertake rigorous preparation.’ Both are also ‘disciplined.’ Both are also thoughtful and aware. There are also four words that are ‘key words/concepts’ for Greenleaf; these words also apply to both the Servant and the Leader: Direction, Values, Competence (think Judgment), and Spirit.
As Greenleaf reminds us – over and over again in his writings – WE HAVE CHOICE! And WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO CHOOSE! For Greenleaf some of the ‘hard choices’ we make are to intentionally and purposefully develop both the Servant and the Leader Characteristics. This development requires that one ‘undertake rigorous preparation’ – simply being a good person is not enough. The end result of the rigorous preparation is that the Characteristics are integrated so that they become ‘second nature to us.’ In order to engage and sustain the rigorous preparation necessary we must be ‘disciplined’ over time (remember, Greenleaf was a gradualist and incrementalist). It is helpful to remember that for Greenleaf ‘Spirit’ is the animating force that sustains us and gives us life (as in the ‘breath of life’).
Throughout his writings Greenleaf also reminds us that we are, at our healthiest, living paradoxes. That is, we are BOTH ‘good and evil’ (Greenleaf’s words) or ‘Virtue and Vice’ or ‘Light and Darkness.’ Consistency not Perfection is our goal. Because we are imperfect (in Greenleaf’s words we are ‘Mortal’) we will err and yet we deserve forgiveness (Greenleaf frequently writes about the importance of and the need for ‘healing’).
For those of us who espouse Greenleaf’s concept of the ‘Servant-first Leader’ it might serve us well to stop, step back, take an inventory focusing upon the Characteristics so that we might discern which we need to develop or develop more fully. Once identified we might then choose the rigorous preparation required of us in order that we might develop them or develop them more fully so that, with application, over time, we deeply imbed them so they become ‘second nature’ to us.