SERVANT-LEADERSHIP: POWER, PART I. . .

Greenleaf was interested in ‘applied ethics’ and hence was interested in ‘power’ – the concept and the use of. My unabridged dictionary defines power as one’s ability to act. We all have ‘power’ and by role or situation a person will have ‘more power’ than the other(s). My definition of ‘power’ expands my dictionary’s definition: Power = the extent to which one chooses to link an outer capacity for action with an inner capacity for moral reflection.

Greenleaf admonishes the servant-first (whether leader or follower) to use his or her power ethically. What does he mean? Consider the following: The Servant-first uses his or her power ethically to purposefully do no harm; to serve others’ highest priority needs; to act with integrity at all times; to be motivated by ‘love;’ to commit to one’s own and to the others’ growth, development and health.

The Servant-first is unconditionally response-able and responsible (Greenleaf was friends with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Greenleaf quotes Heschel in many of his writings; I am now thinking of Heschel’s reminder: ‘Few are guilty, but all are responsible.’). The Servant-first also strives to be appropriately reactive. Being response-able, responsible, and appropriately reactive requires, Greenleaf tells us, intentional and purpose-full preparation AND the Servant-first does not always know what he or she is preparing for. Greenleaf relates how he spent years preparing (in his mind) to stop the sub-way or the train in an emergency; then the emergency emerged and he was able to react (he did not have the time to respond) and he saved a life by doing so.

The opposite of ‘power-full’ is ‘power-less’. What is ‘powerless’? Consider the following:
• Powerless = devoid of resources (if you do not have certain resources you cannot choose to act and hence you are powerless)
• Powerless = lacking the authority or capacity to act (by role, the CEO has the authority and capacity to act in ways that no one else does; the others, then, by definition, are powerless)
• One is Powerless when: one chooses not to act; one chooses not to act rooted in moral reflection; one chooses not to develop an outer capacity to act; one chooses not to develop the inner capacity for moral reflection; one’s position/role/situation limits or prohibits one from outer action.

In PART II we will briefly explore ‘Four Types of Power’ and I will provide us with a ‘Reflective Exercise.’

I leave us this morning with the following words: The power to question is the basis of all human growth – Gandhi

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