KNOWLEDGE IS BUT A TOOL. . .

Greenleaf writes: …we are acting on the principle that knowledge, not the spirit, is power.  Knowledge is but a tool.  The spirit is of the essence.

What is Greenleaf referring to?  The ‘spirit’ resides within the person, within the people.  Tap into the ‘spirit’ and great things can happen.  A well-known passage from ‘Proverbs’ captures, for Greenleaf, this idea: Where there is no vision, the people perish.  A powerful, shared, vision will call forth and animate the ‘spirit’ within the person and the people.

The folks that help make up an organization (remember, organizations are individuals and relationships writ large) can be full of knowledge and go through the motions of mediocrity; they work without ‘passion’ (spirit); they work without ‘heart’ (spirit).

A powerful vision can animate or re-animate spirit.  Once upon a time there was a company that had gone from making the ‘best product’ in the world (in its industry) to making, literally, the worst.  They did not lose their knowledge; they lost their spirit.  The board of directors finally made a significant decision – to hire a ‘spirit-maker’ (my words) not a holder of knowledge (in this case, ‘product knowledge’).

The new president caled all of the knowledge-holders together (thousands of them) and told them: ‘You know how to make the best product in the world.  You all know that I do not – this should free you up.’  He continued: ‘I will go out and listen to our customers – past and present – and they will describe to me what they want you to build.  I will come back and tell you and you will then build it.’  He did and they did.  Within a few years they were once again making the best product in the world (and after another two generations they continue to do so).

This is an example of ‘spirit in action.’  You cannot pay for this – you have to call it forth.  A powerful vision – plus a commitment to living into and of the vision – is one way of energizing or re-energizing ‘spirit.’

Not ‘any old vision’ will do, by the by.  Folks, Greenleaf notes, must be inspired by a vision that lifts their sights to act on what they know.  This, of course, means that the ‘leaders’ must believe that the followers have the knowledge and the skill so they can, indeed, act on what they know OR the leaders must provide learning opportunities so folks can develop, or develop more fully, the knowledge and skills needed.

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