In his ‘inspired’ seminal essay (1969), The Servant as Leader, Greenleaf asks and responds to an important question.  This morning I have decided to type out his question and his response.  I invite you, gentle reader, to take some time and reflect upon his question and his response.

Greenleaf writes:

Who is the enemy?

 Who is the enemy?  Who is holding back more rapid movement to the better society that is reasonably possible with available resources?  Who is responsible for the mediocre performance of so many of our institutions?  Who is standing in the way of a large consensus on the definition of the better society and paths to reaching it?

 Not evil people.  Not stupid people.  Not apathetic people. Not the ‘system.’  Not the protesters, the disrupters, the revolutionaries, the reactionaries.

 Granting that fewer evil, stupid, or apathetic people or a better ‘system’ might make the job easier, their removal would not change matters, not for long. The better society will come, if it comes, with plenty of evil, stupid, apathetic people around and with an imperfect, ponderous, inertia-charge ‘system’ as the vehicle for change.  Liquidate the offending people, radically alter or destroy the system, and in less than a generation they will all be back.  It is not the nature of things that a society can be cleaned up once and for all according to an ideal plan. 

 And even if it were possible, who would want to live in an asceptic world?  Evil, stupidity, apathy, the ‘system’ are not the enemy even though society-building forces will be contending with them all the time. 

 The healthy society, like the healthy body, is not the one that has taken the most medicine.  It is the one in which the internal health-building forces are in the best shape.

 The real enemy is fuzzy thinking on the part of good, intelligent, vital people, and their failure to lead.  Too many settle for being critics and experts.  There is…too little preparation for and willingness to undertake the hard, and sometimes corrupting, tasks of building better institutions in an imperfect world, too little disposition to see ‘the problem’ as residing in here and not out there.

 In short, the enemy is servants who have the potential to lead but do not lead.

Gentle reader, as you reflect upon Greenleaf’s words, what questions, observations, challenges, and considerations emerge into your consciousness?   How are you developing and deepening your servant-nature and your potential to lead so that when you are called to lead you are able to respond to the call with a firm and powerful ‘YES!’

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