Consider, gentle reader, that Servant Leadership is concerned with certain Disciplines that we are called to develop, integrate and enact.  Aristotle noted that we become our habits.  Our Disciplines become habitual.  Here is a short-list of the Disciplines that Greenleaf speaks to in his writings:

  • Being Present = being fully present in the ‘now.’ How often are we present physically but not emotionally or intellectually?
  • Listening = When confronted with a challenge (think: paradox, problem, polarity or dilemma) the servant-first leader always, Greenleaf notes, listens first. The servant-leader listens first in order to seek to understand.
  • Inquiry = The servant-leader supports his or her Being Present and his or her commitment to Listen-first via the Discipline of Inquiry. I have yet to meet a servant-leader (or any leader) who cannot benefit from developing more fully their skill and capacity for Inquiry.
  • Balancing ‘Being Faithful’ with ‘Being Effective and Efficient’ = The question of course: What must a servant-leader be faithful to even if he or she might not be effective or efficient? This question must also be held by teams (or departments or divisions or organizations).  One ‘obvious’ response: The servant-leader must be faithful to his or her integrity.  To the best of the servant-leader’s ability he or she will never compromise his or her integrity.  Put another way, individuals and organized groups choose servant-leadership because for them this is the ‘right way to be in the world.’  It becomes a major, if not ‘the’ major, tap root that sustains them during the tough times.
  • Being Vulnerable = The servant-leader takes risks, seeks to be ‘transparent,’ opens oneself up to criticism, and, perhaps most importantly, seeks to ‘carry the wounds delivered’ with grace. ‘Vulnerable’ comes from the Latin ‘vulnus’ and ‘vulnus’ means to carry the wound with grace.
  • Caring-Loving = Greenleaf’s big dream and big challenge for the servant-leader and servant-organization is to serve so that our society becomes more just, caring-loving.

Servant-Leadership is also concerned with what I call Essential Life Agreements.  Again, the individual servant-first and all organized groups of two or more (think: team, department, division and organization) have integrated into their ‘being’ Essential Life Agreements.  It might take some time and effort for the servant-first to raise these to a conscious level – and decide which ones to keep and which ones to let go of and replace.

As an example, here are my Essential Life Agreements (as an imperfect human being I continue to strive to live into and out of these with more consistency).  I invite you, gentle reader, to emerge your own.

Richard’s Essential Life-Agreements

  • Speak rooted in Integrity
  • Listen with Undefended Receptivity
  • Inquire from a place of Trust and Not Knowing
  • Act from a Core of Deep Love


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