Responsible people build; they do not destroy.  They are moved by the heart. –Robert K. Greenleaf

This morning, Gentle Reader, we will explore a number of ‘Disciplines’ that I have found helpful when it comes to the servant-leader preparing without knowing what he or she is preparing for.  I have also experienced that these ‘Disciplines’ help servant-leaders become more unconditionally response-able and responsible so they are more capable of living into and out of Greenleaf’s ‘Responsible people build; they do not destroy.  They are moved by the heart.’


  • Being Present = being awake and aware, intentional & purpose-full in the ‘now.’ Bringing all of one’s self to the ‘now’ – how many times do we physically show up but are intellectually ruminating about the past or anticipating the future; how many times are we focusing on an emotion or two and hence not fully available to the other?  Greenleaf does remind us that being awake and aware does not necessarily bring comfort – often they bring disturbance.
  • Reflection = experience PLUS reflection supports our learning. Consider that the servant-leader embraces three roles at the same time: reflective-participant-observer.  Some common ‘blocks’ to the ‘Discipline of Reflection’ include, but are not limited to, the following: hyper-stimulation, hyper-noise (both internal and external noise), hyper-busyness,’ distractions and ‘addictions.’
  • Listening Intently & Receptively = listening first in order to seek to understand & empathize (consider that ‘caring’ is rooted in ‘empathy’). Listening in this way also requires the servant-leader to invite and honor all voices.  Greenleaf also challenges us to hold this question: When I speak, how will that improve on the silence?
  • Framing Effective Questions = these are questions that arise from a place of not-knowing’ (Thanks Parker Palmer). These are questions that probe, challenge, and help one ‘go deeper.’  These questions are framed and offered with the belief & attitude that the one receiving them has the potential to respond intelligently, creatively & truthfully.
  • Framing ‘Aching’ Questions = ‘Aching Questions’ might be, for one person, life-after-death questions; for another they might be ‘problem of suffering’ questions. These questions are personal and are to be held not only by individuals but by ‘teams’ (think: departments, divisions, etc.) and by the organization (it is crucial to remember that for Greenleaf ‘organizations’ are living entities; they are communities).  These questions are also ‘profound’ and ‘immediate’ (think: a profound ethical-moral dilemma or a challenge that involves the ‘direction’ a person, team or organization is considering taking).
  • Balancing ‘Being Faithful’ with ‘Being Effective’ = it is crucial for a person, a team and an organization to be effective’ (Greenleaf speaks of choosing to act with distinction rather than to embrace mediocrity). It is also crucial for a person, a team and an organization to embrace being faithful.  I learned about the importance of being faithful in 1995 when I heard Mother Teresa respond to a young reporter’s question with: ‘Young man, I am not called to be effective, I am called to be faithful.’  What is the servant-leader called to be faithful to?  Consider: Acting at all times, rooted in integrity.  Or, serving so that others grow as persons.  There are ‘core values’ and ‘core guiding principles’ that the servant-leader and the servant-first and the servant institution must remain faithful to even if they might risk being ineffective.  Consider, the Tylenol poisonings in the early 1980s.  The President of Johnson & Johnson, James Burke, chose to follow J&J’s ‘Credo’ and risk a big financial hit rather than seek to choose for effectiveness (by the by, J&J did take a financial hit).

I leave us today, Gentle Reader, with several questions that I invite you to reflect upon.  These questions might also help you emerge additional questions.


  • At this time in your life which discipline do you need to develop, or develop more fully? What is your motivation for doing so?
  • Specifically, what are you willing to commit to in order to develop this discipline, or to develop it more fully?
  • How will you know that you have developed it, or developed it more fully?
  • We all have ‘favorite’ ways of hindering or blocking our own development – what are some of your favorite ways that you might ‘call upon’ in order not to help yourself develop or develop more fully one or more of these ‘Disciplines’?


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s