This morning, gentle reader, I will continue to offer passages from a piece that Greenleaf wrote in 1962. Perhaps some of them will speak to you. Greenleaf writes:
The most outstanding developer I know about had at the center of his philosophy the idea that the really important lessons in the managerial art are learned only as the result of error, suffering the consequences of error and gathering wisdom from the total experience.
Philosophy. Each of us has integrated a ‘philosophy of life.’ Servant-first folks have also integrated a ‘philosophy of serving.’ Servant-Leaders have integrated a ‘philosophy of serving and leading.’ I can begin to understand, or understand more fully, my philosophies by emerging, naming, and examining my core values (the 2-3 values that I will, to the best of my ability, never compromise), by examining my core guiding principles (the 2-3 that, to the best of my ability I will never compromise), by examining my deep tacit assumptions (about the world, about people, about myself, etc.) and deciding which to hold onto, which to let go of, and which, if any, to take on. I can also begin to understand my philosophies by examining my ‘ways of being’ – consider these: Being Authentic, Being Vulnerable, Being Faithful, Being Congruent, Being Consistent, Being Unconditionally Response-Able and Responsible, and Being Trust-Worthy.
Art. Greenleaf is consistent, even prior to writing about the Servant-as-Leader he noted that ‘Managing’ and ‘Leading’ are ‘arts.’ Science and analytics are important. Yet, most of the important decisions that Managers and Leaders make are made rooted in a combination of intuition, wisdom (think: learning from experience) and creativity. Why? For the simple reason that seldom does the Manager or Leader have all of the information needed AND yet a decision must be made.
Error. As humans we are, at our best, imperfect and, as Greenleaf noted in his later writings, living paradoxes (think: we are both ‘good and evil’ – Greenleaf’s words, or are ‘virtue and vice’ or are ‘light and darkness’). We do not walk the talk as much as we stumble the mumble. The question is not ‘Will I err?’ The question is: ‘What will I learn from my error?’ Charles Handy reminds us that: Experience plus Reflection is the Learning. Organizations and Relationships invest a great deal in providing us the opportunity to learn from our errors. How often do we consciously take advantage of these opportunities?
Consequences. There are two types of consequences: Intended and Unintended. How often do we plan with the ‘Intended Consequences’ in mind? How often do we plan AND develop scenarios where ‘Unintended Consequences’ dominate? Why do Managers and Leaders refuse to take the time to identify potential-possible ‘Unintended Consequences’? How often are Individuals-Relationships-Organizations caught off guard or derailed by ‘Unintended Consequences’?
Gathering Wisdom. Consider that ‘Wisdom’ = knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action. Wisdom is rooted in sagacity, discernment, and insight. Wisdom is only possible with experience-learning over time. A young person can become ‘wise beyond his/her years’ if the young person has learned from certain life experiences. Most of us do not begin to drink from the well-of-wisdom until we are older. I am now recalling one of my mentors, Lowell, who was frustrated with/by me (I was 31 years old at the time and Lowell had been my mentor for close to four years). He said to me: Richard, I am confused. You want me to lead you to the font of wisdom. I lead you there. When you get there all you want to do is gargle. When are you going to decide to drink?
How often, gentler reader, have you stood before the ‘font of wisdom’ and have decided to gargle rather than drink?