GRADUALISM, PART II. . .

Greenleaf writes:

This encounter [Note: See Part I for the ‘Encounter’]…is an important example because it reveals one of the flaws in contemporary society: that the way our institutions are commonly structured, all of them…all tend to be governed by a single chief atop a pyramidal bureaucracy.  This chief who didn’t want to understand his problem so he could move on quickly to another one, was able, honest, intelligent, and hard-working, with good personal habits.  He had all of the virtues one would like to see in such a person except the desire for understanding.  He didn’t have time to be understanding.  And he was surrounded by a staff of able but unreflective managers like himself…

 When I wrote my essay, ‘The Institution as Servant’ and sharply challenged the prevailing pattern of a single chief atop a pyramid, I had in mind the incident I just described.

 In the tenure of another chief I proposed a study… I found myself in that chief’s office to defend my proposal.  After listening a bit, he turned it down.  “Takes too much time,” he said, “The need is too urgent.”  “OK,” I said, “I will make you a wager.  Let’s each put some money in an envelope and give it to your secretary to be opened in a year.  I will wager that if you will not do this project, or something of equal depth, in a year this problem will be here, just like it is today.”  He wouldn’t bet.  But I would have won, because in a year the problem was there, just the same…

 There may be very few pure types of either gradualist or confrontationalist.  In my own experience as predominantly a gradualist, I have occasionally swung fast on something and later regretted it…

 I have not produced any clear criteria that would guide a gradualist in making an exception.  I can only counsel: think about the consequences before you act…

 In emphasizing a sharp distinction between the two styles, I want to make a special point for those who see themselves as servants: I hope they will give careful thought to the consequences of their acts on people, all of the people who are touched by the action in any way.  And to caution them to be wary that when they reform something in a hurry, to be sure that the remedy is long lasting…that it is spirit-nurturing.

 Spirit.  What are we talking about?  [To be continued]

 

 

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