Nosce te Ipsum: Know Thyself. –The Oracle

Greenleaf’s Legacy: Consciousness, Character, Conduct.

Unlike most theories of leadership, Greenleaf does not begin with Conduct.  He begins with two major tap roots that feed, nurture and support Conduct; he begins with Consciousness & Character.

Consciousness & Character form, inform and guide – and at times directly determine – one’s Conduct.  These tap roots determine what I will choose to do, or not do.  They will determine to what extent I choose to be responsive or reactive and whether I will do so appropriately or inappropriately.  They will also determine whether I will choose to be unconditionally response-able and responsible.

Greenleaf’s good friend, the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel noted that ‘Few are guilty but all are responsible.’  A ‘wake-up’ statement if there ever was one.  [AN ASIDE: Gentle Reader, if you have never read Heschel’s writings I invite you to check them out.  If you read Heschel you might discern how he influenced Greenleaf’s thinking.]

The servant-person (think: individual, leader, trustee, teacher, ‘minister’) and the servant-institution (think: any organized group…including boards of directors) are entrusted with the care and development of individuals and of all organized groups – including society (today Greenleaf might well add the ‘Global Community’).

Put simply: The servant-person and the servant-institution are charged with serving others’ highest priority needs.  They are charged with living into and out of the servant’s Best Test.  They are charged with serving the society in ways that enable the society to become more just, caring and loving.

In order to ‘conduct’ themselves in these ways, the servant-person and the servant-institution must choose to be awake and aware (Consciousness) now.  For Greenleaf ‘now’ has two meanings.  One involves a period of time, say from today to six months ago and from today to six months out.  The other involves a period of time that involves a few minutes of ‘now’ – at this time.

Being Conscious means being fully present ‘now’ – one brings all of one’s self to the ‘now.’  Being Conscious also means being awake and aware to what is emerging from within oneself and to being aware of what is emerging from within the other(s) and to being aware of what is emerging or of what already exists within the environment (the near environment but also the wider, even global, environment).

Greenleaf is clear: This type of awareness does not bring comfort or solace.  This type of awareness brings disturbance.  [AN ASIDE: Gentle Reader is you are not familiar with Anthony de Mello’s powerful book, Awareness, I invite you to check it out.]  For example, one will become aware of the injustice that exists within an organized group (because all groups are composed of imperfect human beings injustice will exist; being aware helps reveal the extent of the injustice and this awareness will be disturbing to the servant).

In addition to being conscious of who one is, the servant is also charged with being conscious of what he or she chooses – and why.  For example, here are a few guiding questions: Who am I? Who am I choosing to become?  Why am I choosing this becoming?  When is my serving potentially immoral? 

Greenleaf emphasizes Being & Doing.  I also invite you, Gentle Reader, to explore the concepts of Being & Having (this is crucial for our Culture of Having and Consuming).  I invite you, Gentle Reader, to spend time with Erich Fromm’s powerful book: To Have or To Be?

There are three things extremely hard…steel, a diamond and to know one’s self. –Benjamin Franklin


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