Greenleaf asks: ‘Who is the servant? How does one tell a truly giving, enriching servant from the neutral person or the one whose net influence is to take away from or diminish other people?’
In response to this, Greenleaf tells the story of the Rabbi who was asked how one tells the difference between the true and the false prophets. The Rabbi’s answer was succinct and to the point, “There is no way!”. . . “If there were a way, if one had a gauge to slip over the head of the prophet, there would be no human dilemma and life would not be worth living.”
Greenleaf then continued: ‘So it is with the servant… If there were a dependable way that would tell us, “the man enriches by his presence, he is neutral, or he takes away,” life would be without challenge. Yet it is terribly important that one ‘know,’ both about himself [emphasis is mine]and about others, whether the net effect of his influence on others enriches, is neutral, or diminishes and depletes.’
One of the ways we can begin to discern the answer is to reflect upon our experiences. Consider, Gentle Reader, that Reflection Plus Experience opens the pathway to learning. Here is a question that I hold for myself: ‘What is the affect and effect upon my self and upon others?’
Affect = the emotional by-products. Are we and/or others more ‘fearful,’ more ‘spiteful,’ more ‘angry,’ or more ‘anxious’ or are we/they more ‘content,’ ‘peace-full,’ ‘relaxed,’ joy-full,’ or ‘hope-full’? Effect = are we and/or others more ‘productive,’ ‘trusting,’ ‘motivated,’ is our/their work ‘distinctive’ and ‘meaning-full’ in itself,’ do we and/or others freely give of our/their discretionary-energy (the energy that is freely given, the energy that money cannot buy).
Another way of responding is to examine the percentage of time we coerce, manipulate, persuade or influence others. The more we coerce and manipulate the less likely others will be ‘enriched’ by our actions; more than not they will be diminished by them. ‘Good parents’ who seek to live into and out of Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test’ and who seek to serve their children’s ‘highest priority needs’ will, at times coerce and manipulate their children. The question is ‘why’ are they choosing to do so and how are they responding to the consequences of their coercing and manipulating. A parent might well coerce their youngster so he or she won’t play in the street. They will also be aware of the emotional ‘fall-out’ and will seek to help the child understand the ‘why’ behind the coercion.
Another way is help folks develop healthy relationships (ones rooted in trust, compassion and caring, for example) between and among individuals and groups (teams, departments, etc.). We know that folks are more accepting, tolerant, and forgiving of others in direct proportion to the quality of the relationships they have with them.
There are other ways and I invite you, Gentle Reader, to emerge them and reflect upon them and engage them (or modify and engage one of the examples I offered above).