Responsible people build; they do not destroy. They are moved by the heart. –Greenleaf
In 1984 Greenleaf wrote an essay he titled: ‘Reflections on a Strategy for Change.’ Early on in his essay he wrote the following:
If one wants to be a civilization-building rather than a neutral or destroying influence, how does one know what to do, and how does one know, after the fact, that one has done it?
One accepts, first, that ‘means determine ends.’ Then one is skeptical about striving directly for idealistic ends (somewhat regardless of means) and hopes, rather, to be a part of an evolving situation to which one makes one’s contribution with right actions.
For Greenleaf ‘Being preceded Doing. Being formed, informed and sustained Doing and Doing also formed, informed and sustained Being.’ For Greenleaf there were a number of ways of ‘Being.’ Consider these few ways of ‘Being’: Being Authentic, Being Present, Being Awake/Aware, Being Present, Being Vulnerable, Being Faithful, Being Effective, Being Distinctive. Since organizations, for Greenleaf, are organic then they too are called ‘To Be’ in these ways.
Greenleaf believed that the servant, first – leader and follower and organization – was called to and challenged to help ‘build’ (think: co-create) a society that is more just and more caring. The society will become more just and more caring – and more serving; this ‘becoming’ is an evolutionary not a revolutionary process. I believe that if Greenleaf were alive today that he would expand his challenge to the ‘servant, first’ by challenging the ‘servant, first’ to build a more just and caring global community.
‘Means determine ends.’ Many years ago I emerged, for myself, a guiding question in response to Greenleaf’s statement. Here is my guiding question: ‘To what ends and by what means?’ The servant, I believe, must be clear as to ‘what ends’. What does a just and caring society look like, sound like, feel like, and act like? What are the core values and core guiding principles that must be embraced and integrated in order for the ‘end’ to be realized? What are the ingredients that must be present for a society to be judged as a just and caring society?
Given the response to these questions what, then, are the ‘means’ that the servant (person and organization) might employ in order to ensure the co-creation of a more just and caring society?
Given that we are now living in a truly interdependent global community what would a global community that is more just and caring look like, sound like, feel like and act like? What are the core values and core guiding principles that a global community that is more just and caring embrace and integrate? What are the ingredients that must be present for a global community to be judged to be just and caring?
Greenleaf is clear: All of this begins with the individual. The individual servant, first’ must seek to become a more just and caring person/servant. The person is not an ‘island’ unto him/herself and so each person must also have the support ‘of a community. There are a number of small communities that must support the person. The communities themselves would then become ‘servant, first’ communities (families, churches, schools, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, and then the society itself and then I add the global community).
Is all of this ‘real’? Is all of this ‘truly possible?’ There are, for me, enough indicators – individuals, communities and organizations that have embraced and integrated Greenleaf’s challenge that given enough time we can co-create and evolve a more just and caring society and global community. The key, for me, is to be faithful to the endeavor. Mother Teresa reminded me of this when she said: ‘I am called to be faithful; I am not called to be effective!’
If a better society is to be built, one more just and more caring… –Greenlea