The prime test of persuasion is that the change is truly voluntary. –Robert K. Greenleaf

Good day, Gentle Reader.  Today I am going to offer us a lengthy quotation from one of Greenleaf’s unpublished essays.  I do not know the date of this draft but given that he does not mention ‘servant’ or servant-leader’ I assume he wrote the draft prior to 1969.

As I noted in other posts, Greenleaf defines ‘persuasion’ as ‘influence’.  For our purposes today I invite you to hold two definitions: Persuasion= to convince via logical argument [‘Argument’ in the Socratic sense not in the sense of ‘winning an argument’] so the person freely states: ‘This is where I choose to stand.  Influence = the capacity to use inquiry rooted in integrity, over time, in order to allow the other to emerge and to emotionally own his/her own thoughts and behaviors/actions so they will choose to be unconditionally response-able, responsible, appropriately reactive and accountable.

Greenleaf writes: One accepts that all initiatives are taken by individuals, not by institutions.  Two kinds of initiatives are suggested:

  • Address, from the outside, the holders of ultimate coercive power in one institution at a time. Undertake to persuade [and influence]
  • Establish oneself inside some institution, avoid a coercive power role as much as possible, and slowly evolve as a persuader [and influencer] wherever there is opportunity.

 Both roles require diligent preparation.  One should not assume, just because one’s motives are good, that one is effective as a persuader [or influencer]

 This approach…has the virtue of being evolutionary rather than revolutionary.  The holders of the ultimate power need not commit themselves to a new and untried ideology (although one may evolve that they will be committed to).  They have an intent rather than a plan.  What is important is that the holders of coercive power, who are probably going to be ‘in charge’ for some time, (1) understand the value of persuasion [and influence] as the prime force(s) in the institution, (2) accept that they are inhibited from being persuasive [or influential] because they hold coercive power, (3) resolve to liberate as much persuasive [and influential] energy as they can, and (4) stand aside so that persuasion [and influence] can do the work.

These are not wholly new ideas.  In our time it has become urgent that their impact should be greatly expanded – by persuasion [and influence].

 …Just one able and dedicated persuader [and influencer], standing alone, can be powerful.

What emerges for you, Gentle Reader, as you take the time to ‘Consider’ what Greenleaf offers us today?

…everyone is charged to lift what is low, to unite what is apart, to advance what is left behind. –Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

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