In Part I [17 July, 2020] we began to explore Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test.’ Today we will continue our exploration. As a reminder, here is the opening paragraph from Part I:
[How do we identify the servant and the servant-first leader? Greenleaf provides us his ‘best test.’ Greenleaf writes: The best test, and difficult to administer, is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will he benefit, or, at least, will he not be further deprived? [NOTE: In 1980 he added a sentence to his best test; he wrote] No one will knowingly be hurt by the action, directly or indirectly.]
Those served become healthier. What might this mean? As fully human beings we can become healthier or dis-eased in at least five ways: Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally, and Spirit(ually) and Socially (think: Relationships).
We are entrusted with our well-being and we are unconditionally response-able and responsible for our health in each of the first four dimensions. We are also response-able and responsible for the ‘health’ of our relationships. So we are charged with our individual health and the health of each of our relationships.
Greenleaf also noted that at our healthiest we, each of us, is a living paradox. We are, in his words, good and evil. We are virtue and vice. We are light and darkness. Our charge is to choose more ‘good’ than ‘evil’ and to choose more ‘virtue’ than ‘vice’ and to choose to bring more ‘light’ than ‘darkness’ to our world. We will never be perfect so ‘consistency’ is the goal – today, I will seek to be a bit more consistent when it comes to choosing ‘the good,’ when I am choosing to be ‘virtuous,’ and when I am choosing to bring ‘light’ to my world.
Those served become wiser. What might this mean? My unabridged dictionary’s first definition of ‘wise’ is: having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion. The Oracle of Delphi identified the wisest person in the world to be Socrates. Why? Socrates was ‘wise’ because he knew that he did not know! We often speak of and refer to ‘wisdom figures.’ We can name them: Confucius, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Black Elk, Zoroaster, Hammurabi, and Socrates to name but a few. Why did we choose – and why do we continue to choose – to label these folks as ‘wisdom figures?’ For me, I like my unabridged dictionary’s definition – it provides me with the guidelines I need and it provides me with the challenges one needs to address in order to be considered to be ‘wise.’ This definition also provides me with a guideline to judge whether the one being served does indeed become ‘wiser’ because of his/her being served.
Those served become freer. What might this mean? In my dictionary there are at least 41 definitions of ‘free.’ For our purposes, I am drawn to two of these: enjoying personal rights or liberty and able to do something at will. Too often, I have found, some folks equate ‘freedom’ with ‘license’ (unrestrained freedom). It seems to me that ‘free’ and ‘being responsible,’ especially being ‘morally responsible and morally response-able,’ go hand-in-hand or one might easily be tempted to move toward ‘license.’ I also refer us to Eric Fromm’s powerful book, ‘Escape From Freedom.’ He suggests that we humans ‘fear freedom’ and that we seek to escape from ‘freedom.’ I invite you, gentle reader, to spend some time reading and reflecting upon Fromm’s ideas about freedom and our desire to escape from freedom.
We will continue exploring Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test’ next time.