We all must be serving someone or something. –Maya Angelou
In Part I (see 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 more autonomous. What might this mean? My unabridged dictionary offers us the following definitions to consider: self-governing; independent; not subject to control from the outside; existing and functioning as an independent organism. When Greenleaf wrote his seminal essay in 1969-1970 our country was enamored with the ‘self-actualization’ movement and Greenleaf was in tune with our culture. Greenleaf was also intensely aware of what was influencing the college/university students at that time and the ‘self-actualization movement’ was powerfully influencing them. Given all of this, it makes sense to me that Greenleaf would include ‘becoming more autonomous’ in his definition. Today he might include ‘being more interdependent’ rather than simply becoming more autonomous.
It also makes sense to me that Greenleaf would include the ‘more autonomous’ concept because he believed that the servant-leader’s first observation is ‘what is going on in-here, inside of me’ rather than looking ‘out there.’ In order to look ‘in here’ first, one must have a sense of being an autonomous, response-able and responsible human being.
Those served are more likely themselves to become servants. Your serving me influences me to choose to become a servant myself. Your serving me calls forth my servant nature. Your serving me might result in my pausing to reflect upon the ways I serve – or do not serve – others. Your serving me might help me become more aware of those whom I might serve – and I might then choose to serve them. I grew up with parents who believed that one good turn would create another good turn; they modeled this for us. They did not preach about serving others; they modeled for us what is was to serve others. As adults, each of us chose a ‘serving profession.’
Have you, gentle reader, experienced being served in ways that motivated you to then serve?
We have two more ‘Best Test’ statements to consider and we will briefly explore those next time.
Who or what are you choosing to serve, right now? –Maya Angelou