A QUESTION – ‘WHO IS THE ENEMY?’ – PART I. . .

Greenleaf writes: Who is the enemy?  Who is holding back more rapid movement to the better society that is reasonable and possible with available resources?  Who is responsible for the mediocre performance of so many of our institutions?  Who is standing in the way of a larger consensus on the definition of the better society and paths to reaching it? 

Not evil people.  Not stupid people.  Not apathetic people.  Not the ‘system.’ …The better society will come, if it comes, with plenty of evil, stupid, apathetic people around and with an imperfect, ponderous, inertia-charged ‘system’ as the vehicle for change.  …The healthy society…is the one in which the internal health building forces are in the best shape.

Greenleaf reminds us that his ‘big dream’ also involves our co-creating a ‘better society’ – one that is ‘more just and caring’ and ‘more serving.’  He is not looking for us to co-create the perfect society; he is inviting us and challenging us to co-create a society that is ‘reasonable and possible with available resources.’  He often asks us: Are you using your current resources fully and wisely?  How many individuals, teams, departments, divisions and organizations are using their current resources fully and wisely?  Not many, I think. 

How many institutions settle for being mediocre?  Too many, I think.  How many organizations seek to be high achieving?  A good question, I think.  Well, I do think that many organizations espouse to be high achieving and fall far short of their goal – the gap between what they espouse and what they live is large. 

Greenleaf then asks: ‘Who is standing in the way…?’  When I offer folks in organizations this question they respond that it is the ‘stupid people’ and the ‘evil people’ and the ‘apathetic people’ and the ‘system’ itself that is standing in the way.  Greenleaf simply dismisses these entities as being the ‘culprits.’  There will always be some of these folks around and there will always be ‘systems’ that are dis-eased and dis-functional and mediocre-seeking. 

Prior to directly responding to the question, Greenleaf notes that: ‘The healthy society is the one in which the internal health building forces are in the best shape.’  Who are the ‘health building forces’ in a society?  For Greenleaf these ‘health building forces’ are large institutions (for-profit businesses, large universities, large foundations, and seminaries).  He also believes that the individual can also be such a force – he does believe that ‘one person at a time’ over time can and will make a difference.  In addition, small groups of committed people can make a difference (historically, they have – both for health and for dis-ease). 

So: ‘Who is the Enemy?’ 

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