In PART I, I briefly introduced my current thinking regarding Greenleaf’s Legacy and offered three definitions and then briefly focused on ‘Consciousness.’ In PART II, I briefly focused on ‘Character;’ today I will briefly focus on the third element of his Legacy, ‘Conduct.’ As a reminder, here are the three definitions that help inform my current thinking.
Consciousness = the state of being aware while seeking to understand one’s own needs, attitudes, behavior, values, beliefs, perceptions in order to be open to understanding others’ needs, attitudes, behavior, values, beliefs, perceptions.
Character = the moral and ethical traits and principles that form the individual nature of a person [e.g. trustworthiness, caring, response-ability/responsibility, integrity, respect — the golden rule, open-mindedness, etc.]
Conduct = personal behavior; a way of acting; a way of ‘managing’ one’s self.
Charles Handy reminds us that experience rooted in reflection is the learning. So it is with Greenleaf. The servant learns as a result of reflecting upon his or her conduct. Consciousness and Character informs and helps guide what we choose to do — our Conduct — and our ‘doing’ informs and reinforces our Consciousness and Character, our ‘being.’
So what is the ‘Conduct’ that the servant engages? In a number of his writings, Greenleaf states that servants ‘listen, first.’ Servants listen with what I call undefended receptivity and a major outcome of the servant’s listening is to seek to understand. And Greenleaf also informs us that servants ‘are listening carefully to prophetic voices that are speaking now.’ Being ‘Conscious’ [or ‘being present’ or ‘being awake and aware in the now’] is the tap root that feeds this type of listening.
In his ‘Best Test’ for the servant Greenleaf states quite clearly that the servant’s conduct enables those served to grow as persons and that in serving, others’ highest priority needs are being served [it is important to note that Greenleaf does not say that others’ needs are ‘met;’ their needs are ‘served’]. Servants are called to reflect upon the effects of their conduct on themselves and on others. In a deep sense, servants care for people and this caring is reflected in how they conduct themselves in the world.
Servants also use their ‘power’ ethically [I define ‘power’ as one’s ability to act rooted in integrity and deep reflection] — to, the best of their abilities, to do no harm [this is a tricky one for there are instances when one, when acting with integrity, will inflict harm upon others; this occurs for example when the servant is faced with a ‘harm-harm’ dilemma]. Servants seek ways to help build societies that are more just and more caring; their conduct nurtures more than depletes.
Finally, to conclude our brief foray into ‘Conduct’ the servant accepts that he or she is always ‘response-able’ — he or she prepares one’s self so that when the time comes, one will be able to be appropriately responsive or appropriately reactive. With preparation and intention, the servant is always response-able.
We convince by our presence. –Walt Whitman