Experience plus Reflection is the Learning. –Charles Handy

I am a searcher and a seeker and hence my thinking shifts, changes and even transforms over time (transform = a fundamental change in character or structure).  Even after 47 years, I continue to be attracted to and influenced by Greenleaf’s writing because he noted that his writing is ‘a record of thinking in transition.’ He wrote that his thinking is ‘drawn from experience and searching.’ 

What is required of one if one’s thinking is always in transition?  What is ‘thinking’ and what is ‘transition?’  If one is going to learn from ‘experience’ it seems to me that one must be awake and aware of the experience itself — while it is unfolding; reflection in the moment — and one must also take the time to reflect upon the experience and to do so with an attitude rooted in searching.  This, as most of us know, requires time, energy, commitment and perseverance [i.e. discipline].

It also requires that one approach the search with an attitude that one might well be influenced by what one learns — primarily, perhaps, about what one learns about one’s self.  My experience, with myself and with others, is that once one has ‘found the answer’ (the truth, the one right way, the answer, etc.) that one ceases to be open to the search; one no longer needs to search.  In addition, it is but a small step for one to move from having ‘found it’ to one moving into ‘surety’ [when one is ‘sure’ one can easily become threatened by or resist or deny any information that might challenge one’s position].  The dark-side of ‘surety’ is fanaticism. 

Greenleaf noted that his ‘concern’ is for ‘the individual as a ‘serving person’ and that the serving person’s ‘tendency is to deny wholeness.’  For me, this idea is crucial for a number of reasons.  First, Greenleaf was clear that his ‘theme’ was one of ‘servant’ not leader.  Throughout the years folks have shifted his emphasis from ‘servant, first’ to ‘leader, first.’  For me, if I am going to seek to understand Greenleaf then I must become rooted in his concept of ‘servant, first.’  No matter the role — and leader is but a role for the servant — one is called to be ‘servant, first.’  In addition, the person who seeks to be ‘servant, first’ is also called to be ‘whole’ and that this in itself is a daunting challenge for us humans.  We tend to fragment or divide ourselves; we live our lives in ‘categories’ [check out Parker Palmer’s book, ‘A Hidden Wholeness’]. 

So, briefly:

SERVANT, Greenleaf writes: ‘. . .by acting with integrity and spirit, [the servant] builds trust and lifts people and helps them grow.’ 

 LEADER, Greenleaf writes the leader is one ‘. . .who is trusted and who shapes other peoples destinies by going out ahead to show the way.’   

We will continue our exploration of ‘My Current Thinking’ next time. 

We convince by our presence. –Walt Whitman

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