AN INTERESTING WORD, HEALING. . .

Greenleaf writes: This is an interesting word, healing, with its meaning ‘to make whole.’  …It is always something sought.  …the servant leader might also acknowledge that his own healing is his motivation.  There is something subtle communicated to one who is being served and led if, implicit in the compact between servant-leader and led, is the understanding that the search for wholeness is something they share.

This is a passage that for forty-plus years I keep returning to.  The implications are, for me, legion.  I begin with the four dimensions that help define me as a fully human being.  These are my P.I.E.S. – my Physical, my Intellectual, my Emotional, and my Spiritual dimensions (NOTE: for some ‘Spirit’ resonates more with them than does ‘Spiritual’).  When I reflect upon this passage I also add another dimension, another ‘S’ – my Social dimension; think: ‘relationships’ [which then gives us either S.P.I.E.S. or P.I.E.S.S.]. 

At any one time I am either nurturing or depleting one or more of these dimensions.  Nurturance, for me, promotes ‘healing’ and ‘wholeness’ while depletion, for me, promotes wounding, fragmenting, self-violence (hence a need for healing and a need to help make whole).  I have my ‘favorite’ ways of both nurturing myself and depleting myself (I do not think I am alone when it comes to having ‘favorite’ ways of doing both). 

During these past forty-plus years many folks have told me that they are ‘turned off’ by Greenleaf’s concept of ‘servant’ because it appears to them to be a self-sacrificial model.  One serves and serves and serves and is finally used up – their inner fire is extinguished and they fill with dense smoke and suffocate from within.  They are harmed, not healed – actually, they are more than harmed, they are sacrificed on the altar of service; this, they say, is when ‘serving becomes immoral.’

Because of their belief/interpretation of Greenleaf this passage becomes even more crucial.  I have read and re-read every article, essay and letter that Greenleaf wrote (the many that I have been able to obtain) and this is one of the few passages where he directly addresses the need for the servant to heal – for the servant to become ‘whole.’  [By the by, gentle reader, if you want to read and reflect upon two powerful books which focuses on ‘healing/wholeness’ I invite you to explore Henri Nouwen’s book ‘The Wounded Healer’ and Parker J. Palmer’s book ‘A Hidden Wholeness’.  Nouwen’s book has been a staple for me for more than fifty years.] 

As imperfect human beings we all need ‘healing,’ we all need to become ‘whole’ – the frame this takes for each of us varies greatly.  Often our healing involves forgiveness and reconciliation – for ‘wounds’ received and for ‘wounds’ delivered.  Each of the five P.I.E.S.S. dimensions at times experience a need for healing and a need to become whole.  Because each of us is an imperfect human being the need for healing and the need to become ‘whole’ will continue to exist. 

Greenleaf says that the servant seeks ‘to serve the highest priority needs’ of the other.  What could be of a higher priority than the ‘need to heal’ and the ‘need to make whole’?  An appropriate question for me to end with this morning.

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CHANGE BY CONVINCEMENT. . .

Greenleaf writes: Leadership by persuasion has the virtue of change by convincement rather than coercion. 

For Greenleaf ‘change by convincement’ involves the process he calls persuasion. For Greenleaf, persuasion is clear and concise.  The persuader employs a non-judgmental argument via questions to help the other think logically and thus to convince oneself that the persuader’s ‘way’ is the correct way.  One ‘convinces’ oneself and thus one ‘buys-into’ the view, perception, and/or reality of the persuader. 

Servants and servant-leaders employ four distinct approaches (usually we use a blend of two or three of these with the result that the recipient is often confused by our approach).  Here are the four approaches: Coercion, Manipulation, Persuasion and Influence.  Greenleaf describes the first three; the fourth emerged into my consciousness many years ago as I thought there was a ‘gap’ – for me there was an approach that was missing. 

The question I offer folks is this: What are the ingredients that must be in place for each of these approaches to be effective (that is, to get the leader what he/she needs, wants, desires, or wishes for)?  I have a sense that all leaders employ each of these approaches.  There are two questions for the leader.  Does your approach (that is, your use of coercion, manipulation, persuasion or influence) get you what you want?  What do you want? 

For example.  If I want you to comply and the ‘right’ ingredients are in place then coercion will work.  If I want you to comply and adapt and the right ingredients are in place then manipulation will work.  If I want you to ‘buy-in’ and the right ingredients are in place then persuasion will work.  And if I want you to ‘emotionally-own’ the challenge, problem, paradox or dilemma and the right ingredients are in place then influence will work. 

By the by, if the leader says to me: ‘The approach I use gets me what I want AND I know what I want’ then the potential for this leader to ‘do it differently’ is almost non-existent.  There will be no motivation for him/her to do it differently.  If the leader says to me: ‘The approach I use does not get me what I want.’ Or, if the leader says, ‘I don’t know what I want’ from the approach I use, then there is an opening (small or great) for the leader to seriously consider another approach.  As any leader who has attempted to change or to add to his/her approaches knows the challenge to do so is a daunting one. 

Leaders develop and integrate a ‘default’ approach that they go to when the pressure is on, when they feel whelmed over by stressors, or when they are highly anxious or when they feel fear-full or threatened.  They developed and integrated this default response because it worked [worked enough at any rate] – although it might no longer ‘work’ today.  By the by, knowing that it no longer works does not motivate the leader to change or transform his/her approach – knowledge, as we know, does not change anything.  We shift, change, transform or evolve because we have a need to do so (and, as we know, a need trumps a want, desire or wish). 

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A VERY FRIM BELIEF THAT. . .

Greenleaf writes: A leader must have more of an armor of confidence in facing the unknown – more than those who accept his leadership.  This is partly anticipation and preparation, but it is also a very firm belief that in the stress of real life situations one can compose oneself in a way that permits the creative process to operate.

Confidence = ‘a belief in one’s self, in one’s abilities; self-assurance.’  The evil sisters of ‘Confidence’ are ‘arrogance’ and ‘hubris.’  These evil sisters can easily stimulate one to act rashly rather than act rooted in deep reflection.  The servant-leader who is not awake and aware and intentional and purpose-full will be more easily seduced into becoming arrogant and full of hubris.  The leader does not function alone; the leader is leader because at least one other has freely chosen to follow (or the ‘one’ as been coerced or manipulated or persuaded to follow). 

The leader says ‘come with me,’ ‘trust me’ for ‘I know the way.’  We all know stories about arrogant leaders and leaders full of hubris who have lead others down a path of destruction; Hitler comes to mind, as does Jim Jones, as does Custer – the names are legion.  Voltaire reminds us: Anyone who can get you to believe absurdities, can get you to commit atrocities.  So it is not only the leader who must be awake and aware and intentional and purpose-full; the followers must also be awake and aware and discerning.

Both the leader and the led must develop the capacity to ‘anticipate’ and must take the time to purpose-fully prepare.  Both do so without knowing exactly what they are preparing for.  What do we prepare ourselves for?  Greenleaf notes that we prepare ourselves so that we can appropriately respond – perhaps appropriately react – to the ‘stress of real life situations.’  We prepare ourselves so we are able to compose ourselves ‘in a way that permits the creative process to operate.’ 

One way we can prepare is to develop, or develop more fully, our capacity for ‘foresight’ – Greenleaf writes about ‘foresight’ as a key capacity and discipline for the one who espouses to be a servant and/or servant-leader.  Another way we can prepare is to develop, or develop more fully, our capacity for ‘appropriate withdrawal’ which includes our capacity for reflection.  A third capacity that Greenleaf says we need to develop, or develop more fully, is our capacity to be awake and aware and our capacity to be ‘reasonably disturbed’ by what we become aware of.  These are ‘life-long’ processes – the arrogant person, the person full of hubris believes that he/she has ‘arrived.’  Beware of the person who says ‘I have it!’ 

Greenleaf offers us what for me is the classic story of being composed amidst a stressful situation so that the response is a creative one.  The Teacher had just finished talking about compassion (among other things) when a noisy crowd interrupted him.  A woman ‘caught’ in adultery was thrown at the Teacher’s feet.  One of the angry group challenged the Teacher.  Mercy or Justice?  The Teacher paused (he withdrew); he reflected.  He responded.  His response dissolved the dilemma of the forced choice the angry folk offered the Teacher: Mercy or Justice?  The Teacher was not seduced by arrogance or hubris (he might have been for he was, after all, the Teacher).  His response put the response-ability, the responsibility and the accountability squarely on the shoulders of the angry folk.  To paraphrase the Teacher’s statement: ‘Let the Perfect Person act first!’

The Teacher also counseled us: ‘Let he who has ears hear!’  There is a lesson in this story for all of us who espouse to be servants and/or servant-leaders.

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CONSIDER: ‘DETACHMENT’. . .

Greenleaf writes: The cultivation of awareness gives one the basis for detachment, the ability to stand aside and see oneself in perspective in the context of one’s own experience, amidst the ever present dangers, threats, and alarms.  …Awareness is not a give of solace – it is just the opposite.  It is a disturber and an awakener.  Able leaders are usually sharply awake and reasonably disturbed.  They are not seekers after solace.  They have their own inner serenity.

What is ‘Detachment’?  Detachment = in addition to Greenleaf’s definition we can add that ‘Detachment’ is also ‘freedom from prejudice or partiality’.  Another concept that can also help us is ‘Suspension.’  Suspension = a temporary with-holding.  What does the leader ‘stand aside’ from and ‘suspend’?  He/she seeks to ‘stand aside’ from and suspend ‘judgment, stereotypes, prejudices, assumptions, attitudes and certain beliefs.’  This ‘standing aside’ and ‘suspension’ allows the leader to ‘make space’ for. . .  It enables the leader to be open to receiving. . .   As Greenleaf notes, it also helps the leader become ‘aware.’  It also means that the leader seeks to be open to being influenced by what one hears, sees, and experiences.

When the leader is awake and aware the leader becomes cognizant of ‘present dangers,’ ‘threats’ and ‘alarms.’  The leader also is more able to discern the dangers and threats and potential alarms that are just over the horizon (Greenleaf calls this ‘having foresight’). 

This being awake and aware does not bring comfort, it does not bring ‘solace’.  For the leader it is often a disturber.  The leader becomes disturbed by what he/she sees, hears, and experiences.   Greenleaf’s next points are crucial.  ‘Able leaders’ are awake and aware and ‘reasonably disturbed.’  They seek to be awake and aware, and hence disturbed – they do not seek comfort or solace.  They are able to remain being awake and aware and hence disturbed because they have their own ‘inner serenity.’  How many leaders actually develop their capacity for ‘inner serenity’

In one of his writings Greenleaf tells us the story of the leader who, in the face of being disturbed said, ‘I don’t want to think about it!’  A famous (or is it infamous) leader at GM many years ago told his direct reports that he did not want to hear any ‘bad news’ and one day he read in the papers that GM lost 20% of their market share to the Japanese.  It takes ‘courage’ (that is, ‘heart’) for the leader to ‘wake up’ and then to remain awake.  It also takes trust.  The leader must trust his/her own ability, capacities and he/she must also trust those who have freely chosen to follow.  The relationship between the leader and those who have freely chosen to follow must be rooted in trust and in the commitment to serve one another’s ‘highest priority needs.’ 

Paradoxically, or is it ironically, the leader’s ability to be and remain awake and aware and to be reasonably disturbed while experiencing ‘inner serenity’ enables those who have freely chosen to follow experience a calmness in the leader that then enables them to remain calm in the face of danger, threat or when the ‘alarm’ is sounded. 

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THE OPENING OF AWARENES – IS VALUE BUILDING…

Greenleaf writes: The opening of awareness stocks both the conscious and unconscious minds with a richness of resources for future need.  …it is value building and value clarifying and it armors one to meet the stress of life by helping to build serenity in the face of stress and uncertainty. 

If one is awake and aware and intentional and purpose-full and if one consistently practices discerning the ‘rich resources’ available and if one then ‘stocks’ these ‘rich resources’ up in one’s conscious and unconscious mind THEN he/she will have these available for future needs.

For most of us the first challenge is to be awake and aware and intentional and purpose-full.  How often do we seek the comfort of not being awake and aware (that is, the comfort of ‘being asleep’) and how often do we choose to react out of habit or how often do we resort to our ‘default response’ when our anxiety is high, when we feel whelmed-over by certain stressors, or when we are dis-eased, rather than to stop, step-back, reflect and then respond rooted in being intentional and purpose-full? 

Greenleaf notes that ‘awareness’ is ‘value building’ and ‘value clarifying.’  What values do we choose to ‘build’ and what values do we choose to ‘clarify’?  We hold many values (along with our needs, wants, wishes and desires).  How often do we equate our ‘needs,’ ‘wants,’ ‘desires’ or ‘wishes’ with our ‘values’?  To what extent do our values powerfully determine our needs, wants, desires and/or wishes?  What is a ‘value’? 

Given Greenleaf’s statement, here is a definition that might be helpful: Value = a quality desirable as a means or as an end in itself.  Because we hold many values it might well be helpful to us to sort out our ‘core values’ from the other values that we hold.  Consider, gentle reader, that a ‘core value’ is a value that to the best of our ability we will never compromise (we are, as we know, imperfect human beings and so we will not hold a core value ‘perfectly’ – we can, however, intentionally and purpose-fully practice holding a value more consistently).  It seems to me that each of us has integrated 3-4 core values; the other values we hold are open to being compromised (they are always compromised when in conflict or tension with a core value). 

So, given this, it seems to me that it is helpful, if not crucial, for us to identify (think, ‘name’) the 3-4 values that are core to our being.  By the by, a ‘value’ does not have to be a virtue; a ‘value’ can also be a ‘vice’ (e.g. a core value for some is ‘greed’ or for others it is the ‘unethical use of power’).  Identifying our ‘core values’ can be an adventure for some and for some it will be a daunting challenge – it will take time, energy and commitment to identify and ‘emotionally own’ them. 

Discerning/Identifying, naming, and embracing our core values can help us ‘build serenity’ as we face life’s stresses and challenges.  ‘Serenity’ is a state of being calm, peaceful and tranquil.  I have known leaders who, when faced with great stress and major challenges demonstrate being calm and peaceful.  Their serenity positively affects those who choose to follow them.  Of course we know that a leader who demonstrates serenity when faced with high stress, high anxiety or a daunting challenge can also put him/herself and those who choose to follow at great risk (if not direct peril) because they are being ‘rash’ rather than ‘courageous’ (this is a topic in and of itself). 

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