CONSIDER: WHO’S A LEADER?

I have spent many hours these past 50+ years thinking about, reading about, conversing with others about, and observing leaders.  Still, I ask: ‘Who’s a Leader?’  Today I found the following in my September, 2011 journal.  For those of us who espouse Greenleaf’s concept of The Servant as Leader the following, it seems to me, is crucial for us to consider.

 CONSIDER:
==> Today, perhaps more than ever before, our need for leaders is urgent
==> Even today, after all of these years, there is no agreement on the definition of leader

  • Some are defined in terms of tasks – setting goals, motivating people, evaluating people.  Yet, this is what ‘managers’ are charged with doing and what many ‘leaderless’ teams also are charged with doing
  • Some define ‘leader’ as one who provides the vision – yet many visionaries are not followed, some are even ‘punished’ for their visions
  • Then there are transactional or transformational leaders – so Hitler and Stalin would qualify
  • Then there are servant-leaders, serving-leaders, service-leaders and although the terms are similar the dynamics are quite different as are their approaches to leadership

==> There is one irrefutable definition of a leader: a leader is someone people follow – anyone with followers (liberator or oppressor, transformational visionary or transactional problem solver, dictator or benevolent autocrat) is a leader.  Given this, there are two essential – and challenging – questions about leadership that must be addressed:

  • Why do people follow this person?  How do leaders gain and keep followers?  Do people follow by ‘inspiration’ or by ‘coercion’ or by ‘manipulation’ or by ‘seduction/promises’ or by a desire to be taken care of or by a promise that they will not be held responsible [historically many people have committed atrocities in response to ‘I was only following orders so don’t hold me responsible.’]
  • How do people follow the leader?  Do they follow ‘blindly?’  Do they comply – do what they are told?  Do they ‘imitate’ the leader?

==> Leadership ALWAYS implies a relationship between the leader and led – leadership is a by-product of this relationship.  Is the relationship one of dependency, or submissiveness, or independency or. . . ?
==> Leadership ALWAYS exists within a context.  Leaders who gain followers in one context may not attract followers in another [Consider Winston Churchill who was not followed before nor after WWII but was followed unhesitatingly during WWII.]
==> Two Questions for Leaders: Does the way you lead get you what you want?  What do you want?
==> Two Questions for the Followers: Does the way you follow get you what you want?  What do you want?

My friend and colleague, Yim Harn, who lives in Singapore, sent me the photo below.  The question that emerged for me this morning as I reflected upon her photo was: Would I choose to follow the leader who appears to be so far out ahead that I can barely see him/her? If one looks closely at the photo one can see ‘the leader’ far off in the distance – certainly the leader was able to follow the path of stones and rocks and yet there are many questions I hold; here are four of them: What support did the leader have?  What resources did the leader need?  How do I know what support and resources I will need? And, what lies around the bend that appears to be so far off? 

by Yim Harn-Giant staircase -Staffa

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CHOICE – A BRIEF REFLECTION. . .

I have choice.  In 2010 I was invited by a CEO in Singapore to offer a brief reflection on this interesting word: Choice.  When I take time to reflect upon this concept I find myself generating many questions and I will be sharing some of these in the brief piece which follows.  Gentle Reader, perhaps there will be enough variety so that you will choose a question or two to respond to or perhaps you will choose to engage one or two in a searching conversation with another.

I have choice.  To choose means that I select freely after consideration.  As I sit here and reflect upon this definition a number of questions emerge into my consciousness:  How often do I choose?  How many times a day do I actually choose?  During the past hour what have I chosen?  Does it matter whether I am aware of choosing?  Can I really choose if I am not aware?  How much awareness can I stand anyway?  I pause and then become aware of more questions that are finding their way into my consciousness: What is the effect of my choosing upon myself?  What is the effect of my choosing upon others?  Do I accept, or is it ‘do I believe,’ that choice is covered by the skin of responsibility?  What motivates me when it comes to making a choice?  What is the motivation that is the life-blood that feeds and sustains choice and that keeps responsibility supple, flexible and healthy?  What is the motivation that infects the life-blood with a cancer that kills both choice and responsibility?

I have choice.  As a human being I am a living paradox.  I have the potential for great good and I have the potential for great evil.  I have virtues, like integrity, wisdom, courage, compassion, and love, which I choose to bring to my world.  I have vices, like deception, culpable ignorance, cowardice, resentment and spite, which I also choose to bring to my world.  How aware am I when I choose to bring one of these virtues or one of these vices to my world?  To what extent do I believe that the virtue or vice I bring to my world nurtures or depletes me and all those I directly touch and many more that I indirectly touch?  Why do I choose to bring this virtue or that vice to my world – what motivates me to choose one over the other?

I have choice.  My conduct, what I choose to enact each moment, is a reflection of my choice?  Or is it?  To what extent can I claim that my conduct occurs out of habit or as a reaction to a stimulus?  To what extent is my conduct rooted in logical, rational reasoning?  To what extent is my conduct rooted in my emotions?  Does it matter?  Do I care?  Should I care if I don’t?  To what extent is my conduct truly rooted in my selecting freely after consideration?  To what extent does my conduct reinforce future choices?  To what extent does my conduct support my awareness of my choices?  To what extent does my conduct feed a virtue or nurture a vice?

I have choice.  To what extent do I have an obligation to learn more and more about who I am and to learn more and more about who I am choosing to become?  To what extent do I have an obligation to examine my life so that I know what motivates me at the core of who I am?  To what extent do I have an obligation to reflect upon my choices so that I will learn more about the ‘me’ that impacts the many ‘yous’ I meet each day?  How can I help others grow and develop more fully if I am not aware of how I engage, or refuse to engage, choice?  Do I tell those I am entrusted with helping to develop, ‘Do as I say, not as I do?’   Can I ask those I am entrusted with helping to develop, perhaps especially those who are considered to be leaders, to examine the choices they make without examining the choices I make – and still act ethically?

I have choice.  Do I choose to go it alone or do I choose to commit to being a life-long searcher and learner as a member of a community of service; a community that is committed to helping co-create healthier individuals, teams and organizations and that is ultimately committed to helping co-create a better world?   How much choice do I really want?

 I have a choice.      

 

 

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AWARENESS. . .

This morning, Gentle Reader, I re-read and re-savored Robert Frost’s powerful poem, ‘Directive.’  In response to Frost’s poem, Greenleaf wrote an essay he titled, Directive and the Spiritual Journey.’  Before you continue reading this post, I invite you, Gentle Reader, to read and perhaps re-read Frost’s poem.  Although you might find somethings in Greenleaf’s words that stimulates your intellect without reading Frost’s poem.

This morning I am going to quote at length from Greenleaf’s introduction to his essay.  Greenleaf writes:

If Robert Frost had a deliberate strategy of influence in mind when he wrote ‘Directive,’ he kept it to himself the one time I heard him asked about its meaning.  His answer was, ‘Read it and read it and read it, and it means what it says to you.’  He read this poem in a way that carried the impact of its obviously great importance and meaning to him.

 What one gets by reading and reading and reading this poem cannot be predicted.  One gets what he is ready for, what he is open to receive.

 Of course, this is what the poem is all about.  Our problem is circular: we must understand in order to be able to understand.  It has something to do with awareness and symbols.

 Awareness, letting something significant and disturbing develop between oneself and a symbol, comes more by being waited upon rather than by being asked.  One of the most baffling of life’s experiences is to stand beside one who is aware, one who is looking at a symbol and is deeply moved by it, and confronting the same symbol, to be unmoved. 

 Oh that we could just be open in the presence of symbols that cry out to speak to us, let our guards down, and take the risks of being moved. 

 The power of a symbol is measured by its capacity to sustain a flow of significant new meaning.  The substance of the symbol may be a painting; a poem or story; allegory, myth, or scripture; a piece of music; a person; a crack in the sidewalk; or a blade of grass.  Whatever or whoever, it produces a confrontation in which much that makes the symbol meaningful comes from the beholder.

 The potentiality is both in the symbol and in the beholder…  All symbols are potential sources of new meaning.  Nor is meaning a product of the conscious intent of the creator of the symbol.  The poet is sometimes as surprised by new meaning in his own poem as is anyone else.

 Meaning from an interaction with a symbol is a new creation.  It can be new with each opportunity.  Taking the opportunity may be the measure of one’s growth.

 If one views spiritual growth as a unique and personal journey, then what one makes of a symbol is to some extent unique and personal.  A symbol may say something in common to all beholders; but the real lift and insight is beyond the range of verbal communication.

 Yet it is important that we try to share our symbolic experiences because, as responsible people, we need the check and guidance of other responsible people. 

 All of us encounter obstacles to growth.  We may find new paths in the accounts of fellow seekers. . .

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CONSIDER: WHO’S A LEADER?

He was a leader of more than ordinary mediocrity. –Leo Tolstoy, ‘War and Peace’

CONSIDER Gentle Reader that today, more than ever our need for leaders is urgent.  A major challenge when it comes to choosing and/or recognizing leaders is that we still have little agreement as to the definition of ‘leader.’

Leaders are defined in term of tasks – setting goals, motivating people, evaluating people.  To complicate matters, this is what ‘managers’ are charged with doing and this is also what many ‘leaderless’ teams are also charged with doing.

A leader is also defined as one who provides the vision [Greenleaf’s ‘Big Dream’].  Yet, many visionaries are not followed.  Some are openly disparaged.

Then there are transactional or transformational leaders.  Both Hitler and Stalin would qualify.

And, as you and I know, there are servant-leaders.  There are, to further complicate things serving-leaders & service-leaders.  These three terms are similar AND the dynamics and core values are quite different.

Now, there is one irrefutable definition of ‘leader’: a leader is someone people follow.  Any person with followers, liberator or oppressor, transformational visionary or transactional problem solver, dictator or benevolent autocrat or servant-leader, is a leader.

Given this, there are, it seems to me, two essential – and challenging – questions about leaders and leadership that must be addressed:

  • Why do people follow this person?  How do leaders gain and keep followers?  Do people follow by ‘inspiration’ or by ‘coercion’ or by ‘manipulation’ or by ‘seduction/promises’ or by a desire to be taken care of or by. . .
  • How do people follow the leader?  Do they follow ‘blindly?’  Do they ‘comply’ – do what they are told?  Do they ‘imitate’ the leader?

I am thinking of William Ayot’s poem: ‘The Contract – A Word from the Led.’  Here is an excerpt from his poem:

And in the end we follow them –

simply because of who they are: the man, the woman. . .

 We give them our trust.

 What we seek in return is that they stay true.

 Given Ayot’s words, consider the following questions:

  • ‘And in the end we follow them’ – WHO do you follow?  WHY?  WHO follows you?  WHY?
  • ‘We give them our trust.’ – WHO do you give your trust to?  WHY?  WHO gives you their trust?  WHY?  DO you LEAD with trust or must others ‘earn’ your trust? [Are people inherently trust-worthy?]
  • ‘What we seek in return is that they stay true.’ – WHAT does it mean ‘to stay true?’  WHAT must the leader ‘stay true to’?

Consider that leadership always implies a relationship between the leader and the led.  ‘Leadership’ is a by-product of this relationship.

Consider that leadership ALWAYS exists within a context.  Leaders who gain followers in one context may not attract followers in another [Consider Winston Churchill who was not followed before nor after WWII but was followed unhesitatingly during WWII].

WHO ARE THE LEADERS WE NEED?   

 Consider the following:

  • The leaders who are motivated to achieve the common good
  • Who have the qualities required to gain willing followers in a particular culture, at a historical moment when leadership becomes essential to meet the challenges of that time and place
  • Leaders who, then, are needed within their contexts (present and ‘future’)
  • The context continues to change – for example, the context of a given organization today is not the same as it was 15 years ago – and with the rate of change we can assume that the context may well significantly – if not dramatically – change during the next 8-10 years
  • In our Country, the context was an industrial context, then it developed into an information context, and we are currently imbedded in a knowledge context [knowledge workers in our culture are highly valued] and it appears as if we are in the emerging stages of evolving to a ‘conceptual’ context [creativity, innovation, empathy, multiple-intelligences and relationships become the new ‘property’]

Given where we are – not even considering where we might be in 8-10 years – we currently need at least three types of leaders

  • Strategic Leaders – communicate a vision with a compelling sense of purpose
  • Operational Leaders – build the organization and infuse energy that transforms visions into results
  • Network/bridge-building Leaders – facilitate the understanding and trust that turns different types of specialists into collaborators [think: HealthCare Systems, for example]

These three roles will, generally, be filled by different people for each requires different skills, capabilities and personalities.  Because they will be required to work together they all have to have the ability to understand one another and value one another and work hard at developing caring and working relationships with one another.  Together they also have to be able to understand the diverse mix of people they want to follow them.

Consider that to describe the leadership we need, we can’t extrapolate from the past.  People have changed – both would-be leaders and potential followers.  People today respond to different qualities in leaders than they did even 15 years ago.  For example, young people today (generally, it seems people under 30) are less likely to idealize leaders as father substitutes [a dependency model of leadership that emerged with the industrial revolution] and they tend to be more critical of parental figures in general, we can’t lead in ways that worked in the past.

However, fear and high anxiety can cause any of us to regress – to want that charismatic or benevolent patriarch or authoritarian father or even a ‘boss’ or ‘tyrant’ to make things better [if we find one that can do this once our anxiety is lowered we ‘rebel’ or if, in our perspective, this leader ‘fails us’ then we will also ‘rebel’].  We move from idealizing the leader to severely criticizing the leader.  Moreover there is a tendency to criticize our leaders with great intensity while seeking to be ‘non-responsible’ ourselves.

Consider that servant-leadership, as a concept, a philosophy, an attitude, a way of being, will provide a tap-root that if nurtured and sustained over time that will help ensure the development of leaders [role-defined and situational] who will be inherently ethical, moral, caring, awake, aware, intentional and purposeful and who will choose to be unconditionally response-able and who will choose to appropriately respond and appropriately react with moral integrity at all times.

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GREENLEAF’S LEGACY, PART IV. . .

If you look to lead, invest at least 40% of your time managing yourself – your ethics, character, principles, purpose, motivation and conduct. –Dee Hock

Consider Conduct.  Our conduct, especially our conduct under ‘stress,’ reveals our Character.  It is during these ‘stress-full’ times that we can choose to become more Conscious – become more awake, aware, intentional and purpose-full not only about who we are and who we are choosing to become but about what we choose to do and why.

Greenleaf offers us a number of guidelines that will help us understand our Conduct and our Consciousness & Character.  I invite you, Gentle Reader, to consider the following.

Consider, Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test’ for the Servant.  The essence is contained in the first question: Do those served grow as persons?  Greenleaf ups the ante when he asks: ‘When is serving potentially immoral?’  And as is his wont, Greenleaf ups the ante again for us when he tells us that another – ‘today’, perhaps ‘the’ – challenge for both the individual servant and for the institutions that espouse to be servants is to develop a society that is more just, caring, and loving.

Given these challenges to our Conduct I hold a number of questions:

  • How am I, how are you, and how are we doing?
  • How intentional and purpose-full am I, are you, and are we when it comes to acting in ways that help us respond to and engage in these challenges/charges?
  • Am I, are you, are we continuing to develop our capacity to serve in these ways? How do we know?

As Leaders, we Servants are also called — and challenged – by Greenleaf to use our power ethically.  Because we are imperfect beings we will coerce and we will manipulate.  Are we willing to become consciously aware of our motivation to choose to coerce and manipulate.  Are we willing to openly choose to coerce and/or manipulate? (Talk about upping the ante)

Are we willing to consciously develop – or develop more fully – our capacity to persuade (use logic and reason in order to convince) and to influence (using inquiry in order to allow the other(s) to emerge a response that they will emotionally own)? – Think: John Woolman.

Leadership is a by-product of the relationship between the leader and the led.  Do we consciously seek to develop – or develop more fully – a relationship with the other that is rooted in trust, safety, respect, compassion, empathy, and love?

To what extent am I, are you, are we developing – or developing more fully – our Being so that we might, more often than not, choose Right Conduct.  There are a number of Beings that we are called to develop – or develop more fully.  Consider the following short list: Being – Accepting, Present, Authentic, Vulnerable, Useful, Mindful & Faithful [Consider this question: What must I or We be faithful to even if we might not be effective and efficient?]

Our Conduct also involves the ways that we choose to Nurture and Deplete the five dimensions that together define who we are as human beings.  Our five Dimensions include our Physical Dimension, our Intellectual Dimension, our Emotional Dimension, our Spirit(ual) Dimension, and our Social Dimension (think: the relationship we have with our self and the relationship we have with the other).  What do we choose to do that nurtures each of these and what do we do that depletes each of these?  We each have our ‘favorite ways’ of both nurturing and depleting these five – What are they? 

I am my message. –Gandhi

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GREENLEAF’S LEGACY, PART III. . .

Good character is not formed in a week or a month.  It is created little by little, day by day.  Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character. –Heraclitus

Character Counts.  The great wisdom figures remind us, again and again and again.  They also remind us that adversity reveals character; adversity does not build character.  The English Oxford Dictionary defines Character as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.

Consider this question: What are the tap roots that feed, nurture and sustain our Character?  Our thoughts.  We become our thoughts.  Our emotions.  We are emotional beings.  Our Core values and Core guiding principles.  These are ‘Core’ because to the best of our ability we will not compromise them.  Our core deep tacit assumptions.  In addition to being ‘core’ they are also ‘deep’ in that many of them are not conscious; it takes some effort to emerge, discern and name them.  They are ‘tacit’ for they function automatically; we experience them, not as ‘assumptions’ but as ‘reality.’  We add to these our prejudices and stereotypes.  We integrate these during our ‘formation years’ and they become ‘real’ and ‘true.’

During our formative years we develop our character in response to our culture (think: family, peers, faith-tradition, communal experiences, etc.).  Our charge as we develop into mature human beings is to discern and name the character traits that we have integrated and evaluate them and then decide which to keep and which to let go of and which to take on and integrate.  This, as we know, is no easy charge/challenge.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is the first one: What are the character traits that I need to pay attention to?  What are my ‘Core Values’?  A value does not have to be a ‘virtue;’ a value can be a ‘vice.’  I am thinking of the person who has integrated a core value of ‘greed.’  At times we need the ‘other’ to act as a mirror and reflect to us a value that is ‘core’ to our being (at times the most power ‘other’ is the stranger; too often those who are in my ‘community’ do not act as effective mirrors).

What are my ‘Core Guiding Life Principles?’  For one person it might be ‘to act at all times rooted in moral integrity.’  For another it might be ‘to do whatever it takes to win.’

The most challenging to emerge into my consciousness are my core deep tacit assumptions.  For example, do I assume that people are inherently evil?  Do I assume that people are inherently good?  Do I assume that people are driven mainly by self-interest?  Do I assume that people are inherently trust-worthy?

I have found that striving to emerge, name and ‘own’ my core values, core guiding life principles and core deep tacit assumptions is an important – if not ‘the’ important – challenge when it comes to understanding my ‘Character.’

So, Gentle Reader, I invite you to emerge, name and ‘own’ the core values, core guiding life principles and core deep tacit assumptions that compose the major tap roots that feed, nurture and sustain your ‘Character.’  Then I invite you to decide which to ‘let go of,’ ‘which to hang onto,’ and ‘which to embrace and integrate.’

Only a person’s character is the real criterion of worth. –Eleanor Roosevelt

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GREENLEAF’S LEGACY, PART II. . .

Nosce te Ipsum: Know Thyself. –The Oracle

Greenleaf’s Legacy: Consciousness, Character, Conduct.

Unlike most theories of leadership, Greenleaf does not begin with Conduct.  He begins with two major tap roots that feed, nurture and support Conduct; he begins with Consciousness & Character.

Consciousness & Character form, inform and guide – and at times directly determine – one’s Conduct.  These tap roots determine what I will choose to do, or not do.  They will determine to what extent I choose to be responsive or reactive and whether I will do so appropriately or inappropriately.  They will also determine whether I will choose to be unconditionally response-able and responsible.

Greenleaf’s good friend, the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel noted that ‘Few are guilty but all are responsible.’  A ‘wake-up’ statement if there ever was one.  [AN ASIDE: Gentle Reader, if you have never read Heschel’s writings I invite you to check them out.  If you read Heschel you might discern how he influenced Greenleaf’s thinking.]

The servant-person (think: individual, leader, trustee, teacher, ‘minister’) and the servant-institution (think: any organized group…including boards of directors) are entrusted with the care and development of individuals and of all organized groups – including society (today Greenleaf might well add the ‘Global Community’).

Put simply: The servant-person and the servant-institution are charged with serving others’ highest priority needs.  They are charged with living into and out of the servant’s Best Test.  They are charged with serving the society in ways that enable the society to become more just, caring and loving.

In order to ‘conduct’ themselves in these ways, the servant-person and the servant-institution must choose to be awake and aware (Consciousness) now.  For Greenleaf ‘now’ has two meanings.  One involves a period of time, say from today to six months ago and from today to six months out.  The other involves a period of time that involves a few minutes of ‘now’ – at this time.

Being Conscious means being fully present ‘now’ – one brings all of one’s self to the ‘now.’  Being Conscious also means being awake and aware to what is emerging from within oneself and to being aware of what is emerging from within the other(s) and to being aware of what is emerging or of what already exists within the environment (the near environment but also the wider, even global, environment).

Greenleaf is clear: This type of awareness does not bring comfort or solace.  This type of awareness brings disturbance.  [AN ASIDE: Gentle Reader is you are not familiar with Anthony de Mello’s powerful book, Awareness, I invite you to check it out.]  For example, one will become aware of the injustice that exists within an organized group (because all groups are composed of imperfect human beings injustice will exist; being aware helps reveal the extent of the injustice and this awareness will be disturbing to the servant).

In addition to being conscious of who one is, the servant is also charged with being conscious of what he or she chooses – and why.  For example, here are a few guiding questions: Who am I? Who am I choosing to become?  Why am I choosing this becoming?  When is my serving potentially immoral? 

Greenleaf emphasizes Being & Doing.  I also invite you, Gentle Reader, to explore the concepts of Being & Having (this is crucial for our Culture of Having and Consuming).  I invite you, Gentle Reader, to spend time with Erich Fromm’s powerful book: To Have or To Be?

There are three things extremely hard…steel, a diamond and to know one’s self. –Benjamin Franklin

 

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