Greenleaf writes: A servant-leader is a person who begins with a natural feeling of wanting to serve first — to help, support and encourage and lift up others.  And because of their noble role-models others begin to lead by serving.

In addition to desiring ‘to serve first’ I invite you, Gentle Reader, to consider that a servant-leader is:

Concerned with the following three dimensions which are rooted in Trust:  The servant-leader is concerned with the Personal dimension– Who I am?  Who I am choosing to become?  Why I am choosing to become this. . .?   The servant-leader is concerned with the Relational dimension — Who are we?  Who are we choosing to become?  Why are we choosing this…?  Servant-Leadership is relationship oriented — first, there is the relationship that the person has with him or herself and at the same time there is the relationship that the person has with the other.  The servant-leader is also concerned with the Organizational (Institutional or Communal) dimension.  Organizations are individuals and relationships writ large and so servant-leaders are called to (and charged with) caring for the organization and they are called to (and charged with) serving the organization so that it grows (see Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test’ and apply it to organizations).  This is possible because organizations are organic and thus developmental with growth potential (they are not inorganic).  The development and the growth of the organization requires that individuals and relationships also develop and grow. 

Concerned with ‘good and evil’ (Greenleaf’s words) or ‘virtues and vices’ or ‘light and darkness.’  As Greenleaf notes, when we humans are our healthiest we are ‘living paradoxes.’  Some adherents of Greenleaf’s concept only focus on the ‘light’ and seem to deny the ‘darkness.’  Greenleaf asks: ‘When is serving potentially immoral?’  The wonderful poet, William Stafford reminds us that ‘the darkness around us is deep.’  Because we are living paradoxes, the servant-leader is also concerned with forgiveness, reconciliation and healing (to make whole again).  Each of us has great potential for good and great potential for evil.  The Dutch reminded me of this when I first visited The Netherlands.  I was told stories about ‘common folks’ who were moved to doing great deeds of good (e.g. hiding Jews from the Germans) and often paid the price for doing so with their own lives and they also told me stories of ‘common folks’ who chose to do great acts of evil (e.g. turn in their long-time neighbors as Jew-hiders).  It is imperative, I think, that we each believe that we are capable of ‘good’ and ‘evil.’  We need to be ‘on guard’ and awake and aware — and, of course, we will choose.

Concerned with ‘entheos.’  Greenleaf offered us this interesting word, ‘entheos.’  Entheos is the spirit that animates us and sustains us.  How often do we conceptualize ‘spirit’ in this way?  I often hear people speaking of ‘spirit’ in negative terms: ‘My spirit is depleted.’  ‘The team’s spirit is low.’  ‘Our team has lost its spirit.’  The source of the word ‘Entheos’ is the Greek enthousiasmos, which ultimately comes from the adjective entheos, “having the god within,” formed from en, “in, within,” and theos, “god.”  Some refer to ‘our inner guide’ or to ‘the teacher within’ or to ‘the quiet voice that washes over us like a soft breeze.’  The ‘dark side’ of Entheos equates to one being ‘possessed by a dark spirit’ — or guide or teacher [see Star Wars and ‘the Dark Side’]. 

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Greenleaf often reminds us that since we are imperfect human beings that we will use our power in ethical and in unethical ways and in healthy and in unhealthy ways.  Given this, it is crucial that we be awake and aware and intentional and purposeful when it comes to choosing how we exercise our power.  Part of this includes taking time to reflect after we exercise our power.  We reflect upon the outcomes (did our exercise of our power get us what we wanted — or move us closer to getting us what we wanted — and are we clear about what we wanted); we reflect on the effect and affect upon ourselves and upon the other[s] (was more trust built, was trust betrayed, was fear ‘driven out’ or was fear nurtured, etc.); we reflect upon both the intended and the unintended consequences that occurred.  We accept the responsibility for how we chose to exercise our power.  Sometimes we exercise our power ‘responsively’ and sometimes we exercise our power ‘reactively’ AND it is important to know when and why I chose the one over the other. 

Consider, Gentle Reader, four forms of power (given our limited space each of these will be briefly explored).

Coercive Power: Greenleaf says that with this form of power people are granted or assume overt or covert sanctions to impose their wills on others.  A dependent relationship is established between the one exercising the power and the one who is directly affected by the exercise of coercive power.  The exercise of coercive power can be used to ‘protect’ the recipient — this can happen when a parent ‘coerces’ a young child to not play in the street.  Coercive power is controlling power and is captured in the phrase that many are familiar with: “If not my way, then the highway!”  Effective coercion will result in compliance; ineffective will result in resistance, rooted in resentment.

Manipulative Power: Greenleaf says that we manipulate others when we guide others by plausible rationalizations into beliefs and actions that they do not fully understand [and some will not make the effort to understand for they do not want to be responsible, nor response-able].  One use of this power that many of us are familiar with is the: “Trust me!” use of power.  Effective manipulation will result in compliance and perhaps ‘adaptation;’ ineffective manipulation will result in confusion, mistrust, and cynicism.

Persuasive Power: When one exercises persuasive power one convinces the other(s) through the use of logic and reason.  There is a give-and-take here that is not present in the first two.  If one is persuaded then one will more fully comply and adapt AND one will be more likely to ‘buy-in’ [‘buy-in’ means that one will give of his or her ‘discretionary energy’ — the energy which one freely gives; this energy cannot be coerced or manipulated ‘out of the person’]. 

Influential Power: [Note: as I understand Greenleaf, when he describes ‘persuasion’ he is describing ‘influential power].  Influential power does not allow for either coercion or manipulation and moves persuasion from advocacy to inquiry and from using logic and reason to inviting discernment.  The process of inquiry and discernment enables one to say ‘with conviction’ “This is where I choose to stand!”  The autonomy and integrity of all is held in trust by all.  This process usually takes a great deal of time, energy and effort.  All grow as a result of the process [see John Woolman’s story as a powerful example of influence over time]. 

Influential Power requires that a person be ‘fully human,’ ‘be aware of who he/she is and is choosing to become,’ ‘understand the assumptions, beliefs, core values, and principles that guide his/her life,’ and it requires one to be ‘vulnerable’ — that is to be transparent, to be a risk-taker and to ‘carry the wound gracefully’ [Note: ‘vulnerable’ is rooted in the Latin ‘vulnus’ which means ‘to carry the wound gracefully’].  Influential power results in ’emotional ownership’ and ‘we are truly in this together.’  It seems that influential power is inherently ethical and moral and is a ‘trust-builder’ and ‘trust-sustainer.’ 

Which form of power will I choose to use today?  What might help me choose?  Perhaps Gandhi’s words might help: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world!’  

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As an ethicist, Greenleaf was interested in ‘Power’ and whether one uses his or her power ethically.  There have been volumes written about ‘power’ and there is, as far as I am able to discern, no agreement regarding its definition.  Greenleaf makes a distinction between ‘power’ and ‘authority’ and there are a number of authors who support his distinction.  Today I will focus on ‘power.’ 

First, we need a working definition, so here are two.  An unabridged dictionary defines power as ‘one’s ability to act.’  That’s it — clear, simple, tight.  My definition expands on this a bit: ‘Power equals the extent to which one chooses to link an outer capacity for action with an inner capacity for reflection.’  My ability to act is supported and nurtured by my ability to reflect.  My ability to reflect supports and nurtures my ability to choose to act.  Action-Reflection is a dynamic ‘loop.’ 

What is an ‘ethical use of power?’  Greenleaf says that it is to purposefully do no harm, to serve others’ highest priority needs, to serve so that others, as a result, grow as persons.  In addition, I add that in using my power ethically I will act with integrity at all times, I will be motivated by love and caring.  As imperfect human beings we will fail at times to use our power ethically, therefore, an ethical use of power also includes forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. 

In order to use my power ethically I must also always be ‘response-able.’  That is, I believe and act as if I am always capable of responding.  I am also committed to being responsible.  That is, I will, as Greenleaf suggests, always begin with ‘in here’ and not ‘out there.’  I seek to discern and understand my part and I accept responsibility for my part.  I also know that there are times when it is important, if not necessary, for me to be appropriately reactive.  In order to be appropriately reactive I must prepare myself, I must develop and employ certain disciplines, and I must develop certain attitudes (what this entails varies person to person).  Fire-fighters, for example, ‘respond’ to fires; if they simply react then someone will be injured.  On the other hand, they also react once they are actually ‘fighting the fire;’ they rely upon their training to help them quickly discern when and how they must react.  If they do not react appropriately then someone will be injured.  I have learned a great deal from fire fighters when it comes to being appropriately responsive and appropriately reactive. 

Given this, let us now consider ‘powerless.’  Powerless occurs when one is devoid of resources and/or when one lacks the authority or capacity to act.  One is powerless when one chooses not to act, when one chooses not to act rooted in reflection, when one chooses not to develop the outer capacity to act, when one chooses not to develop the inner capacity for reflection and when one’s position/role limits or prohibits one from outer action. 

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Gentle Reader, please see PART I for the context of what follows.

Listening Intently & Receptively.  Listening first to understand what is emerging from within you AND at the same time listening to understand what is emerging from the other; this requires listening intently and listening with undefended receptivity.  The servant also listens in order to empathize; this is rooted in an attitude of caring.  The servant invites and honors all voices — especially voices that might not resonate with the listener (those voices that are disturbing to the listener or those voices that are critical of the listener or those voices that are skeptical or those voices that are ‘challenging’ the listener).  It is also important to listen to the ‘silence,’ the spaces between the words, which includes the non-verbal messages sent by the speaker (the listener should also ‘listen’ to the non-verbal messages sent to the other).  I find Greenleaf’s questions to be helpful and challenging: ‘Why is there so little listening?’  ‘When I speak, how will that improve on the silence?’ 

Framing Effective Questions.  Effective questions are ones that arise from a place of ‘not knowing.’  Too often I like to frame questions from a place of knowing, like the attorney who does not ask a question that he or she does not know the answer to.  Effective questions also probe, challenge, help the other ‘go deeper’ and are offered with the belief and attitude that the responder does, indeed, have the potential to respond intelligently, creatively and truthfully.  Effective questions call forth the wisdom of the responder and hence are also rooted in the belief that the responder does, indeed, have wisdom to offer.

Framing ‘Aching’ Questions.  For one person an ‘aching question’ might be the question of life-after-death, for another it might entail the problems that evil and suffering bring to one’s life or world.  For another it might be a question that is deeply personal and immediate, for example, a profound ethical dilemma or a question involving the direction of one’s life.  Often these questions are to ‘be held’ and ‘lived into’ rather than directly responded to; sometimes they are questions that simply must be spoken (see Parsifal and the Fisher-King story).

Balancing ‘Being Faithful’ with ‘Being Effective.’  Our culture is enamored with being ‘effective’ (and being efficient) and minimizes, if not directly ignores or denies, the importance of ‘being faithful.’  Servants are called to being both.  When must I choose to be effective and when must I choose to be faithful even though I might not be effective?  What am I called to be faithful to?  In 1995 I heard Mother Teresa tell a young reporter that ‘I am not called to be effective, I am called to be faithful!’  I continue to hold this question: ‘What am I called to be faithful to?’

Gentle Reader, there are, of course, other disciplines that we might need to develop or develop more fully and my experience is that many of the folks that I have shared these with have identified one or more of these as important at this time in their lives.  They have also told me that it would be helpful to them if they took the time to develop these one or two more fully.  So here are some questions that might help you as you consider which disciplines to develop or develop more fully.

Some Reflective Questions: At this time in your life which discipline do you need to develop, or develop more fully?  What is your motivation for doing so? 

Specifically, what are you willing to commit to in order to develop this discipline, or to develop it more fully?

How will you know that you have developed it, or developed it more fully?

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Discipline is not rooted in external compulsion; it is rooted in the habits of the mind and is manifested in our choices and behavior.  I have found that for the servant, whether leader or follower, there are a number of disciplines that serve him or her well.  Before I share a few of these it might be helpful to define ‘discipline.’  Simply put ‘discipline’ = an activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill or a capacity (note: skill and capacity are not the same — for example, a person might have developed his or her skill for riding a bicycle to the extent it has become ‘second nature’ and yet might not have developed the capacity to ride 25 miles without stopping).

If one chooses to develop or develop more full any of the following disciplines it is important to remember that ‘practice DOES NOT make perfect — practice MAKES permanent.’  Thus we must be clear as to what we are going to practice and over-time integrate and this might mean that it will be helpful for us to seek out a person that can support us or help guide us.  It might also be helpful to keep in mind that ‘reflection plus experience’ will equal the learning; so as we practice the discipline it might serve us well to reflect upon the consequences (intended and unintended) and effects (upon self and upon the other[s]) and affects (emotional responses of self and the other[s]).

So given this, Gentle Reader, I invite you to consider the following disciplines.

Being Present = being awake and aware in the ‘now’ while showing up physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually [some do not resonate with ‘spiritual’ and some resonate with ‘spirit’ — it does seem that if our ‘spirit’ is depleted then it powerfully affects how we show up and to what extent we can be fully present].  The common distractions that hinder, if not directly block, our capacity to ‘being present’ include, but are not limited to: busyness, internal noise, being whelmed-over, being distressed, being fearful, being anxious and being distracted.  Consider, also, that being awake and aware in this way does not bring comfort and solace but might well result in one being uncomfortable, if not disturbed [if we are awake and aware ‘now’ and if we then ‘look around’ we might well become uncomfortable, if not disturbed, by how others relate to others, by the different types of poverty that are manifested, by the homeless that stand on our street corners, by the pain that shows up in people’s faces].

Reflection = if one is going to learn it might well serve the person to develop or develop more fully his or her capacity for reflection [I think of myself as being a ‘reflective-participant-observer’ in my own life].  As I mentioned above, it might serve us well to reflect upon the consequences, the effect and the ‘affect’ of a choice or behavior upon self and upon the other(s).  ‘I’ can develop this discipline and so can ‘we’ (we = a team, for example).  I am remembering speaking with a Company Commander shortly after he returned from serving in the second Gulf War.  He described for me the process he used after each mission (his Company flew Black Hawk helicopters).  He would meet with those who flew the mission and they would take the time to reflect upon the three things I mentioned: the consequences, the effect and affect (especially upon themselves).  They also spoke of what they learned, of what was confirmed or disconfirmed and of what ‘surprises’ presented themselves.  The debriefings helped him and those he led learn from and prepare for the next mission.

about:blank Reflection plus experience is the learning. –Charles Handy

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