My Reflections on Greenleaf 25: John Beede’s Sherpa Leadership

I met John Beede via video conference a few months back as we started planning for the 25th Greenleaf Conference. Both his story and his passion convinced me he needed to open our session in Grapevine, Texas. I expected that our participants would be energized by tales of his daring expeditions and moved by the respect he had for Nuru, his Sherpa. What I didn’t expect was the extent to which his message would call me to a different level of being a servant-leader.

First, Nuru is a modern day Leo, Herman Hesse’s servant in A Journey to the East. While ensuring John would successfully complete his quest to Everest’s Summit, he nurtured John’s spirit through his joyful countenance and his quick wit.

John shared a number of ways that we, too, can become a “High Altitude” Servant-Leader. I embraced one that will guide my growth. “High Altitude Servant-Leaders have radical boundaries.” Your servant nature might bristle at the thought at first. Mine did! Think about it. Do you hear Greenleaf’s wisdom coming through? Greenleaf called it systematic neglect: “to sort out the more important from the less important – and the important from the urgent.” We do better over time when we focus even if we suffer some short-term discomfort.

A former IBM executive called it his “zone of disinterest”. While the label might sound a touch arrogant, the idea is the same. We need to stop meddling in things that do not need our attention. In fact, we might just mess things up if we do engage. Letting Go might be hard but we must learn to.

Throughout the conference, there were a number of opportunities to keep my boundaries radical. Knowing there were smart, talented and able teammates in place to handle whatever came up, I allowed myself to LET GO! Not easy. Look up Control Freak on Wikipedia and my photo might just be there. The Radical Boundaries rewards were numerous. I was able to be truly present at the conference and learn from all those who were on the journey.

How else can we keep our boundaries radical? Perhaps it’s as simple as:

  • Allow our teammates to make the decisions they are ready to make and do not second guess them.
  • Be a resource, not a guide.
  • Share what is inside our boundaries and ensure clarity.
  • Do what we say we will do.

I will ask my “Leo” for help on this!

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by Pat Falotico

Chief Executive Officer

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