“…the enemy is strong natural servants who have the potential to lead but do not lead, or who choose to follow a non-servant. They suffer. Society suffers.” Robert K. Greenleaf included these words in his 1970 essay, The Servant as Leader.
The world is filled with giving and caring natural servants who care for their fellow man, donate to provide resources for the least privileged and generally enrich the lives of others. So, why is our society suffering?
Mr. Greenleaf also said: “if a flaw in the world is to be remedied, to the servant the process of change starts in here, in the servant, not out there.”
Is that our problem? Does this suggest that we, natural servants, are not looking inward enough, not connecting with our values or actively working to create a more just and caring society?
I cannot speak for anyone else but myself. Looking inward, I see a failure to truly lead as I am called to.
The events of this past week have been horrific. The division in our country (and quite frankly around the world) has created a deep fault line that threatens the future of our society. I don’t think anyone can deny that truth (despite your personal ideology). The difference lies in our capacity to love. According to RKG, “Love is an undefinable term, and its manifestations are both subtle and infinite. But it begins, I believe, with one absolute condition: unlimited liability! As soon as one’s liability for another is qualified to any degree, love is diminished by that much.”
I have a dear friend, a devout Catholic, who is very clear about his beliefs and what his faith demands of him. He told me a story about a time he started a coaching relationship with a client who believed he couldn’t effectively coach her because they had very different beliefs and backgrounds. My friend challenged her in a respectful way that his role was to help her be successful and he was committed to doing so. He also shared something that took her by surprise: “I may disagree with you on certain things, but I am called to love you. We may not agree on everything, but I will completely respect your right to have differing views and serve you as best I can. If you can believe that and trust me, we will be successful in this partnership.”
She looked at him for a few minutes and he wasn’t sure how she would respond. Eventually, she said, “OK, let’s get started.” My friend told me this former reluctant coaching client has become a good friend and their friendship is based on mutual respect and a sincere desire to help each other.
I don’t ask that we all agree. Quite honestly, life would be boring if we did. I do ask that we resist hate, recognize that systemic racism is real and commit to true healing. One final Greenleaf quote: “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.”
Dear Natural Servants, please join me to look inward, decide to lead and begin to heal.
by Pat Falotico
Chief Executive Officer
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