Two weeks ago, I reflected on the fact that society suffers when the natural servant doesn’t stand up and lead. As I moved through the last 14 days, I challenged myself to lead differently; especially when I was confronted with words and images that I disagree with. In the past, I would let comments go by that I disagreed with; thinking I could not change the way others think. I know I can’t continue in that mode if I am to contribute to a more caring society.
So how do I proceed?
My servant leadership journey guides me to use the art of persuasion. I am reminded of the story that Mr. Greenleaf shared about how John Woolman used “clear, gentle and persistent persuasion” to eradicate slavery across the Society of Friends. Woolman worked to achieve this goal for more than 30 years and by 1770 no Quakers held slaves.
Wow – 30 years!
Issues like multi-generational poverty and systemic racism need to be addressed in order to create a better world for our children and grandchildren. Those problems are hard to solve and will take time. I will use “clear, gentle and persistent persuasion” and come together with other servant-leaders to do my part to heal society.
Yet, I feel unprepared.
I return to Greenleaf who also encourages me to be a seeker. “The ‘seeker’ brings openness, aggressive searching, and good critical judgment – all within the context of the deeply felt attitude, ‘I have not found it yet.’ ” The leader is also seeker first.
As I seek further, I realize that I must start with envisioning the destination. In this more caring society:
• We treat each other with respect.
• We acknowledge that the lens through which we see the world differs. You cannot change my lens; I cannot change yours. What we can do is believe each other when we describe our take on the same situation.
• If we define a win as getting everything we want then a win/win is never possible; there are always tradeoffs. We make tradeoffs to arrive at the best possible solution; that is the win!
• We learn from our differences. We aren’t afraid of them. We aren’t better or worse because of them.
• We share a common dream for peace, hope and love.
As I continue to seek, I encounter the obstacles in my path. The road is not smooth, in fact it’s quite treacherous. With courage and resolve, I find a way to step out on the journey to a more caring society. I remain mindful that there is true evil in this world. An evil person is NOT the person who disagrees with me. I need to acknowledge and accept the difference. I must not be deterred because evil exists. I must become a part of a bigger community that will crowd it out. My search will use more than my sight. I must have:
• Courage to own my own positions.
• Wisdom to know which challenges to take on.
• An ability to truly listen to understand another’s point of view.
• Humility to accept I may be wrong.
• Foresight to arrive at the best possible solution.
Then and only then can I persuade another that the path I am on is the right one. I guess that’s why it took Woolman 30 years.
by Pat Falotico
Chief Executive Officer
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