The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership at Seton Hall University (Greenleaf Center) stands united with our neighbors and fellow citizens who seek a better, more just America during these times of great pain and turmoil. Like so many, we are saddened by the recent death of George Floyd, another example of an African-American suffering a deadly encounter with police. And yet while we remain supportive of peaceful protest, we strongly condemn violence as a means to address pervasive disparities in our society.
Established by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1964 to advance the awareness and practice of servant leadership by individuals and organizations, the Greenleaf Center seeks to engage those entrusted with the care of others with a leadership approach that leads to optimal personal growth and development, and the building of community. Several years after its founding, the Greenleaf Center offered a response to the societal and economic upheaval triggered by police violence in the 60’s. Then, as now, we draw on Greenleaf’s words to engender hope: “… that more natural servants are trying to see clearly the world as it is and are challenging the pervasive injustice and taking sharper issue with wide disparity between the quality of society possible with available resources, and the actual performance of the whole range of institutions that exist to serve society.” The senseless killing of Mr. Floyd and too many others, further exposes the structural inequalities evident throughout our nation and the failure of America’s institutions to lift marginalized communities of color out of poverty and despair.
The current circumstances call for all leaders to manifest key principles of servant leadership, particularly those of listening, empathy and healing. Servant-leaders must consciously work to forge healing through greater unity and the creation of opportunities to look beyond our differences to find common ground, and to build community. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve….”
As dispiriting as these times may seem, the Greenleaf Center believes that we can find hope and grace in the broad and diverse swath of Americans demonstrating their empathy through an outpouring of shared grief and resolve to forge enduring societal change. Americans across hundreds of cities have done as much – reminding us all that the challenges associated with law enforcement and the range of widespread inequitable outcomes should not be viewed as the sole concern for African Americans and people of color more broadly, but that of everyone who values decency, humanity, and the sanctity of human life.
Joe Patrnchak Reginald Lewis
Chair, Greenleaf Center Board of Trustees Executive Director