Walking the Walk

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Anita Hurst

Director, Student Programs

Greenleaf Center

When I was a sophomore in college, I was questioning my faith. I did not grow up in a religious or spiritual home. My very close friend who is a devout Christian told me, “Anita, you might not talk the talk but you certainly walk the walk.” I knew nothing about Christianity at the time and I had never cracked open a Bible, but he saw me as somebody who already lived the values of a good Christian. This statement has stuck with me my entire life and still jumps to the forefront of my mind when I speak to others about servant leadership.

Many of the best servant-leaders you will ever meet will likely not self-identify as such. They may not understand what servant leadership is or have ever heard of Robert K. Greenleaf before, but they walk the walk of a servant-leader. They are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and how that impacts those around them. They are mindful of others and not only listen, but take action with what they hear. They take the time necessary to truly understand what is impacting those around them to the best of their ability and provide those in need with the most appropriate support. They are often well liked and respected because they are relationship builders and people connectors. They are intentional in decision-making. They serve others first, but also create time to take care of themselves so that they can be their best.

Robert K. Greenleaf says that servant leadership starts with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. From my experience I believe that for some people, that is subconscious and engrained as a part of who they are. They have been that way their whole lives and behaving as a servant-leader is a part of the values they have developed from childhood. Others must take that natural feeling to serve and create a more conscious effort to live as a servant leader every day. If practice makes perfect, then we must practice the skills and behaviors of a servant leader daily for it to become engrained in our culture. We must learn to walk to the walk, not just talk the talk.

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  • Jeff Miller

    Well said Anita.

  • Rob Stephenson

    Thanks Anita. A really important addition to the discussion. As we learn to lead in increasingly complex organisations and communities with more and more diverse cultural, ethnic and faith backgrounds, it is vital that we recognise that the characteristics and values inherent in servant leadership are those that have formed the foundations of successful, cohesive societies the world over. As a non-religious humanist, I would contend that religions, including Christianity, have adopted those characteristics and mores as they recognise their importance in a fair, just and successful community.
    Thanks for this, and the work you all do at Greenleaf to promote the values and value of Servant Leadership.

  • Aleesa

    Well said Anita…

  • Anita Hurst

    Thank you all for the kind words. I’m glad that my blog has resonated with you!