Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness
by Robert K. Greenleaf
We (locally, nationally and globally) have a leadership crisis, which profoundly affects peace (in fact, it is the single most important factor - see ).  The following is what I highlighted during my read of this excellent book -- I recommend it as one of the top resources for anyone interested in Leadership (not to mention peace).  My purpose in providing them is to interest you, the reader, and hope that you will obtain and read the complete work.  To properly understand the highlights, you need to read the book to put them in the proper context.  The 330 page book can be ordered for approx. US$23.90 from The Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership, 921 E. 86th St., Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46240 (tel. 317-259-1241) or the publisher Paulist Press, 997 Macarthur Blvd., Mahwah, NJ, USA 07430; ISBN 0-8091-2527-7 (or check or ).  This book puts Leadership into perspective, as to what we should expect and do.  It epitomizes the quote: "He profits most who serves best."    Robert Greenleaf (1904 - 1990) spent most of his life in the field of management, research, development and education.  He distilled his observations in a series of essays, books and videotapes on the theme of The Servant as Leader -- the objective of which is to stimulate thought and action for building a better, more caring society.  The Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership continues Robert's good work. Robert makes a compelling argument that the leaders we choose, and that we choose to be, should be servant leaders.

[Note - the book was written in 1977.  The book is even more important and relevant today, as when it was written.  The book is written in the male gender as was common in Mr. Greenleaf's time.  The reader should make allowances accordingly.]


The wise are not necessarily scholars, and scholars are not necessarily wise.
"There is a new problem in our country.  We are becoming a nation that is dominated by large institutions -- churches, businesses, governments, labor unions, universities -- and these big institutions are not serving us well.  I hope that all of you will be concerned about this.  Now you can do as I do, stand outside and criticize, bring pressure if you can, write and argue about it.  All of this may do some good.  But nothing of substance will happen unless there are people inside these institutions who are able to (and want to) lead them into better performance for the public good.  Some of you ought to make careers inside these big institutions and become a force for good -- from the inside."
... concern for pervasive student attitudes ... devoid of hope...
... followers will be responsive only to able servants who would lead them...
... we live in the age of the anti-leader, and our vast educational structure devotes very little care to nurturing leaders or to understand followership.
...we are in a crisis of leadership in which vast numbers of "educated" people make such gross errors in choosing whose leadership to follow ...
... the servant leader potential which ... is latent to some degree in almost every young person.
Legitimize power has become an ethical imperative.
My first concern is for the individual in society and his seeming bent to deal with the massive problems of our times wholly in terms of systems, ideologies and movements.
... failing to lead when there is the opportunity.
Overarching these is a concern for the total process of education ...
Part of the problem is that serve and lead are overused words with negative connotations.  But they are also good words and I can find no others that carry as well the meaning I would like to convey.  Not everything that is old and worn, or even corrupt, can be thrown away.  Some of it has to be rebuild and used again.  So it is, it seems to me, with the words serve and lead.

The idea of The Servant as Leader came out of reading Hermann Hesse's Journey to the East.
... the great leader is seen as servant first ...
... prophecy ...
... I should do what I could about it.
... prophetic voices of great clarity, and with a quality of insight equal to that of any age, are speaking cogently all of the time.
Prophets grow in stature as people respond to their message.
It is seekers, then, who make prophets ...
But since we are the product of our own history, we see current prophecy within the context of past wisdom.
... how can one be a seeker?  How can one hear the contemporary voice when one has decided not to live in the present and has turned that voice off?
I am hopeful ...
A fresh critical look ... people are beginning to learn ... to relate ...
... respond only to individuals who are chosen as leaders because they are proven and trusted as servants.
... find it hard to convert themselves to affirmative builders of a better society.
... the "system" ...
"What can I do about it?"
... Albert Camus' Create Dangerously ... "One may long, as I do, for a gentler flame, a respite, a pause for musing.  But perhaps there is no other peace for the artist than what he finds in the heat of combat.  'Every wall is a door,' Emerson correctly said.  Let us not look for the door, and the way out, anywhere but in the wall against which we are living.  Instead, let us seek the respite where it is -- in the very thick of the battle.  For in my opinion, and this is where I shall close, it is there.  Great ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves.  Perhaps, then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear, amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope.  Some will say that this hope lies in a nation, others, in a man.  I believe rather that it is awakened, revived, nourished by millions of solitary individuals whose deeds and works every day negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history.  As a result, there shines forth fleetingly the ever-threatened truth that each and every man, on the foundations of his own sufferings and joys, builds for them all."
... build wholeness through adventurous creative achievement.
Serving and leading are still mostly intuition-based concepts ...
... my perceptual world is full of contradictions.
Who Is the Servant-Leader?
The servant-leader is servant first ...
The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? ... And, what is the effect on the lease privileged in society ...?
Everything Begins with the Initiative of an Individual
Why would anybody accept the leadership of another except that the other sees more clearly where it is best to go?
"If there is no community for you ... make it yourself."
What Are You Trying to Do?
... goal ... purpose ... dream ... visionary concept ...
... a sustaining spirit (entheos) that will support the tenacious pursuit of a goal.
... for something great to happen, there must be a great dream.
Listening and Understanding
... listening first.
Language and Imagination
The limitation on language, to the communicator, is that the hearer must make that leap of imagination.
Withdrawal - Finding One's Optimum
The servant-leader must constantly ask: How can I use myself to serve best?
Acceptance and Empathy
... never ... reject a single student.
The interest in and affection for one's followers which a leader has ... is clearly something the followers "haven't to deserve".
... requires a tolerance of imperfection.
Know the Unknowable - Beyond Conscious Rationality
... a sense for the unknowable ... foresee the unforeseeable.
... intuitive insight ...
If, on a practical decision in the world of affairs, you are waiting for all of the information  for a good decision, it never comes.
This is a terrible dilemma of the hesitant decision maker.
The art of leadership rests, in part, on the ability to bridge that gap by intuition, that is, a judgment from the unconscious process.
... must be more creative than most;and creativity is largely discovery ...
Intuition is a feel for patterns, the ability to generalize based on what has happened previously.
... timing ... anxiety ...
Overarching conceptual insight that gives a sounder framework for decisions (so important, for instance, in foreign policy) is the greater gift.
Foresight - the Central Ethic of Leadership
Prescience, or foresight ...
Machiavelli ... "Thus it happens in matters of state; for knowing afar off (which is only given a prudent man to do) the evils that are brewing, they are easily cured."
The prudent man is one who constantly thinks of "now" as the moving concept in which past, present moment, and future are one organic unity.  And this requires living by a sort of rhythm that encourages a high level of intuitive insight about the whole gamut of events from the indefinite past, through the present moment, to the indefinite future.  One is at once, in every moment of time, historian, contemporary analyst, and prophet -- not three separate roles.  This is what the practicing leader is, every day of his life.
Living this way is partly a matter of faith.
Foresight is the "lead" that the leader has.
Required is that one live a sort of schizoid life.  One is always at two levels of consciousness.  One is in the real world -- concerned, responsible, effective, value oriented.  One is also detached, riding above it, seeing today's events, and seeing oneself deeply involved in today's events, in the perspective of a long sweep of history and projected into the indefinite future.
Awareness and Perception
"If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything will appear to man as it is, infinite."
Most of us move about with very narrow perception ...
Awareness is not a giver of solace -- it is just the opposite.  It is a disturber and an awakener.  Able leaders are usually sharply awake and reasonably disturbed.  They are not seekers after solace.  They have their own inner serenity.
Persuasion - Sometimes One Man at a Time
... John Woolman ... His method was unique.  He didn't raise a big storm about it or start a protest movement.  His method was one of gentle but clear and persistent persuasion.
Leadership by persuasion has the virtue of change by convincement rather than coercion.  Its advantages are obvious.
One Action at a Time - The Way Some Great Things Get Done
Conceptualizing - The Prime Leadership Talent
"The spirit (not knowledge) is power."
... transforming its exportable surplus ... rebuilding the national spirit ... nourishing tradition ...
And Now!
... so "situational" that it rarely draws on known models ... a fresh creative response to here-and-now opportunities.
... Paulo Freire ...
Healing and Serving
... the servant-leader might also acknowledge that his own healing is his motivation.
... the search for wholeness is something they share.
"What you in AA want to do cannot be done with money.  You must be poor.  You must not use money to do your work."
Community - The Lost Knowledge of These Times
Where there is not community, trust, respect, and ethical behavior are difficult for the young to learn and for the old to maintain.
... moves from people-using to people-building.
Power and Authority - The Strength and the Weakness
... servant's power of persuasion and example.
Some coercive power is overt and brutal.  Some is covert and subtly manipulative.
Part of our dilemma is that all leadership is, to some extent, manipulative.  Those who follow must be strong!
It is not organic.  Only persuasion and the consequent voluntary acceptance are organic.
Servant-leaders are functionally superior ...
How Does One Know the Servant?
In Here, Not Out There
Who Is the Enemy?
Granting that fewer evil, stupid, or apathetic people or a better "system" might make the job easier, their removal would not change matters, not for long.
Liquidate the offending people, radically alter or destroy the system, and in less than a generation they will all be back.
The real enemy is fuzzy thinking on the part of good, intelligent, vital people, and their failure to lead, and to follow servants as leaders.
In short, 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.
... able servants with potential to lead will lead, and, where appropriate, they will follow only servant-leaders.  Not much else counts if this does not happen.
... critical aspect of realism that confronts the servant-leader, that of order.
This is the great challenge to the emerging generation of leaders: Can they build better order?
Preparation to lead ... must be the first priority.
All of this rests on the assumption that the only way to change a society (or just make it go) is to produce people, enough people, who will change it (or make it go).  The urgent problems of our day -- the disposition to venture into immoral and senseless wars, destruction of the environment, poverty, alienation, discrimination, overpopulation -- are here because of human failures, individual failures, one person at a time, one action at a time failures.

This is my thesis: caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built.
If a better society is to be built ... then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them.
... institutional reconstruction.
... we have a crisis of institutional quality, not so much from depredations of "evil" people as from sheer neglect by the "good people".
Crisis of Institutional Quality
If we are to have a more moral society, then moral man must also care for institutions.
Governments rely too much on coercion ...
Rarely does conceptual and inspired leadership come from government.
Business ... huckster-traders ...
Trustees: Prime Movers in institutional Regeneration
If more serving institutions are to be built, individuals who want to serve must, on their own, become institution builders where they are.
The most important qualifications for trustees should be that they care for the institutions, which means that they care for all of the people the institution touches, and that they are determined to make their caring count.
For the trustees to fail to build their own dependable information source and to act on what they have learned is a breach of trust.
Organization: The Neglected Element
Organization Structure: Formal and Informal
Organizations: Two Traditions
... first ... the hierarchical principle ... pyramidal structure.
... second ... comes down from Roman times ... primus inter pares -- first among equals.
What is proposed here for the top leadership team of large institutions is a shift from the hierarchical principle, with one chief, to a team of equals with a primus, preceded by the change in trustee attitude and the role necessary to assure its success.
Organization: Some Flaws in the Concept of the Single Chief
To be a lone chief atop a pyramid is abnormal and corrupting.
... a very real loneliness.
... indecisiveness
... too few leaders.
... destroy these persons' creativity ...
... prevents leadership by persuasion because the single chief holds too much power.
... it gives control priority over leadership.
Leadership: Conceptual and Operational
Conceptualizers at their best are intensely practical.  They are also effective persuaders and relations builders.
Whoever in the council has the greatest team-building ability should be primus ...
... result-oriented.
The Trustee as Leader
Legitimacy begins with trust.
... blind trust (including respect for authority) and trust generated by leadership charisma.
The only sound basis for trust is for people to have the solid experience of being served by their institutions in a way that builds a society that is more just and more loving, and with greater creative opportunities for all of its people.
The model of the single chief sitting atop the hierarchy is obsolete, and consequently we are at a point of crisis for want of trust in our major institutions.
... two strong teams, each led by a primus inter pares.
The cardinal principle is that no single person has unchecked power, but that all of them may be both restrained and encouraged by their peers.
The Large Business as Servant
... we should expect businesses to become conspicuously more serving faster than the others.
... the revolution of expectation among young people ...
... a new business ethic.
... emerging awareness of the limitations inherent in the traditional school ...
... businesses to build new relationships with government.
... owners of large businesses must make their peace with the idea that these institutions exist by the consent of clients, employees, and society at large -- all of whom must be well served, and whose judgement on whether they are being well served is becoming more and more discriminating.
The University as an Institution
... declare a crisis of confidence within the university.
This is an age of great candor, and honesty has risen (commendably) as a student priority.
What the typical university so desperately needs is leadership that will, in every nook and cranny, seek all genuine initiatives that will make the university better serving, and penalize, to the point of drying up or radically reorganizing, those departments and schools that fail to maintain themselves by rigorous self-criticism.
... few prophetic voices ... within the university
The Growing Edge Church
The central issue which young people are pressing on "established" people is that we are not doing well enough as a society.
The word "religion", at its root, means to rebind, to rebind man to the cosmos.
... become the chief nurturing force, conceptualizer of the opportunity, value shaper, and morale sustainer of leadership everywhere: in business, school, government, health and social service, philanthropy -- everywhere.
... become the architect of the more just, more loving, more serving society.
Authority and Strength: The Problem of Power
"... If you do this ... then you will be able to endure and all of this people also will go their way in peace."
... people have wanted order and they have been willing to pay the price of concentrating power in one person's hands as the only way they knew to get it.  Now the costs of this choice are looming too large ...
The abuse of power is curbed if the holder of power is surrounded by equals who are strong, and if there is close oversight by a monitoring group ...
There are several kinds of power.  One is coercive power, used principally to destroy.  Not much that endures can be built with it.
Leadership by persuasion and example is the way to build -- everywhere.
The Issue of Countervailing Power
No one should be powerless!
... proceed first to establish a new basis for trust ...
Goals and Purposes
Trust and Growth: The Value of Understanding
Someone ... must paint the dream.  For anything to happen there must be a dream.
Trust is first.  Nothing will move until trust is firm.
... skills are secondary.
... who is capable of, and prepared for, trust.
The challenge of the revolution of expectations can only be met if we can have more people who will serve as leaders -- everywhere.  A top leadership team of equals with a primus in our major institutions will grow more leaders faster than any other course available to us.  Leaders are not trained.  They are competent people to begin with, and they can be given a vision and a context of values.  Beyond that they need only opportunity and encouragement to grow.  Our major institutions must give more room for able people to grow.
... -- just one.

... the best of our  ... institutions ... is too far below what is reasonable and possible...
Conceptual Flaw
A basic conceptual flaw in the conventional wisdom of institutional structures is the inadequacy -- or even absence -- of provision for trustees to be a functioning part of the institution's leadership.
All too often we seem to disregard this important influence that institutions can have on people.
But government has accepted competition, in the for-profit realm, as the prime regulator and builder when, in fact, it may also be the great destroyer of people and the creator of abuses.
... manage ... from the Latin manus, hand, meaning the hand on the reins that guides the horse.
Trusteeship is the holding of a charter of public trust for an institution.
Leadership -- going out ahead to show the way -- is available to everyone in the institution who has the competence, values, and temperament for it, from the chairman to the least skilled individual. ... However, if their leadership should not be adequate, and if the institution is faltering for want of leadership, then it is important that whoever is able to assert leadership should do so.
Anyone can lead, and there is no single chief executive officer.
Trustee Initiative - A Historical Precedent
"Chartered" accountants ...
... needs for information and advice.
The C.P.A. audit was but one of the evidences of a new standard of quality, an effort to close the gap that separated mediocrity from excellence, that marked the emergence of these new companies at that time.
Limitations of the Conventional Trustee Role
When there are adverse conditions, sometimes trustees are the last to know -- and they should be among the first.
... a new trustee role is clearly delineated ...
Trustees Commonly Do Not Function in a Way That Builds Trust
... provide the cover of legitimacy.
... token ...
... neglect ...
... a growing disquiet about the arrangement ...
... largely fictitious ...
Power and Authority - The Central Issue of Trust
"Power" and "authority" have many meanings.  In this discussion power will mean both persuasion, where the response is truly voluntary, and coercion, either overt compulsion or covert manipulation.  Authority will be taken to mean the sanctions which legitimize the use of power.
"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
... role of trustees ...people in, and affected by, the institution will grow healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, and more likely to become servants of society.  The only real justification for institutions, beyond a certain efficiency (which, of course, does serve), is that people in them grow to greater stature than if they stood alone.
In essence, this view of the use of power holds that no one, absolutely no one, is to be entrusted with the operational use of power without the close oversight of fully functioning trustees.
Ambiguity in the institution - A Challenge to Trustee Understanding
First, there is the operational necessity to be both dogmatic and open to change.
A second ambiguity is the disability that goes with competence.
A third ambiguity is the need for a healthy tension between belief and criticism as part of the dynamism that makes a high-performing institution. ... Trustees need to be mostly critical.
... a single institution that is big and bad is more of a social problem than if it were small and bad.
The coercive power of government is mostly useful to restrain.  The building of voluntary institutions as instruments of quality comes more from the incremental actions of individuals as they serve and lead...
Foundations ...
The Problem of Getting It Done
... most of the efforts to meet the rising social expectations are largely coercive ...
... one man leadership ...
... trustees ... subservient ...
The Trustee Role - Initiating Rather Than Reacting
No person is complete, no one is to be entrusted with all.  Completeness is to be found only in the complemental talents of several who relate as equals.
We must reverse the assumption ...
... transformation ...
The Trustee Chairman
... need a rather unusual person as their chairman.
... there needs to be a Chairman's Institute.
The New Trustee Is Not a Super-Administrator
... no one, absolutely no one, is to be entrusted with the operational use of power without the close oversight of fully functioning trustees.
... objectivity and non-involvement are parts of the strength of the trustee role.
... deliberative body ...
... one service that would have assured a great and long durable future for our particular civilization, i.e. preparing those of the young who are capable of it for responsible roles as servants.
It is not being done!
... good idea ... good people ... resources ...
Trust begins with good motives.  But competence, and a way of sustaining competence, needs to be added to good motives.
... search for a coach ...
Trustees will accept strategic and tactical leadership from their chairman.  They will accept conceptual leadership from their coach.
The primary aim of the coach is to facilitate consensus -- achieving one mind.
And this is how they will learn.
... become a conspicuous leaven in a society that is much too disposed to violence ...
As a nation (perhaps as a world society) we stand in dire need of some new visions of our future course.
... perhaps the greatest threat is that we lack the mechanism of consensus.
... become a trusteed society ... as contrasted to a manipulated one ...
... caring ...
... a few words of advice from an old professor of sociology to the effect that there is a growing "people" problem in all American institutions and some of us should get inside and work on it.
"If you can't do it, I will find somebody who will."
"If you cared enough, you would find the idea and the people."
We may be witnessing the end of individualism as the predominant mores ...
Trustees as servants face one of the most exciting challenges of our times: to lead our moribund institutions, and some of the seemingly moribund people in them, into a future of greatness.
"The greatest sin of man is to forget that he is a prince -- that he has royal power."

... a new business ethic -- a striving for excellence.  Businesses are asked not only to produce better goods and services, but to become greater social assets as institutions.
... the principle of competition ... The practical consequence of this decision has been to impose ... the law of the jungle.
... business schools teach more about how to survive ... than ... to help build a better society.
When an action is regulated by law, the incentive for individual conscience to govern is diminished -- unless the law coincides with almost universally held moral standards.
It comes out better if one persuades rather than compels.
... must be loved if they are to serve us better.
Ethics and Manipulation
... leaders ... who better see the path ahead taking the risks to lead and show the way.
... intuitive insight ...
The role of top leadership ... is shifting away from that of the dominant decision-maker to that of manager of the information system.
The value of coercive power is inverse to its use.
... the new ethic ... will be: the work exists for the person as much as the person exists for the work.  Put another way, the business exists as much to provide meaningful work to the person as it exists to provide a product or service to the customer.
The business then becomes a serving institution -- serving those who produce and those who use.
A new consumer ethic will need to evolve alongside the new business ethic.
"Don't practice what you preach; just practice!"
... the first step -- to accommodate the wide differences and needs of the very able.
... the second step ... to exert a strong pull for growth on all in the enterprise who have unrealized potential and who want to grow.
... the new ethic requires that growth of those who do the work is the primary aim ...
"I am in the business of growing people ..."
... coming to grips with the moral issues of power, authority, and manipulation ...
..."the greatest meliorator of the world is selfish, huckstering trade."
Mediocrity (including self-serving) in positions of influence is primary ...
Memo on Growing From Small To Large
I believe that you need to assume that work, all work, exists as much for the enrichment of the life of the worker as it does for the service of the one who pays for it.
Business Directors Initiate Social Policy
... become affirmative (as opposed to passive or reactive) servants of society.
... social audit ...
... establishing reasonable social performance standards ...
Social Policy for the Company
As a general policy, the company is to be economically successful (both long term and short term) and it is to be regarded as socially responsible by all interested parties: employees (including administrators), vendors, owners, customers, suppliers, church, university, and appropriate agencies of government.  Social performance is to be separately judged in each country where the company operates.
... refer to 6 listed elements of social policy for the company.
If directors want a more socially responsible company ... they should start the process by becoming more responsible directors.

Ivan Illich's book, Deschooling Society ... a comprehensive revolutionary approach ...
I fault the whole educational enterprise on three major points:
First, I fault it for the refusal (and I believe it is that) to offer explicit preparation for leadership ...
Second ... attitude of educators toward social mobility.
Third ... confusion ... regarding the teaching of values.
... value clarification ...
.... credentialing.
Friends Schools and The Issue of "Power and Authority"
... Coleman report ... questions about what investment in education, per se, will accomplish ... if education were the panacea ... the social fabric should appear stronger rather than weaker.
... consequences of building a social structure based on a labyrinth of limited-liability institutions rather than on community.
... leaderless ...
... "for everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven".
Power and Authority
... the hope that might and power might someday be superseded by spirit.
Issue #1: The assumption that some individuals know what another ought to learn, and are justified in imposing their judgement -- backed up by sanctions.
"... giving was ethically dangerous.  ... where the helper presumes to know more of what is in the best interest of the recipients than the recipients know for themselves. .... role of almoner is a corrupting one -- for the almoner as well as for the recipient.."  Merrimon Cuninggim in Private Money and Public Service (what Dr. Cuninggim says about giving is also applicable to teaching or to any helping role for that matter: doctor, nurse, social worker, etc.)
"All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
... first, they acknowledge the potentiality for evil in the act of doing whatever they do.
... make sure that the balance of power in the institution is optimal.
... the institution is strongest when all the parties have adequate power for their role; it is weakest where one or more of the elements has too little power, because then somebody has too much and the corrupting influence of power is moving toward the absolute.
Issue #2: The fact that our whole system of education rests on coercion: first the legal requirement for attending school until age 16 - 18; then the built-in compulsion to continue academic education by the credentialing that begins with the secondary school diploma and continues through the Ph.D. degree -- and beyond.
Our problem is that we have to teach algebra to people who don't want to learn it.
Hope for the Future?
... the remedy ... raise the spirit of young people, help them build their confidence that they can successfully contend with the condition, work with them to find the direction they need to go and the competencies they need to acquire, and send them on their way.
... I Ching, the Book of Changes. ... primarily concerned with the philosophy of change, with living with change as an organic part of one's nature rather than thinking of the good as static and change as threatening, as so many of my contemporaries seem to view it.
... constant change ... interrupted ... its perversion ... Change is natural movement ...
... our place today, to see ourselves as responsible people at the center of an organic process of change which, at this time, may be strenuous and confused.
No matter how difficult the challenge or how impossible or hopeless the task may seem, if you are reasonably sure of your course, just keep on going!
Case Problem for Trustees
... how best to prepare young people to serve and be served by the present society and to grow with their opportunities ...
... the best of universities are not adequately preparing young people to serve and be served by the present society and to grow with their opportunities.
... do not trust the governance structure ... in which trustees are in a nominal and reactive role.
... trustees shift their role toward more affirmative educational leadership.
Only the emergence of strong leadership in the governing board, the trustees, will set the university on a sounder course ...
... the primary loyalty of too many faculty members as individuals is not to their university or even to their students, but to their discipline, their professional expertise and reputation, and their colleagues ...
Liberal Arts Education and the World of Work
... in a good society, every person who is capable of being educated at all should be liberally educated first ...
... a quest after knowledge for its own sake, but also as leading to social involvement in practical affairs for the sake of social good and individual dignity.
The grand design of education is to excite, rather than pretend to satisfy, an ardent thirst for information; and to enlarge the capacity of the mind, rather than to store it with knowledge, however useful.
... to prepare students to serve, and be served by, the present society.
... a more constructive building force in society, and do this in a way that helps them find their own legitimate needs, psychic and material, better served, ...
... [life] is nearly reasonable, but not quite.  Life is not an illogicality, yet it is a trap for logicians. ... wildness lies in wait.
"This job of mine is tolerable only because I am capable of living with the illusion that things are a lot better than they really are."
A liberal education provides the best context I know of for preparing inexperienced people to venture into the unknown, to face the inexactitude and the wildness, with assurance.
As a consultant, I am a gradualist because I am disposed to work with the ambiguities and not try to impose idealistic solutions.
... goal ... to prepare ... to serve and be served by the present society.
... two basic needs: learning to cope with the inevitable ambiguity, and faith in the dependability of one's creative resources to produce, in the situation, answers to one's going-in questions as one ventures into new experience.
... a place where you prepare for the real world.
Campus Use of Resource People
These students are already committed to a servant ethic, they are willing to work hard (without the incentive of grades, credits, and degrees) to build the competence that is required to act responsibly, and they have the potential to develop that quality of intuitive judgment, the gift of knowing, that sets successful bearers of responsibility apart from others.
... coaching them, much as the athletic department finds and coaches athletes.

... every truly serving institution thinks of its existence as being a privilege.
... "giving is a potentially immoral act".
Government is not the best examiner of assumptions for society.
Prudence and Creativity: A Trustee Responsibility

Religion is seen in the root meaning of that term -- religio, to rebind. The thing to be done with religious concern is to rebind humankind to the cosmos, to heal the pervasive alienation.
On Being A Seeker In the Late Twentieth Century
But if one really believes that the "word" has been given for all time, how can one be a seeker?
Albert Camus' Create Dangerously ... "Great ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves.  Perhaps, then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear, amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope."
...  if one really believes that the "word" has been given for all time, how can one be a seeker? 
... By their intense and sustained listening they will make the new prophet who will help them find that wholeness that is only achieved by serving.
"Do not seek to follow the footsteps of men of old.  Seek what they sought!"
"Take from the altar of the past the fire, not the ashes." 
The Art of Knowing
... intuit ...
... the urgent need, around the world, for leadership by strong ethical persons -- those who by nature are disposed to be servants (in the sense of helping others to become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous and more likely themselves to be servants) and who therefore can help others to move in constructive directions.
Servant-leaders are healers in the sense of making whole by helping others to a larger and nobler vision and purpose than they would be likely to attain for themselves.
... live in the age of the anti-leader.
... far too much of the inevitable leadership is in the hands of the gross, the self-seeking, and the corrupt.
... most of this is wasted breath if there are not, somewhere within the structures of these discrete institutions, persons with the will and the competence and the vision to lead them to better performance as servants of society.
Who is preparing the next generation of leaders -- institution builders -- to do this?
The obvious first answer to such questions is that if we lack competence, we had better get some.
"Read it and read it and read it and it means what it says to you."
Something will come that is unique and personal to each seeker.
... the false prophets and the true prophets ... how could one tell the difference? ... "There -- is -- no -- way!  ... Yet it is terribly important that we know the difference!"
Organizing to Serve
I am not suggesting that mine is the best, or the only, view of the problem.  But watching and working with a wide range of institutions is the source of such competence as I have.
The constraints of institutions and the aims of education are incompatible.
... take some action, covert or overt, to this end.  It is a new attitude toward restraints that pervades everything.
The confusion that we all feel may be that the institutions in which most of us are deeply involved have not caught up with the new vision that so many of us have of our unrealized potentials as persons.
The issue ... is affirmative, such as peace, justice, and charity, are broad idealistic generalities and the actions are sporadic and imprecise.
...unfortunately, all that one can do with opposition is to stop or prevent something.  One must oppose those things that one believes to be wrong, but one cannot lead from a predominantly negative posture.  One can lead an institution or a total society only by strong, specific, sharply aimed affirmative actions.
... too much defense of something, too little building of a better order of things.
... it is so much easier ... to be negative than to be affirmative.  [the devil's advocate]
... it creates a leaderless society.
... "institution" ... tucked away among the many historical meanings is: "something that enlarges and liberates"
An institution is a gathering of persons who have accepted a common purpose, and a common discipline to guide the pursuit of that purpose, to the end that each involved person reaches higher fulfillment as a person, through serving and being served by the common venture, than would be achieved alone or in a less committed relationship.
... totally new.
... refuting, by a practical demonstration, the contention of the old schoolmaster who said that the constraints of institutions and the aims of education are incompatible.
... all of the people participating ... can find in their participation conditions that favor fulfillment of their potentialities as persons.
... more to do with their influence on society than what they teach or advocate.
... general strategy for building such a model institution:
1. First, there must be a goal, a concept of a distinguished serving institution in which all who accept its discipline are lifted up to nobler stature and greater effectiveness than they are likely to achieve on their own or with a less demanding discipline.
2. The second part of a general strategy of institution building is an understanding of leadership and followership that is essential for movement toward a goal such as this.
3. The third major element is organization-structure-modus operandi. ... a balanced team of equals ... primus inter pares ...
4. ... the need for trustees.
The disease is more fundamental; the whole institutional arrangement of our society is flawed ...
Caring is the essential motive.
Leadership means that one individual has a better than average sense of what should be done now, and is willing to take the risk to say: Let us do this now. ... Inspiration is usually received by the best prepared individual who, for this immediate act, is the leader.
Followership is an equally responsible role because it means that the individual must take the risk to empower the leader and to say that, in the matter at hand, I will trust your insight.  Followership implies another preparation in order that trusting, empowering the leader, will be a strength-giving element in the institution.
... require of all a common purpose and a clear definition of obligations.
The path to a better society is never laid out before us as a safe journey.  We move from one insight to another -- every step being a risk.  It requires little faith to take a step that involves little risk.
... the overarching issue is: Will you accept the challenge to build of your ... order an entity of such commanding distinction as servant -- in the late twentieth century -- that the force of the model you present will move your [institution] -- and the world?  You will lead with your example.
"Cultivate your own garden and its fragrance will be wafted across the ocean to us."
"We stand in a crisis and we can be bearers of the torch or we can carefully husband a little flame and keep it from going out a little longer."  In the few minutes that I have had to talk with you I have tried to hand you a torch.  Will you accept it?
The Growing Edge Church
The imminence ... that some of those who have not been hearing will begin to hear.
Will not whatever institution shelters the new teachers and husbands the new teaching become the growing edge church in these times?
"Mediocrity is the truly diabolical force in the world."
... "thou shalt not's" ...
... placing the greater obligations on the more able ...
Those outside can criticize, flagellate, and disrupt, but only those who are inside can build.

... two inestimable qualities: great integrity, and a profound sense of the mystical -- each was guided by the heart.
Abraham Joshua Heschel: Build a Life Like a Work of Art
"Let them remember that there is a meaning beyond absurdity.  Let them be sure that every little deed counts, that every work has power, and that we can -- every one -- do our share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and all frustrations and all disappointments.  And above all, remember that the meaning of life is to build a life as if it were a work of art."
... the prophets really were the most disturbing people who ever lived ...
... facing the challenge is the issue.
... social concern ... political activism ... reconstruct within the system ... separate paths that could not be merged.
... the highest level of religious experience is awareness of oneness with the mystery ...
Donald John Cowling: Life Style of Greatness
"Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized."
... an unequivocal belief in freedom for the human spirit to flower.
Paradoxically, one must be both good and bad to enjoy this life to the full or to comprehend its meaning.
... adult performance in all fields is pretty mediocre when judged by what is reasonably possible ...
"Orthodoxy is a dam that is built by persons who think they have reached the ultimate in human thought, and that there will never be anything as good.  They are finding that it is easier to become interested in the dam than in the great current that it is holding back."
This plan is two-sided: 1. The President is responsible for the administration of the College subject only to the authority of the Board of Trustees but in frequent conference with individual members of the faculty best informed regarding particular questions and with the cooperation of the faculty as a whole, which he should be wise and tactful enough to secure.  2. All teachers teach in their own right and are responsible only to professional standards, to their own conception of the truth and to the purposes and ideals of the institution, subject of course to such suggestions and council (not supervision) as the President may be able to give, especially to the younger teachers.
... aim at such educational efficiency as will enable her to give to those she undertakes to train a preparation for life that is excelled by no other institution ...
Abundant physical and psychological health may have had its roots in this attitude.
... any important influence on this complex organized society must be wielded through persuasion.  It must be persuasion that has the effect of shaping the institutions that are the real forces in the modern world.
... the League to Enforce Peace ...
... a declaration urging the "outlawing of war", membership ... in the permanent court of international justice, opposition to military education in colleges, and cooperation with the League of Nations.
... persuasion and leadership rather than force.
... intense passion for freedom of the individual.  ... Only individual persons in all of their uniqueness and individuality were real.
... a "situationist" ... utterly human, practical, realistic, and goal centered.
... a "traditionalist" ... lived by principles ...
... responsibilities of achievers in a free society ...
... the rewards of a man's efforts should be in proportion to the social value of what he does.
... a social trust...
"There is only one way to raise money: find the people who have it and ask for some."
The capacity for appreciation is a gift of maturity and young people often do not have it ...
Achievement is essential, but it is not enough.  It is the quality of people, seen over a life span within the context of their particular achievements, that must be weighed.

Responsibility is a difficult thing to talk about.  It is often seen as that which others should have more of.  Few of us think of ourselves as irresponsible; the admission would be too devastating.  We all do pretty well at rationalizing our own acts of commission and omission that bear on responsibility.
Most definitions of responsibility imply conforming with conventional expectations, conventional morality, or being deterred by consideration of known sanctions or consequences.
Rather, I think of responsibility as beginning with a concern for self, to receive that inward growth that gives serenity of spirit without which someone cannot truly say, "I am free."
... the way they choose to respond.
"Happy the youth who believes that his duty is to remake the world and bring it more in accord with virtue and justice, more in accord with his own heart."
Bureaucracy is defined as a system that has become narrow, rigid, and formal, depends on precedent, and lacks initiative and resourcefulness -- a pretty bad state of affairs. ... As I see it, this is the way all institutions tend to become as they grow old, large, or respectable.
Because we need the good they do, we tend to overlook the harm done because they are bureaucracies.
There comes a time when one no longer cares a damn about a lot of things ... they withdraw from the struggle.  Then, in old age, they can do what striving people cannot do.
These attributes were the fulfillment of a life style that was set in his youth ...
They don't affirmatively cultivate a life ...
I am inclined to agree with the judgments of the severest of the young critics: the world of adult practice in all fields is pretty mediocre when judged by what is reasonably possible.
... my chief disappointment with my generation is that so few seem capable or disposed to exert a leavening influence on bureaucracy.  For the most part they tend, as you well know, to reinforce it.
But this question I would raise with the present generation -- especially the outspoken critics: What will the state of affairs be twenty to thirty years from now when this generation will be in control and mine will be gone? ... I fear the judgement will be the same. ... are you any better prepared to deal with the causes than we were?
If you believe with Kazantzakis that your duty is to remake the world and bring it more in accord with virtue and justice, more in accord with your own heart, then you have the obligation to prepare yourself now by cultivating the life style that will make it a reasonable expectation that you will do your share.
... "spirit" ...
You get a life style, one which augers for optimum response, while you are young ...
What are the dimensions of an optimum life style?
They are beauty, momentaneity, openness, humor, and tolerance.
Beauty ... it penetrates the unknown, opens up new insights, advances knowledge.
"... now I am speaking to the future."
Openness ... From listening comes wisdom. ... Listening is an attitude, an attitude toward other people and what they are trying to express.
Humor ... Scripture says, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  How, then, can you love your neighbor unless you love yourself?  And how can you love yourself without humor?
I assume that you are resolved to use your lives well and to contribute more than you take out of life because you are among the more favored, and any civilized society requires that the more favored carry more than their share of the burdens; and because life is more worth living this way.  ... I assume that you are not seeking some isolated ivory tower existence ...
Thus responsible persons are the ones who, while recognizing the pervasive bureaucratic nature of the world in which they will live and do their work, cultivate, as a conscious discipline, a life style that favors their optimal performance as an anti-bureaucratic influence, over a life span of mature living.
"... we do well at growing critics and experts, but we do not produce enough people for the responsible roles."
At the heart of every constructive action are responsible persons, those who reach out to engage with real life issues where the going may be rough, lay out alternatives (invent some if necessary), assess their relative merits, choose one that accords with virtue and justice -- with their own hearts -- make the choice knowing they may be wrong and suffer for it, and bear the risk bravely.  But at every level from the family to world society we are tragically short of such people.  We have plenty of able people who are only critics, plenty who are only experts, and too few responsible people.  And we are in this dilemma because not enough of my generation, when they were your age, thought it their duty to remake the world and bring it more in accord with virtue and justice, more in accord with their own hearts, and too few consciously sought a life style that would prepare them for responsible roles that would make a difference.  If they were able, too many settled for being experts and critics.  They had the chance to be exceptional, by adding responsibility to good motives and ability, but they settled for the ordinary.
... it is not important that you make a lot of money, achieve high status, write books, or receive medals or honors.  But it is important that the quality of your life be extraordinary and that you carry this quality into the work of the world ...
... the prompting of the human spirit -- from the heart.

Civilization, it seems, has not advanced to a point where, as a natural gift of grace, either individuals, institutions, or governments are likely to be both powerful and humble without some basic changes in public thinking that are not yet evident.
... Gandhi's dream of a village-based nation ...
A one-way flow of aid is all right for an emergency or a short period of readjustment, but not as a term thing ...
..."corrupting work" ... supplicants ...
In his book 'Private Money and Public Service', Dr. Merrimon Cuninggim, former president of the Danforth Foundation, takes a more theological view when he suggests that "giving is a potentially immoral act."  He continues: "Its danger lies in its assumption of virtue by the agent, of the virtue of agentry, with an accompanying train of unvirtuous assumptions.  The relatively innocent desire to help is so thinly distinguished from wanting to be the helper.  But the latter is capable of all sorts of distortions: wanting to be well known as the helper, wanting to dictate, to paternalize, to manipulate.  It is not likely that a foundation, any more than a person, will escape these faults by thoughtlessness or accident.  Only by being conscious of the danger is there a chance to escape.  In other words, a foundation must believe in the potential immorality of giving."
... opens the way to a new basis of relationship between aid giver and aid receiver ...
One may not safely give unless one is open and ready to receive the gifts of others, whatever they may be.
An important dimension of leadership within a nation that has substantial power of affluence ... will be the ability to persuade those who are in a position to give, whether an individual, an institution, or the nation, that they should reach out for, gratefully receive, and help pay the cost of the giving to themselves by the less favored.

Our problem is circular: we must understand in order to be able to understand.  It has something to do with awareness and symbols.
... meaning is a stern taskmaster: one must aspire, one must persevere, one must accept the discipline of dealing thoughtfully with symbols.
... bound to the cosmos.

Is not every servant a leader because of influence by example?
"We convince by our presence."
The transforming movement, should there be one, may come from anywhere and may spread in unaccountable ways.
... leadership by example sustains trust.
"They also serve who only stand and wait."  John Milton

A Paradox Illuminated - Part 1 of a three-part series in CA Magazine (the magazine of Canadian Chartered Accountants) on the redeeming characteristics of the servant leadership approach.  "I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy" Rabindranath Tagore.  As Indian poet and Nobel laureate Tagore reminds us, we find the meaning of our lives in serving family, community and those in our professional lives. ... In summary, servant-leadership recognizes the best way to encourage people to give their utmost in organizations is to appear to care for them, and the best way to do that is to actually care. Through such demonstrations, servant-leadership is inspired, evoked and enacted across our organization and to the community beyond.

More Light on the Paradox - Part 2 of a three-part series in CA Magazine (the magazine of Canadian Chartered Accountants) on the redeeming characteristics of the servant leadership approach.  In April 2002 ("A paradox illuminated"), we looked at the listening, empathy and healing characteristics of servant-leadership. Here we will examine three other characteristics: persuasion, awareness and foresight. ... If actions flow from self-appropriated motives, they are more likely to persist even when no one is looking. Behaviours that arise authentically and spontaneously from internally sponsored reasons, desires and commitments are more likely to be sustained than those exhibited in compliance to external expectations, whatever their source. And that's why servant-leadership works.

Part 3 of the three-part series is still pending.

Web sites:

Greenleaf Centre for Servant Leadership, Indianapolis, Indiana

Greenleaf Canada Institute, Toronto, Ontario