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Servant leadership is one of Decurion’s six core values.  The term comes from Robert K. Greenleaf’s essay, “The Servant as Leader.”  When I first encountered this essay, I had the sense that Greenleaf was describing many of Decurion’s views and approaches but was doing so much more eloquently than we had yet managed.  Many years have passed since that first encounter, and I continue to value not only Greenleaf’s ideas but also the way he expresses them.  The following sentences (with my underlining) come directly from his essay, collected in Servant Leadership:  A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness.

  • “The first order of business is to build a group of people who, under the influence of the institution, grow taller and become healthier, stronger, more autonomous.” P. 40
  • “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” P.7
  • Under a servant-leader, an institution “moves from people-using to people-building.” P. 40
  • “The best test . . . is: Do those served grow as persons?” P. 7
  • “The leader always knows what [the direction] is and can articulate it for any who are unsure. By clearly stating and restating the goal the leader gives certainty and purpose to others who may have difficulty in achieving it for themselves.” P. 15
  • “A true natural servant automatically responds to any problem by listening first.” P. 17
  • “The servant as leader always empathizes, always accepts the person but sometimes refuses to accept some of the person’s effort or performance as good enough.” P. 20
  • The leader “needs to have a sense for the unknowable and be able to foresee the unforeseeable. . . The art of leadership rests, in part, on the ability to bridge that gap by intuition, . . . a feel for patterns.” Pp. 21-3
  • “The failure (or refusal) of a leader to foresee may be viewed as an ethical failure because a serious ethical compromise today . . . is sometimes the result of a failure to make the effort at an earlier date to foresee today’s events and take the right actions when there was freedom for initiative to act.” P. 26
  • “One is always at two levels of consciousness. One is in the real world. . .  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.” P. 26
  • Leaders are particularly aware. This awareness “permits one to sort out the urgent from the important and perhaps deal with the important.” P. 28
  • “The servant views any problem in the world as in here, inside oneself, not out there. And 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.” P. 44
  • “The real enemy is fuzzy thinking on the part of good, intelligent, vital people, and their failure to lead. . . Too many settle for being critics and experts.” P. 45
  • “It is terribly important that one know, both about oneself and about others, whether the net effect of one’s influence on others enriches, is neutral, or diminishes and depletes.” P. 43
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