If The People You Lead/Serve/Lead Do Not Grow as Persons, You are Failing as a Leader


Reflections on LeadershipCrucial to good practice in leadership is the understanding that what we intend to be determines what we are able to do…
Larry Spears, in his introduction to his book of essays on servant leadership, Reflections on Leadership: How Robert Greenleaf’s Theory of Servant Leadership Influenced Today’s Management Thinkers

Here’s an interesting observation. Robert Greenleaf was a member of the Religious Society of Friends (a Quaker). And, that Robert Greenleaf was the “father” of the entire concept, which became something of a movement, known as Servant Leadership. Who he was shaped what he became which shaped his leadership philosophy.

So, look at the quote at the top: “what we intend to be determines what we are able to do.”

Do you ever wonder how people who traffic in some form of deception live with themselves? The other day, after about my tenth call in a month that began with the words “Hello, I’m from the computer department,” I asked the nameless voice “what computer department?” I fairly politely told the voice that I wasn’t interested, and hung up. But, this phone approach implies that somehow he was representing the computer department in my company, or some company that I have contracted with. It started with deception.

My wife recently fell victim to the latest magazine subscription scam. She was charged for magazines she did not sign up for, and now she is trying to get her money back. I think she will – but, it will take some time, and effort, and more than a little frustration. (Read about one version of this here).

So… what kind of person participates in this kind of work? What kind of leader hires and trains these people? How do they sleep at night? How do they live with themselves? (I wish they would bring me in to present my synopsis of Servant Leadership).

Now, these aren’t close to the worst people in our society. (We sadly live in a world with the really bad… consider the actions of ISIS).

But, I spent some time reading more about Servant Leadership this weekend. I came away with a sense of sadness. I have too much exposure to leadership books and business books about building successful organizations that focus on winning, profits, dominance in a competitive arena, all with so little attention given to this kind of concern:

The best test is: do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?

(Read my earlier blog post Servant Leadership – Start with Robert Greenleaf’s Original; All that Follows is Commentary and Elaboration).

If our companies and organizations and institutions are not concerned, and concerned first and always, with helping the people they serve “grow as persons,” then we’ve got a great and sad deficiency in our thinking, don’t you think?

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