Servant Leadership – Robert Greenleaf

A few choice thoughts from Robert Greenleaf’s “Servant Leadership”. Particular gems in bold.

“A mark of leaders, an attribute that puts them in a position to show the way for others, is that they are better than most at pointing the direction. As long as one is leading, one always has a goal. It may be a goal arrived at by group consensus, or the leader, acting on inspiration, may simply have said, “Let’s go this way.” But the leader always knows what it is and can articulate it for any who are unsure. By clearly stating and restating the goal the leader gives certainty to others who may have difficulty in achieving it for themselves.”

“Servants, by definition, are fully human. Servant-leaders are functionally superior because they are closer to the ground— they hear things, see things, know things, and their intuitive insight is exceptional. Because of this they are dependable and trusted. They know the meaning of that line from Shakespeare’s sonnet, “They that have power to hurt and will do none….?”

“Manipulation, as I see it, is one of the imperfections of an imperfect world. It is a social problem, but it is not first priority, and the reformer’s zeal will blunt its point by attacking it as primary. Mediocrity (including self-serving) in positions of influence is primary, and it cannot be dealt with by eliminating influence, as in the “leaderless society.” Mediocrity will still be there. Reducing mediocrity is a slow, difficult, person-by-person process in which the less able learn to identify and trust the more able who will diligently and honestly serve them. It is also a process in which able and honest, serving people prepare themselves to lead and accept the opportunity to lead when offered.”

“What I mean by a potential bearer of responsibility – a leader, if you want to use that term, – is not a vocational category, and it is quite independent of career choice. It may be latent in the potential lawyer, doctor, engineer, businessman scientist, or scholar in the classics. And it is not something to be taught in an academic way. It is a talent to be coached, using the campus as the laboratory for learning to bear responsibility well.”

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