Monday, March 14, 2011

On Strength

Throughout late 2010 and into 2011, I have been making a study of Servant Leadership, as described by Robert Greenleaf, in his audiobooks, "The Power of Servant Leadership", and the book, "On Becoming A Servant Leader". Servant Leadership is defined as a philosophy and practice of leadership which gives priority attention to the needs of colleagues, reports and those they serve, with an emphasis on stewardship of organizational resources, use of informal (influence) versus formal (authority) power, and development and cultivation of the qualities of listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, growth and building community (Wikipedia).

This leadership approach piqued my interest as it aligns with second half life and career goals that have emerged for me in the last few years as an alternative intention to that of ambition, advancement and material growth for its sake. Servant leadership has proven to be a satisfactory paradigm to balance these primary drives of my earlier life and career.

In my readings I have been particularly intrigued by Greenleaf's concept of Strength defined as the ability to: 1) see a choice of aims to pursue, 2) to select the right aim, and 3) to responsibly pursue this right aim over a long period of time (Greenleaf, On Becoming a Servant Leader). Successful development of strength is relevant to one achieving their best potential in healing the world. It requires: 1) knowledge regarding one's choice fo aims, 2) judgment and wisdom in the selection of the right aim, a highly subjective matter, 3) discipline and discretion to pursue a chosen aim in a responsible manner and 4) patient persistence to carry on pursuit of chosen aims for a long period of time. This definition acknowledges the blessing and challenge of choice we have as to how we put our gifts to use. Greenleaf goes on to talk about the development of strength as an ethical imperative and even suggests that one who does not acknowledge this imperative in their own lives is ethically inadequate. Yikes!

This concept of strength resonated with me as it is summed up, in many ways, what my life, in retrospect, has been building towards though I did not realize it so cohesively as when I read it. This concept is also what my life continues to be about in my management and educational pursuits.

These musings take me back to a blog post I wrote in 2007 called, Evil as a Key to Career Satisfaction. As I think of this and that topic in tandem, I realize that a worthy aim is addressing some form of evil in the world. The trick then is to 1) select the right evil, 2) to pursue it responsibly (avoiding the corruption of that evil, or others) and 3) doing so for a long period of time. The difficulty and challenge of doing this is certainly an environment for building strength over a lifetime.

I write this to encourage us all to commit, and daily recommit, to a stance of pursuing our lives and careers from a position and intention of (developing) strength.

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