In his book, The Servant as Leader, Robert Greenleaf writes, “I am hopeful for these times, despite the tension and conflicts, because more natural servants are trying to see clearly the world as it is and are listening carefully to prophetic voices that are speaking now. A fresh critical look is being taken at the issues of power and authority, and people are beginning to learn, however haltingly, to relate to one another in less coercive and more creatively supporting ways.” So why do I believe him?
It starts with a quick story about an education lecture I attended by Sir Ken Robinson a few years back. During the Q&A, a principal from a local school asked Sir Ken whether or not he thought the education system would ever “figure it out” and transform from where it currently was. Sir Ken’s response was as follows; “If we were to turn back the clock say 25 years, and I told you back then many homes and offices would have recycle bins out front, there would be something called green buildings, and thousands of corporations would be focusing on sustainability initiatives, would you have believed me?” Sir Ken went on to explain how our current commitment to the environment began with a few outliers bucking the system- think Greenpeace- followed by a larger and louder collection of voices (today we would them see as “prophetic voices”) that eventually led us to where we are today. In short, Sir Ken said he believes the same thing is starting to happen in education and that “yes, we will figure this thing out in time.”
So what if 25 years ago I told you words like transparency, vulnerability, and openness would become synonymous with leadership? That leadership styles such as Lolly Daskall’s Heart Based, Simon Sinek’s Truly Human, Kevin Kruse’s Whole Hearted and yes, Robert Greenleaf’s Servant (first published in 1991) would be gaining traction? Or that this new way of leadership would be judged not only against its capacity to do well, (make money) but equally as important would be the leaders ability to do good (positively impact the lives of others)? That companies who focus on conscious capitalism, corporate social responsibility or as our friends from Switch and Shift best describe it, the Human Side of Business would reap societies richest rewards? Would you have believed me?
Greenleaf goes on to say, “I am mindful of the long road ahead before these trends, which I see so clearly, become a major society-shaping force. We are not there yet. But I see encouraging movement on the horizon.” I am equally as encouraged by what I’m seeing as people from all around the world are asking for leaders to lead at a higher level. And what’s most inspiring is the emerging commitment of many leaders in all types of organizations to do so, to lead in a better way that is more appropriate for the times. I am a believer, how about you?