Continuing the Journey to the East
There is an interesting passage in The Journey to the East that sums up why this book is a tribute to the concept of servant- leadership. In the exchange, Leo is defining the Law of Service to H.H. His quote is He who wishes to live long must serve, but he who wishes to rule does not live long.
H.H. then asks the question, "Then why do so many strive to rule?"
Leo's response is poignant and worth further review. He replies, "Because they do not understand." There are few who are born to be masters; they remain happy and healthy. But all the others who have only become masters through endeavor, end in nothing.
To me, this means that it is important to an individual to find meaning in life, to find something which makes oneself happy, to find joy in one's work. A pursuit with true meaning is found in the life of service, as opposed to a life obsessed with the desire to control, dominate, or manipulate. Those that live to serve others are happier and healthier than those who seek domination in their pursuit of power.
Perhaps it was this quote, or others like it, that inspired Robert Greenleaf to coin the phrase, servant leadership. Further reading found a background on Greenleaf. His own work history was impressive, spanning 65 years, with only the last 25 devoted to his academic and writing projects. For the first 40 or so years of his career, Greenleaf was a manager and consultant at AT&T. Finding inspiration from Hesse's book, Greenleaf used the term servant leadership in a 1970 essay entitled The Servant as Leader. In it, he explores the notion that a great leader must first be one who serves. Finding that his theory was well accepted, Greenleaf continued to compose essays on the subject, while finding receptive audiences at his public lectures on the subject. While known as a business management term, the author angled his lens in different directions with the concept to look at topics such as the teacher, the institution and the trustee as servant.
By definition, Greenleaf's view of servant leadership is devoted to several ideals. These include, increased service to others, a holistic approach to work, promoting a sense of community and the sharing of power in decision making. It is more than a way to work, it is a way of life, a self-promotion of character. By nature, it is a lifelong process working toward the growth of self-awareness. By developing and practicing certain habits, one is introduced to a better way of living.
The litmus test, according to Greenleaf comes in the growth of others. The author wrote, do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? His approach also examines the effectiveness of the self-aware individual on society by asking what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will he benefit, or at least, will he not be further deprived?
It is an interesting question when studying the character of Leo. For the first half of Journey, he is seen as the servant, in a sense, the guide for the League journeymen. In spite of his lowly status among the group, it is acknowledged that Leo is in possession of the necessary items which are needed for the journey, a fact that no one in the group seems to question.
Getting back to Greenleaf's quote about the effect of a capable servant leader on society, did the least privileged in society, or the League, benefit from Leo's presence? One may argue that H.H. was the least privileged of the group, and if this is the case, the answer is yes. After Leo left the group, the dynamic disintegrated and chaos ensued, leading to the break-up of the League. Leo's effect on H.H. can be shown by the reaction he has upon Leo's return. He is excited and wanting to speak with Leo and is quite upset when it appears that the guide/servant has forgotten him.
However, H.H. is more surprised to learn that Leo is indeed the President of the League and comes to realize why he is working so hard to please the person he had viewed as a servant. Although Leo hid behind a subservient role, his power existed in his practice of expert leadership. Whenever a member of the League had a question or needed something, Leo was the go-to person. Even if he had not been the President, Leo would have enjoyed the status of unofficial leader by virtue of his knowledge and connections.
Larry Spears is the President and CEO of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. He has picked up the ball and continued Greenleaf's work, authoring nine books on servant-leadership. He has studied Greenleaf's writings and developed ten characteristics which he sees as central to the development of servant-leaders.
The first is listening. The servant-leader listens intently to others with the motive of identifying the will of the group. Reflection is part of this characteristic.
Empathy is the second trait. The servant-leader accepts and recognizes coworkers for their unique and special spirits.
Healing is next. The successful servant-leader recognizes the emotional hurts of others and helps to make whole all that they come in contact.
Awareness is fourth. This includes self-awareness as well as general awareness with issues, especially involving ethics and values.
Persuasion is important. The servant-leader seeks to convince others rather than coerce. Consensus building is seen as an important skill.
Conceptualization is an key characteristic. The successful servant-leader dreams great dreams. Having the ability to see around the corner is crucial, as is the skill of thinking outside the box. However, one must maintain the balance between looking into the future while keeping up with the day-to-day activities.
Foresight is the ability to learn from past mistakes. It follows the intuitive mind, where the servant-leader knows the likely consequence of a decision for the future.
Stewardship is the practice of all stakeholders in an institution hold their trust for the greater good of society. Openness and persuasion replace control.
Commitment to the growth of people is the belief that people within the institution have an intrinsic value that goes beyond their contributions as workers. The competent servant-leader is committed to the growth of each individual in the organization.
Finally, an effort to building community is the last characteristic. It is believed that a community can be built within the organization, and the servant-leader is the person to lead the way by demonstrating his/her own unlimited liability for a community-related group.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that the servant-leadership movement has gained popularity over the past 39 years, when Greenleaf penned his essay on the subject. Hesse's Journey to the East has earned significance as a book because of its obvious influence on this concept.