Servant Leadership – A Philosophy

Servant leadership is one of the three areas contributing to the framework of anthrocubeology. As an anthrocubeologist, this can also be stated as my exploration of cubeopolis includes a servant-leader philosophy.

The servant-leader is servant first … It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.
– Robert Greenleaf, The Servant as Leader

Here I share a little bit of how servant leadership is part of The Way of Anthrocubeology – which ultimately is about creating habits for living a servant-leader philosophy that is inspired by improvisation. It is this philosophy that I believe can – in a positive manner – affect workspace cultural shifts.

“Ditto” to You, Don M. Frick

Don M. Frick, the biographer of Robert K. Greenleaf: A Life of Servant Leadership, shared a short biography with the Greenleaf Center. Don also shared, in less than 500 words, why he believes in servant leadership with words such as –

… resonates, mind and spirit, murmur, intuition, sacred texts, ancient faith tradition, mature, ethical, thoughtful living, universal, serving, possibility, change, action, feels right, canonical art, groaning world, shift in consciousness, embrace, legitimate greatness, wise fools, accountable realists, bravely confronting, use power ethically, imperfect, practical idealists, risks, …

Post-2013 Greenleaf Center Annual Conference, at social gathering
with Don Frick

While the above looks more like magnetic poetry – a collection of random words and phrases – Don makes it clear that there are overarching set of principles guiding any servant-leader. There is not a checklist for being a servant-leader. Context and relationships are important.

SIDE NOTE: I am admittedly a bit of a “Frick Fan Girl”, if that exists (and if it doesn’t, it does now). I first met him via telephone during my Greenleaf Center The Foundations of Servant Leadership course with Isabel Lopez. As part of our coursework reading, we had the opportunity to ask him questions about Greenleaf’s biography and life. What a treat to have met him in person.

When I read (and re-read) why Don believes in servant leadership, one interpretation I have is that his reference to art and Greenleaf as an artist means that servant leadership (albeit a workplace leadership approach) is an expression – and not a “to do list” – of that which is part of the core of Greenleaf’s teachings –

The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature. … The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant – first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.
– Robert Greenleaf, The Servant as Leader

How one expresses being a servant-leader is in the “shadings” and “blends” – the context and relationships – when choosing to respond to the needs of others in community.

“Thank You” to You, Kent M. Keith

GCSL 2012_Kent Keith
At the 2012 Greenleaf Center Annual Conference with Kent M. Keith

How the servant-leader manifests the shifts that are brought to community reminds me of what Kent M. Keith shares in The Case for Servant Leadership

A servant-leader acts in response to the way others are treated, not in response to the way he or she is treated.
– Kent M. Keith, The Case for Servant Leadership

And to come full circle back to Greenleaf, I am reminded while on my servant-leader journey –

In short, the enemy is strong natural servants who have the potential to lead but do not lead, or who choose to follow a non-servant. … For the person with creative potential there is no wholeness except in using it.
– Robert Greenleaf, The Servant as Leader

Therefore, as an anthrocubeologist, with an understanding of what servant leadership can bring to community, I cannot imagine servant leadership not being part of discovering those habits and behaviors for affecting workspace cultural shifts. In other words, I ask –

Why not servant leadership?


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