Contemplating a Leadership that Serves the Greater Good

Emerge Cover_finalRobert Greenleaf, the ATT Executive and Quaker who coined the phrase “servant-leader” in the early 70s, relied heavily on intuition in doing so. He’d read Herman Hesse’s “Journey to the East” and the result was a belief in a type of leadership that was intent on growing the leadership skills of those led, with the ultimate goal that those led, also desired to serve.  Servant-leadership is a core principle of the EMERGE Leadership Model, and in this season where we are drawn to quiet but driven to nearly frantic activity it is something to contemplate.

And I don’t use the term “contemplate” lightly.  Contemplation, to paraphrase Thomas Merton, heals the division in ourselves, which enables us to help heal the divisions of the world.  (From Merton’s Choosing to Love the World, 2008, 30).  For us to lead from the place Greenleaf imagined, we need to be self-aware, which takes a regular practice of self-awareness (Go figure.) In my new book “EMERGE: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community (Publication Date, January 2016), I discuss the importance of finding time for a daily practice that quiets the mind and prepares us to connect with others meaningfully, every day. This practice can be as simple as asking the question: “How can I serve?”  and waiting quietly for the answer before going out about the day.  My practice includes a daily (but short) contemplative session, regular exercise, and frequent participation in a fellowship that supports my spiritual growth.  Yours is yours to design.

Bill O’Brien, CEO of Hanover Insurance (and no relation), has been quoted saying, “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener” (Scharmer and Kaufer 2013, 18). And have no doubt, as leaders in the sustainable building community we are intervening. So in the midst of this season of high energy output (and low energy input!), let us contemplate on how in 2016 we can serve the greater good, and how we can better prepare ourselves to do so.

The EMERGE Leadership Workshop at Islandwood Environmental Education Center offers an excellent setting in which to contemplate, energize, connect with like-minded pilgrims, and learn.  We’re in the final stages of planning, so register now at: