In this series of blog posts, we are discussing Robert K. Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership theoretical framework for leadership development. In this post, we discuss the characteristic of the servant leader as a healing influence.
In The Servant as Leader, Greenleaf writes, “There is something subtle communicated to one who is being served and led if, implicit in the compact between the servant-leader and led, is the understanding that the search for wholeness is something that they have.”
- Healing is perhaps the most powerful principle.
“Searching for wholeness” is probably not in your job description. I certainly doubt it is a performance review metric. However, the parts that comprise the whole are directly and indirectly developable by the conscientious leader and those being led. For example, an organization can purposefully focus on physical wellness; strategically push emotional intelligence development; intentionally monitor restorative time for inner development, etc. In order to create such a culture, however, leaders must personally desire wholeness. If you are not whole, how can you effectively facilitate wholeness in others?
- Wholeness is attainable.
Before elaborating, it is important to note that within its overarching context, servant leadership differs from other leadership approaches by de-emphasizing the common top-down hierarchical style, and instead emphasizing collaboration, empathy, trust, and the ethical use of power. I assert that wholeness is only attainable if leaders desire and develop these characteristics.
However, the truth is there are always competing interests. Many leaders do not have time to facilitate wholeness due to demands from various stakeholders which may lead to a “the fact that you are struggling is your problem” mindset. While struggles may indeed be the direct result of an employee’s choices, the servant leader attempts remedy before dismissal. Otherwise, personal and organizational wholeness remains perpetually elusive.
- Words are the greatest healing force.
If you are to be a healing influence, you must speak a healing vocabulary. Often, your actions are even more powerful. For example, servant leaders avoid favoritism at all costs. They value the scope of humanity that comprises their enterprise. Take a quick inventory. Do you only focus on the input of a select group of employees? Do you mine accolades from your organization’s universe, or do you exclusively focus on shooting stars? Do you live by a “do as I say not as I do” mantra, or is your message congruent with what you model?
The servant leader as “healer” is not easy to verbalize in business terms. However, if we are to truly lead, then we must choose to be in the wholeness business. Begin by choosing personal wholeness, then speaking a healing vocabulary, then purposefully facilitating individual and organizational wholeness. The results will speak for themselves.