Enspirited Leadership

Enspirited Leadership

Bob Stilger (New Stories, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5840-0.ch010


This chapter examines the relationships between Servant Leadership and what the author describes as enspirited leadership. The author's research into enspirited leadership identifies it as the set of landmarks and principles that support younger leaders around the world who are called to offer their servant leadership in their local communities. Servant leadership is often thought of as a philosophy of leadership. But how do people find the clarity, the courage, and the compassion to practice philosophy? In his research, the author has identified six core landmarks of enspirited leadership that form an ecology that supports servant leadership. He also has identified a core set of values and beliefs that demonstrate a living systems approach to servant leadership.
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This chapter is written as my personal narrative of my life-long exploration of servant leadership.

It has been more than 40 years since I first met Robert Greenleaf. I was a student at Carleton College in Northfield Minnesota. The Dean of Students had called a group of faculty, administrators, and students together for a week before classes began to discover how we might better work together. The College Chaplin invited a friend of his who was just retiring from AT&T to join us. To this day I do not think I have met a more kind and humble man. Greenleaf’s humility, his gentleness, and his deep posture of service stand at the core of servant leadership.

I was a student of the sixties: educational reform, peace movement, civil rights, and the beginnings of both the women’s and environmental movements. Several years after graduating I was back on campus chatting with a member of the faculty. He and I had been the only two people at that time who served on both the Educational Policy Committee and the Curriculum Committee. He and I exchanged greetings and he was getting on his bike to leave when he turned and said to me: “You know, if I hadn’t been such a wishy-washy liberal and you hadn’t been such an arrogant…. this college wouldn’t have the screwed up governance system it has now.” I suspect he was right. He seemed to place more emphasis on the second part of his statement than the first – but both were true.

What is also true is that neither of us were servant leaders. We lacked patience. We lacked humility. We lacked listening. We were filled with our own knowing.

I have always been attracted to the directness and simplicity with which Robert Greenleaf defined servant leadership. In some of his earliest writing he asked “Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” (Greenleaf, 2008 p. 15). I remember the mimeographed copy of this essay he had written while leaving AT&T that he handed out at our gathering in 1969. He would publish it the next year and more and more people would begin to think about servant leadership.

What Greenleaf offered was not so much a theory of leadership as it was a philosophy of life. How do we live together in ways that bring out the best in all of us? How do those of us who serve in positions of leadership behave in ways that encourage all to step forward and offer their gifts? In his early writings he shared his suspicion that his ideas would not be popular. At that time, there was nothing humble about leadership. It was strong, assertive, and demanding. Leaders were people with answers and the power to get something done.

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