Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nurturing Responsibility

 Originally posted on the old Servant Leadership Blog 12/12/07. 

Greenleaf continued his essay “The Requirements of Responsibility” with some thoughts on how to become more responsible. Greenleaf believed that to become more responsible required the creation of a new “internal climate” that would allow a “new constructive attitude to grow”. The way to nurture this environment was to ask the right questions.

Listed below are some of the questions Greenleaf found important in his own search for responsibility.

  1. Am I contemporary? Do I have a sense of history? […]. Do I look with open wonder at contemporary politics, philosophy, religion, economics, art, music, literature, science (both natural and social), business development?
  2. Am I connected? Am I on the growing edge of the contemporary phase of history but still connected to the main body of people and events? I might be a prophet, speaking to future generations but not to the present. Prophets are useful and necessary, but they are not necessarily strong people among their contemporaries.
  3. Do I see evil as an aspect of good? […]. Responsibility brings one face to face with the cold facts that progress does not flow from the simple choosing of the good and rejecting the evil. It comes when we accept the we have only good and some aspects of good that we do not understand.
  4. Do I accept that there is no virtue that, carried to the extreme, does not become a vice, no sound idea that, overworked does not become absurd?
  5. Am I sure that in choosing a right aim, I have not become self-righteous?
  6. Am I prepared to accept that I will never have the comfort of being “ideologically” right? […]. Whenever a person says to himself or herself, “Now I fully understand this.” or “This is the final or complete truth,” the chances are that he or she has blocked the possibility for further growth in knowledge or insight in that area.
  7. Am I willing to cultivate the “growing-edge” people among my contemporaries and, by so doing, accept the censure of those who are far from the growing edge and don’t want to look at it?
  8. Am I sensitive to the needs and aspirations of all who may be affected by what I think, say and do? And being sensitive, am I willing to say the words and take the actions that build constructive tension?
  9. Can I accept that the best possible compromise is right?
  10. Do I have a view of myself on which progressively greater strength can be built? […]. I want to see myself at once at the center of the universe – influencing its course with every word, thought, and deed - and at the same time a minute instrument of the cosmos acting in harmony with others.
  11. Am I striving to make a creative act out of conformity? […]. Being creative, bringing something important into existence that wasn’t there before can be done under any circumstance by a strong person.
And so I ask myself, am I willing to nurture my responsibility? How about you?

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