Monday, April 22, 2013

The Day of the Earth

Originally posted on the old Servant Leadership Blog, April 22, 2009. 

For an Earth Day post, I thought it would be good to revisit my first post on the Servant-Leadership BLOG.   In it I referred to Aldo Leopold’s essay “The Land Ethic” and his reminder that “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise. 

I have often thought that Leopold’s test should be melded with Robert Greenleaf’s servant-leader best test to come up with something like :

 “Do those being served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  And what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will she or he benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?  And what is the effect on the integrity, stability, and beauty of the ecosystem? 

Don Frick, Robert Greenleaf’s biographer, touched on this idea in a comment he wrote in regard to his post on this Blog [the old Servant Leadership Blog that no longer exists] titled “Global Warming, Servant Leadership, and Foresight” where he wrote:

I find Greenleaf's "best test for a servant-leader" the omega of all thinking about aspects of his servant writings. I sometimes wonder, however, if he left something out of the equation.

Greenleaf began penning the first draft of "The Servant As Leader" in December, 1968, the end of a terrible year. (I know; I graduated from college that year.)
Vietnam was raging, assassinations were fresh in our minds and the environmental movement was just reaching wider consciousness. I sometimes wish Bob would have included in his test a question like "Is the planet protected?" On the other hand, the test focuses on the effects on people, so with what we now know, we can certainly conclude that issues like global warming and toxic waste that have the potential to inflict massive damage on people still fall within the purview of the best test.

I have never seen evidence that Greenleaf considered such a statement, but find it fun to speculate whether he might if he were rewriting the test today.

What is intriguing to me is that Robert Greenleaf did propose a rewrite to the best test in his essay “Servant: Retrospect And Prospect” from the book THE POWER OF SERVANT LEADERSHIP that he wrote ten years or so after his original.  In the essay he proposed a rewrite with the following addition “No one will knowingly be hurt by the action, directly or indirectly” (page 43).  

Merging of Greenleaf’s servant-leadership with Leopold’s land ethic is what we will need to have the foresight to deal with much of the problems we face in the coming years. 

In his essay “An Opportunity for a Powerful New Religious Influence” from the book SEEKER AND SERVANT (page 106) Greenleaf did write:

It is the choice to act upon those assumptions about the nature of people and the world that will release an optimal contemporary force to lead people to be religious in the root sense of the word, that is “bound to the cosmos,” at one with the great creative force.

It is our relationship with the cosmos, one in which we are simply a part of it, and not the pinnacle of it, that I believe is the key to not knowingly hurting any of earth’s inhabitants and as a result working towards healing the harms we have inflicted.

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