Servant Leadership at Work

Robert K. Greenleaf’s research centered on the notion of servant leadership through his writings, his life, and his work. One of his books, The Servant as Leader was an introduction of servant leadership that came through his work at AT&T. Greenleaf initially started at AT&T as a lineman digging postholes and retired in 1964 as Director of Management Research. Over the years of work at At&T, Greenleaf observed decreased creativity and critical thinking in the workplace. He noticed that people were separating themselves from their work. What he saw was that people were yearning for a better work environment – a better way to connect the work life balance.

Greenleaf observed that people really wanted to align personal growth with their work. This was not a comfortably embraced concept by the workplace or education at the time. Therefore, after his retirement, Greenleaf began a second career, which lasted 25 years, as a consultant educating institutions, churches, and businesses. Greenleaf served as a consultant to major organizations, such as the American Foundation for Management Research, and Lilly Endowment Incorporation. Greenleaf gained valuable insight into management practices, challenges, and practitioner insight while working as a consultant. Because of these insights, Greenleaf started the Center for Applied Ethics in 1964, (renamed the Center for Servant Leadership in Indianapolis, Indiana). Here, he could study servant leadership in depth and write and about what he saw in the workplace. The notion of servant leadership emerged. Today, nearly 50 years later, servant leadership is gaining ground as a valid management and leadership style in the workplace. Indeed, everyone can be servant leaders – not just supervisors and managers.

The servant leader recognizes that the desire to serve comes from within. This innate feeling drives the servant leader to stay focused on the people and the success of the group or organization in which they are involved. I believe this internal consciousness is best exemplified through Otto Sharmer’s theory of Presencing (Theory U). Presencing is the act of connecting to the source of inspiration and will. It allows for the individual or group to go to the place of silence and allow the inner knowing to emerge. Servant leaders who practice the art of presencing are creating the proper mental environment conducive to creativity and profound insight while sensing the hidden sources of idea generation.

Servant leaders who use prescencing realize that it requires the tuning of three instruments: the open mind, the open heart, and the open will. This opening process is not passive but an active “sensing” together as a group. While an open heart allows us to see a situation from the whole, the open will enables us to begin to act from the emerging whole. From this place, a beautiful sense of an emerging future takes place and ideas flow like a river. This state of consciousness is likened to an athlete who is preparing for a game, or getting in the zone. Everyone at work can shift into this consciousness as everyone possesses minds, hearts, and wills.

Presencing is a new approach to essential leadership for the 21st century workplace. Individuals and organizations willing to do the hard work necessary to facilitate this type of leadership and its processes are positioned for heretofore unimaginable future of infinite possibilities.

To Leading,

Dr. Crystal

Crystal J Davis is a servant leader, blogger, and researcher. She holds a Doctorate in Management specializing in Organizational Leadership. Dr. Davis is passionately engaged in Servant Leadership and selfless service to the nonprofit and public sectors having served both large and small organizations throughout her career and consulting business. Follow Crystal @DrDavis2126 (Twitter) and Lead.From.Within. (Facebook).

© Copyright 2015 ~Dr. Crystal J. Davis. All Rights Reserved.

Theory U: What is Presencing?

Class Post. Enjoy!

What is presencing? How might presencing help leaders operate from the future seeking to emerge, instead of learning from the past?

Presencing is the act of connecting to the source of inspiration and will. It allows for the individual or group to go to the place of silence and allow the inner knowing to emerge. Leaders who practice the art of presencing are creating the proper mental environment conducive to creativity and profound insight while sensing the hidden sources of idea generation (MIT Sloan School of Management, 2005).

Scharmer (2009) defined presencing as, “Requires the tuning of three instruments: the open mind, the open heart, and the open will. This opening process is not passive but an active “sensing” together as a group. While an open heart allows us to see a situation from the whole, the open will enables us to begin to act from the emerging whole. Presencing is the capacity to connect to the deepest source of self and will allows the future to emerge from the whole rather than from a smaller part or special interest group” (p. 62).

Presencing may help leaders operate from the future that is seeking to emerge, instead of learning from the past through the shifting structure of attention (Scharmer, 2009). That is, for leaders to shift from the inner place from which they operate. This shift can be done individually or collectively (Scharmer, 2009). Listening is a big part of the presencing dynamic. The four types of listening include downloading, factual listening, empathetic listening, and generative listening (Scharmer, 2009). At the presencing level, generative listening involves focus on getting the old self out of the way through clearing an open space for the emerging, authentic self (Scharmer, 2009). This process creates a subtle yet powerful change in the individual. Scharmer (2009) calls it “grace or communing” (p. 13) with the inner (deeper) source in the expereince called Source dimension (Scharmer, 2009).

Barely Civilized (2012) posited that presencing is sort of a mash-up of the Buddhist be-here-now practice of being present and a Bohmian-dialog-thinking-together kind of awareness that is broader than oneself and is sensing the future as it is emerging in the ‘space’ between us. In Theory U, the three levels of organizational change are structure, process, and thought. If one can change the structure of the organization without changing the processes, the change will not be effective. If one can help to change the processes without changing thinking, and it will only be moderately effective. But if you can change thinking, and look to the future instead of the past, change can be profound (Barely Civilized, 2012). This teaching is similar to the Religious Science philosophy which says that “one’s thought creates one’s world” (Holmes, 1966).

References

Brown, E. (2005). Otto Scharmer:Theory-U: Presencing emerging futures.

           Retrieved from http://mitsloan.mit.edu/newsroom/newsbriefs-0605-

           scharmer.php

Barely Civilized. (2012). What is Presencing? Retrieved from

Holmes, E. (1966). Science of mind: A philosophy, a faith, a way of life.

           New York, New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc.

Scharmer, O. (2009). Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges.

           San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.