Robert K. Greenleaf

Robert K.

American Teacher, Philosopher, Author, Founder of the Modern Servant Leadership Movement

Author Quotes

The work exists for the person as much as the person exists for the work.

Typically, today, somebody in top management meets with a consultant, reads a book, gets excited about a new idea, and begins to talk about it.

Where there is not community, trust, respect, ethical behavior are difficult for the young to learn and for the old to maintain.

Who is the enemy? Who is holding back more rapid movement to the better society that is reasonable and possible with available resources?...Evil, stupidity, apathy, the system are not the enemy...The real enemy is fuzzy thinking on the part of good, intelligent, vital people... In short, the enemy is strong natural servants who have the potential to lead but do not lead, or who choose to follow a non-servant.

The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant - first to make sure that other people's needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer is: Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wise, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And what effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or at least not be further deprived?

The ultimate test of servant-hood is that those being served, by the way they are served, ultimately become disposed themselves to be servants.

The variable that marks some periods as barren and some as rich in prophetic vision is in the interest, the level of seeking, the responsiveness of the hearers. The variable is not in the presence or absence or the relative quality and force of the prophetic voices. The prophet grows in stature as people respond to his message...It is the seekers, then, who make the prophet.

The best test (of a servant-leader) and difficult to administer, is: do those 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 he benefit, or, at least, will he not be further deprived?

The most effective servants are those who can persuade others to go with them and who have learned to work in teams.

The only test of leadership is that somebody follows.

Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much.

Maturity is the capacity to withstand ego destroying experiences, and not lose one?s perspective in the ego-building experiences.

Moral authority is another way to define servant leadership because it represents a reciprocal choice between leader and follower. If the leader is principle centered, he or she will develop moral authority. If the follower is principle centered, he or she will follow the leader. In this sense, both leaders and followers are followers. Why? They follow truth. They follow natural law. They follow principles. They follow a common, agreed-upon vision. They share values. They grow to trust one another.

Not much happens without a dream. And for something great to happen, there must be a great dream. Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams. Much more than a dreamer is required to bring it to reality; but the dream must be there first.

On an important decision one rarely has 100% of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits. And, if one waits too long, he has a different problem and has to start all over. This is the terrible dilemma of the hesitant decision maker.

One must not be afraid of a little silence. Some find silence awkward or oppressive. But a relaxed approach to dialogue will include the welcoming of some silence. It is often a devastating question to ask oneself, but it is sometimes important to ask it - 'In saying what I have in mind will I really improve on the silence?

Faith is the choice of the nobler hypothesis.' Not the noblest, one never knows what that is. But the nobler, the best one can see when the choice is made.

For anything new to emerge there must first be a dream, an imaginative view of what might be.

For the person with creative potential there is no wholeness except in using it.

Good leaders must first become good servants.

I believe that serving and being served are reciprocal and that one cannot really be had without the other.

If you are reasonably sure of your course, just keep on going.

Love without laughter can be grim and oppressive. Laughter without love can be derisive and venomous. Together they make for greatness of spirit.

Ego can?t sleep. It micro-manages. It disempowers. It reduces our capability. It excels in control.

Ego focuses on one?s own survival, pleasure, and enhancement to the exclusion of others; ego is selfishly ambitious. It sees relationships in terms of threat or no threat, like little children who classify all people as nice or mean. Conscience, on the other hand, both democratizes and elevates ego to a larger sense of the group, the whole, the community, the greater good. It sees life in terms of service and contribution, in terms of others? security and fulfillment.

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American Teacher, Philosopher, Author, Founder of the Modern Servant Leadership Movement