You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category.
Submitted anonymously, October 10, 2012.
“The Great Leader is Servant First”
Masterpiece Theater’s Downton Abbey chronicles the lives of those who live and work at the great British estate of Downton Abbey, from the scullery maid, Daisy, to the Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley. The story throws the differences between Edwardian life “upstairs” and “downstairs” into sharp relief, but also points out the similarities that cross both spheres and explores what happens when these worlds come in contact with each other. Lord Grantham’s leadership of the family and estate is an interesting study of one who is born into a position of authority and yet uses his power very conscientiously. Without going into the specifics of the plot or characters, I’ll try to briefly summarize Grantham’s leadership style with examples from the story.
Grantham is undoubtedly the head of Downton Abbey, yet he by no means tries to make himself the center of it. He sees his role more as custodian than commander; a good imagery for the servant as leader. From such humility stems his continually solicitous behavior towards his family of women, his staff, and all guests and outsiders. In the first season, when he finds he must take on a socially inferior stranger as heir—leaving his own daughter out in the cold—he accepts the inevitability and moves to embrace the young man and guide him in his new role. He gives everyone in his charge room to grow and live their own lives, while always making himself available to them to listen and help however possible. This can be seen in his support of Bates, in personally interviewing Branson and allowing him use of the library, in arranging first-rate medical care for Mrs. Patmore, and even in allowing Gwen, a simple housemaid, to use the library for a job interview as a typist. He has a clear idea of who he is and his purpose in life, and this allows him to be equally accepting of others and see their value, too.
The second season brings the Great War and its upheaval of tradition and the aristocracy. Lord Grantham questions his value even as head of Downton in the face of such massive, senseless destruction, especially when he seems to be of no use to the war effort. Whereas he once knew his own significance, being custodian of a grand house seems absurd. Grantham’s house is commandeered, his family is in tumult, his male staff sent to war, and his heir grievously incapacitated. He loses the vision for his life, yet continues to try and build up those around him. Adrift and heading into the darkness of despair, Grantham stumbles badly in his principles but manages to hold on to the attitude that whatever little he can do, he can and must do with honor. The small, and to him trivial, job he has now of keeping up morale, he tries to do well. He perseveres in fostering community around him. He allows his wife and daughters to grow, learning new things and breaking out of their social shells. He continues to have respect for all people, taking on Lang and Jane, who have been hurt by the war, and personally seeking Bates out, apologizing, and ultimately providing his own legal counsel for Bates’ defense. He keeps supporting others in their search for fulfillment by allowing Branson and Sybil’s marriage, encouraging Mary to follow her heart in the face of scandal, and by even being willing to give up Carson, who ponders leaving Downton. In recognizing his own faults, he forgives others’ theirs: Mary and Pamuk, Cora and her selfishness, Thomas and his thievery. Grantham will still have to search for a renewed sense of purpose in this brave new world, but if he prevails in acting as servant first, he need not despair the task.
Among Grantham’s many superb leadership qualities, three stand out as exemplary of the servant leader. First, Grantham has a great capacity for recognizing the worth of others and their right to find purpose and dignity. This is evident in his behavior towards everyone, whether it’s Matthew’s butler, Mosley, or his own daughter, Edith. It is also apparent in his thoughtfulness—he is constantly thinking of others’ welfare, be it the 3rd class passengers on the Titanic or Sybil, preparing for her social debut. It guides Grantham to let his daughters pursue occupations of real value for the war effort; to appoint Isobel as chairwoman of the board at the hospital so she can feel satisfaction in being useful; to keep Bates on when everyone else has given him up as incompetent, and later, a criminal. Though he feels himself useless and without value, he still works to give others a chance, as with Jane’s son in the Ripon school. Even Thomas, once caught stealing, is given another chance because of Grantham’s recognition that he may be trying to better himself. Such an affirmative view of others stems from a well-rounded view of oneself, which leads to another of Grantham’s remarkable attributes: his ability to see the big picture and where he stands in it. The clarity with which Grantham accomplishes this is due to a humble appreciation of both his part to play and his faults that make success in such a part difficult. Grantham is wonderfully unassuming; he knows he is no great figure to go down in history, but he also knows that he has been given a specific job to do and that such a job has worth: to continue the dynasty of Downton Abbey, forwarding the hard work of his forebears. While Grantham changes the things he can, such humility also helps him acknowledge the things that are out of his control—another valuable aspect of good conceptualizing—and he realizes the importance of stepping aside and supporting Matthew, a lowly stranger, as heir when Grantham sees the entailment is inevitable. With Grantham’s mentoring, Matthew grows to acknowledge the value of his own part at Downton and the dignity of those who really make Downton Abbey what it is—the servants. With a mutual respect for both himself and others, Grantham exhibits his most extraordinary leadership attribute—the talent of building a community where everyone can thrive. Grantham makes sure there is both ritual and celebration in the lives of those around him: letting the staff go to the fair; making sure the flower show is enjoyable for everyone, not only the redoubtable Dowager Countess; instructing that the servants be allowed to grieve upon the death of Mr. Pamuk; marking the end of the War with an assembly and moment of silence; giving time off to all personnel at Christmas; and of course, the annual Servants’ Ball; these among numerous examples. In supporting work and play, fairness and mercy, Grantham builds a cohesion in his staff and family that seems almost implausible, given the range of discordant characters. Overarching all the individual squabbles, however, is a unity which, in the family’s case, binds them against outside forces, and in the servants’, led by Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson, center around the honor and duty of serving at Downton. In building a community that looks after its own and encourages them to succeed, Grantham has passed Greenleaf’s “best test” of a servant leader: that his/her followers become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servant leaders. Mrs. Hughes, Mr. Carson, Sybil, Matthew, Anna—all are servant leaders fostered in Grantham’s community. The future of Downton Abbey may be in doubt, but Grantham has ensured the continuance of servant leadership—a tradition that will always have value.
Recently my friend, Fr. Doug Robertson, was describing the beauty of the parish picnic. He said it was “the power of the potluck” that transformed the ordinary into the sacred. This can be a metaphor for Servant Leadership. The “power of the potluck” is the personal sharing of what we all have, to feed each other. It is a banquet of goodness and generosity in which we are all fed and nourished. The power of the potluck recognizes that everyone has something to bring to the table and everyone has something to take away. By definition this is what it means to be in a good company. Company comes from the Latin words “cum panus,” meaning to break bread with. Servant-led organizations are good companies to work for because they have discovered the power of the potluck where people gather to work together, play together, and celebrate together for a Good greater than themselves. During this Oktoberfest season, a time to remember and celebrate good work, why not unleash the power of the potluck.
Peace and all good,
Director, MA in Servant Leadership program
A peace that passes all understanding. That has been my prayer of late. The desire for a peace that passes understanding seems the only appropriate response to the persistence in our world of conflicts that pass understanding. Servant leadership students at Viterbo University know all too well what these conflicts look, sound, and feel like. A recent graduate returns to Rwanda to carry the work of truth-telling and reconciliation forward for the next generation. A current student and priest celebrates the independence of his home country, South Sudan, even as he anticipates the challenges of raising up leaders from the literal rubble of decades old animosities and atrocities. Closer to home, many of our students navigate the increasingly perilous politicization of their workplaces, their uncertainty about the future a stark contrast from the too-often righteous certitude of many of our leaders.
Praying for a peace that passes understanding is a practice that makes me more sensitive to the peace that already exists in our midst. We know what peace looks, sounds, and feels like—even when we don’t always know how to make peace or resolve conflict. It looks like Hutu and Tutsi women in Rwanda collaborating on a micro-enterprise coffee bean project in order to support their remaining family members. It sounds like hammers pounding new roof beams on the bombed-out shell of a church near the new capital of South Sudan. It feels like that moment when the bread is broken at a divided family table, and all those present recognize in the face of one another our deepest human need to be loved unconditionally, our greatest desire to be heard amid the cacophony of campaign slogans.
Before we can become peacebuilders, we must re-sensitize ourselves to the ways peace is revealed in, around, and often in spite of us. May we discover in the coming days a world abundant with acts of peace. And may we find the courage to become “peace-revealers”—especially when that peace passes our understanding.
I sit on a well-worn chair; it is half an hour before the front door is opened and the community invited into the house. I take these moments to look around the Place of Grace; it is empty now, without the conversations and clatter of dishes that regularly fill the space. I look into each room, so often filled with people, and recognize the many stories that I have shared in and remember the many people who have influenced this house and its ongoing work. There is a photo of Earl Madary, his presence still remembered now three years after his death; a portrait of Sister Grace Clare Beznouz rests atop a shelf, her ministry as an FSPA was an inspiration for the naming of this house; toward the kitchen and above the dining room table a painting of Dorothy Day is hung; near the back door and nailed to the wall is that most iconic of Catholic Worker images, the wood carving titled Christ in the Breadlines; and hung near another table is the cross of San Damiano, that cross which called forth St. Francis to rebuild the church….
As coordinator of the Place of Grace I weekly prepare and serve meals for our guests and daily interact within a community that experiences both the bonum of life but also the hardship – be it mental illness, poverty, addiction, or loneliness. Through the many conversations and shared experiences that I have had with our guests I have come to understand what it is to be a servant in the midst of tension, but also what it is to be a servant in the midst of life. The Place of Grace has taught me an identity of the Church in which Christ is most apparent in each of our own imperfections; it is a Church that is not at all times holy, not at all times sacred; rather, it is a Church that is human, composed of the bitterness and sweetness of our lives. And so gathered here, through the sharing of stories and images, are the servant leaders of my own time.
Each morning I try to read a few pages from the diaries of Dorothy Day. Most of her writings are neither in-depth nor completely reflective; rather, they share the day-to-day labors of the house, brief descriptions of the people who come and go, and the daily burdens and tension that arise. Leadership, as I have come to experience it while at the house, often emerges in that which is ordinary, the day-to-day moments of our lives. To be a servant leader is to discover the sacred that is found within the depths of the ordinary – be that in the circumstances of a person’s life or within the context of an arising situation. For St. Francis it was through his embrace of a leper that the sacred emerged, and for the community gathered here, at the Place of Grace, it is through the sharing of a meal and the conversations that develop in which the sacred is brought forth.
As Dorothy Day wrote many years ago in her book Loaves and Fishes: “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us? When we begin to take the lowest place, to wash the feet of others, to love our brothers with that burning love, that passion, which led to the Cross, then we can truly say, ‘Now I have begun.’” (215)
~ Michael Krueger, Student, M.A. in Servant Leadership, Viterbo University
(excerpted with permission from 2011 M.A. in Servant Leadership application materials)
It was spring 2009; I received a letter from Dick Pieper inviting me and Dave Skogen, chairman and founder of Festival Foods in Onalaska, Wisconsin, to a meeting at the Greenleaf Conference that would be held that summer in Milwaukee. The invitation was to explore what it would mean to become a servant led community in LaCrosse. Festival Foods is a servant led company with fourteen stores across the state of Wisconsin. Viterbo University has the only Master of Arts degree program in Servant Leadership in the country. Dick was interested in how we might collaborate to extend our influence beyond the Festival Foods Company and the Viterbo University campus in the greater community. Remember, the theme of the 2009 Milwaukee Greenleaf Servant Leadership Conference was “The Institution as Servant Leader.”
That year, at the conference, Dave Skogen told the Festival Story; Jim Hunter gave a plenary talk; and Dick Pieper gathered the Wisconsin attendees to talk about the next steps. There was an energy in the room with good representation from La Crosse, Fond du Lac and Milwaukee. The conversation on Wisconsin servant led communities was born. Of the approximately one hundred that attended that meeting, thirty were students enrolled in Viterbo’s MA in Servant Leadership program.
Festival Foods sponsored Jim Hunter in December, 2009, at Viterbo University. Jim spoke on servant leadership for two and a half hours to eleven hundred community members. Individuals and organizations were offered an hour long presentation on servant leadership as follow-up; twenty-nine companies and institutions signed up.
In February of 2010 Dick again sent me an invitation to join him, this time on a three city tour of conversations on “Becoming a Servant Led Community”. Dick organized meetings in Milwaukee, Fond du Lac and La Crosse.
Our first meeting was at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Thirty people signed up, forty-five people attended. There were twenty people in Fond du Lac, one hundred and twenty in La Crosse. The format was hospitable and simple. We gathered people for a continental breakfast, asked for expectations, had presentations from a panel of people on the Servant Leadership Journey (novice, experienced and mentor practitioners). Attendees were invited to share their stories in small groups and give reports for next steps. Dick and I then made connections between expectations and next steps. Post meeting evaluations were done at each site.
In September of 2010 Dick again initiated the organization of a second three city tour on “Becoming a Servant Led Community” for two days in December, 2010. In each of the three cities the second conversation deepened, there was a maturity in our understandings and an authentic desire to form partnerships to further develop servant leadership in their institutions, businesses and organizations. In Milwaukee a group committed themselves to early morning breakfast meetings to further the collaboration and support of non-profit organizations. A number of the Milwaukee colleges and universities are looking for common good in servant leadership to help their students and colleagues on the journey. Finally, one group organized a local online learning community in order to create understanding and support for the practice of servant leadership.
In Fond du Lac, the Sophia Foundation is committed to fostering a servant led community through public conversations and institutional partnerships. The police department, Festival Foods and local universities are giving witness to the practical applications of servant leadership in the Fond du Lac community. They also have people involved in virtual communities.
In La Crosse, Dr. Richard Kyte, director of the D. B. Reinhart for Ethics in Leadership, reminded the audience that Greenleaf’s vision for servant leadership is ethical leadership. The two La Crosse medical centers gave presentations on how their institutions are teaching, developing and practicing servant leadership. Don Weber, founder of Logistics Health, challenged us to acknowledge and embrace the sacrifice that servant leadership requires and the selfless service to a Greater Good. Dick Pieper, the senior member on the journey, reminded us that all this is possible; servant led institutions helping create servant led communities, a servant led nation, a servant led world.
Our learnings are incomplete, the feedback is still coming in, next steps are just being taken but here are some preliminary observations. First, we form our institutions, organizations, churches, neighborhoods, families, workplaces, and communities by the conversations we have. Virtual, face to face, organized and informal conversations matter. Robert Greenleaf believed in the power of language, so should we. Second, healthy institutions contribute to the health of individuals and communities. Healthy institutions need healthy servants and leaders. These healthy servants and leaders need communal support and accountability that comes from public conversations about their work and their lives. Third, there is a synergy that is developing in institutions and communities who are aware of and challenged by the ideals of servant leadership. The challenges we face transcend self interest and competition. People are interested in and committed to conversations about things that matter in the hope of serving a greater good.
Next steps: broaden the circle and develop relationships with other communities who are interested in becoming servant led; continue to provide resources for institutions, businesses and organizations who are interested in becoming servant led but do not always know where to start; continue the work which has begun. This is a marathon not a sprint. It is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.
This is our first attempt at creating Viterbo Servant Leadership Blog. This is an inclusive blog. Matthew Bersagel Braley and Tom Thibodeau will develop content on a rotating basis and are inviting all participants to contribute to our ongoing conversations about Servant Leadership. Let us begin.
The agenda is always in the room. This is a statement of Ronald Heifetz that is helpful and directive. It is imperative that we are fully engaged in the present moment with the people we are sharing time and space with.
Thursday, November 11, is Veteran’s Day. Are the soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kuwait recognized as being in the room? Service people, serving abroad in our name, are largely outside of our consciousness and awareness. November 11 will come and go and how many of us will stop, remember, and reflect on the service and sacrifice of our brothers and sisters?
One place where reflection and remembrance does happen regularly is in the VA Health Care System. At the Tomah, Wisconsin VA servant leadership has been practiced for the past eleven years. In their servant leadership development program, each participant is part of a project that contributes to the care given our veterans.
One of the nurses had the experience of dropping out of her profession and the workforce in order to become a full-time caregiver for her father who was suffering from dementia. She faithfully cared for her father and bore the burdens of exhaustion and loneliness which comes with full-time, home care-giving. Her father died and after grieving, she returned to her career as a nurse at the Tomah VA. As a nurse she paid attention to the people she served in the room. In the room there are the veterans and their full time caregivers. She recognized the signs of exhaustion and felt their loneliness. “A servant leader is committed to serving other people’s priority needs.”
This nurse reflected on her own experience as a full-time caregiver and understood the need for appreciation and support to combat the exhaustion and loneliness. Her project group decided to interview as many family caregivers as they could. They built relationships with those who are caring for our soldiers at home. They published a book recognizing their service and love. They published photos and poems honoring their loved ones and their care. Each caregiver was given a book for a keepsake and as a reminder that they are not alone and that their service in love is valued and appreciated. The book “The Many Faces of the Caregiver” is placed in each waiting room at the VA, reaching out to the caregivers with compassionate service.
November 11 is Veterans Day. May we all stop, remember, reflect, and pray for our nation, our veterans, and our caregivers whose service and leadership are humble reminders that we are all called to be “Care Givers.”
P.S. This local project at the Tomah VA is being considered at the national level for VA Care. We never know where paying attention to the agenda in the room—to the “other’s highest priority needs”—will take us.
~ Tom Thibodeau
“A Prayer for the Caregiver”
By Bruce McIntyre
Unknown and often unnoticed, you are a hero nonetheless.
For your love, sacrificial, is God at his best.
You walk by faith in the darkness of the great unknown,
And your courage, even in weakness, gives life to your beloved.
You hold shaking hands and provide the ultimate care:
Your presence, the knowing, that you are simply there.
You rise to face the giant of disease and despair,
It is your finest hour, though you may be unaware.
You are resilient, amazing, and beauty unexcelled,
You are the caregiver and you have done well!
The Spring 2011 Semester begins with SVLD 601 Servant Leadership Theory and Practice, a required course, which meets for the first time on January 21, 2011. SVLD 657 Prophetic Leadership begins on March 18, 2011. Both of these courses are held on the La Crosse Viterbo University campus and are taught by Tom Thibodeau. Held at the Marywood Retreat Center in Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin is SVLD 651 Peacemaking & Conflict Resolution. This course, taught by Sr. Georgia Christensen, begins February 18, 2011.
We are pleased to announce the first on-line course for the Viterbo University, Master of Arts in Servant Leadership program! SVLD786: Servant Leadership and Global Change will be available for the 2011 Spring Semester, beginning January 17, 2011. This course is a 3 credit elective taught by Matthew Bersagel Braley.
SVLD786: Servant Leadership and Global Change
Course description: The challenges communities and organizations face often reflect, refract, and interact with a range of global forces at work in the world today. In order to evaluate the prospects and ambiguities of servant-led social change in the twenty-first century, this course will analyze how the very real and often contentious political, economic, and cultural processes of globalization affect the diverse local contexts in which participants currently serve.
Welcome to the Viterbo Servant Leadership blog! We are new to blogging, so please check back soon for updates! For more information on the Master’s Degree in Servant Leadership at Viterbo University check out www.viterbo.edu/masl