Servant Leadership and Forgiveness


Announcement: I apologize for missing chapter eleven of the book that we were using as a guide in our last series. I went back and blogged about it. And now we are complete. Look forward to our new series using the book, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World by Margaret J. Wheatley. Happy Saturday, friends!

“On the horizon of this landscape, a landscape that is personal and spiritual as it is political and global, we see ourselves free of what binds us, and we walk in such a way that others are drawn forward so that they too, may be free.”

~Shann Ferch, Author of Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity: Servant Leadership as a Way of Life

Servant-Leadership, Forgiveness, and Social Justice by Shann R. Ferch represent chapter eleven of the book we are using as a guide, Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness by Larry C. Spears and Michelle Lawrence.

Servant Leaders understand the concept of forgiveness and with each new day work towards the consciousness of forgiveness of one’s own shortcomings and the shortcomings of others so that they may see the heart of people in everyday living. Forgiveness is paramount to the Servant-leader as it improves relationships of all kinds and types and brings out the best in people.

The on-going expansiveness and unfolding of a servant-leader are that they desire to honor all of the relationships that they are involved with and see those relationships as sacred. I certainly appreciate how the author combines the construct of forgiveness with servant leadership and social justice.

I believe Dr. Ferch hit the nail on the head when he argued that the more traditional ways of leading fail to take into account people’s emotional and spiritual wellbeing. BAM! These types of leaders fail to consider their own emotional and spiritual wellbeing much less anyone else’s and this type of atmosphere (culture) is a breeding ground for the elitist mentality. In the end, these leaders, however well meaning, end up leading from a different energy than from the heart of a serving leader.

This is where Servant Leadership can help. Organizationally speaking, Ferch puts it this way, “The idea of servant-leadership…can be seen in movements that have brought dead organizations back to life, and reconciliation and healing to nations deeply wounded by human atrocities.”

Other noted scholars in Servant Leadership acknowledge that as a part of this sacredness, just as Greenleaf did, listening is paramount to the Serving Leader. Listening aligns behavior and cognition with everyday activities and is most effective when connecting with others, and involves a give-and-take relationship. Through the act of listening, and providing feedback, relationships develop and mature, creating more servant leaders.

Kouzes and Posner found that empathy is critical to effective leadership; along with listening, empathy, and trust, servant leaders make organizations functional and influence others within the organization. Greenleaf claimed servant leaders have an unqualified acceptance and a tolerance of imperfection. Empathy allows the followers to expand consciousness and recognize their acceptance for who they are. Taken together, listening, empathy and trust allow servant leaders to facilitate relationships and demonstrate attributes such as trust, integrity, accountability, and authentic concern for people.

Empathy, listening, and meaningful dialogue is critical for Servant Leaders developing a higher, more evolved consciousness that seeks to heal one’s self and others so that the Servant leader is better and by extension, the organization in which these Servant Leaders work.

What can be found as a result of empathy, listening, and meaningful dialogue is reconciliation, as Ferch says, “…the deeper restoration that is the result of a disciplined and unflinching look at the wrongs we do to one another.”

Ferch is so right when he argues that Servant leaders can invigorate organizations through a culture of acceptance, empathy, and relational justice. More than that, when this energy is present, forgiveness is a part of the cultural landscape of the organization where it can be asked for and granted, and the Servant Leader models such behavior.

Phew! Powerful stuff, right?

At the end of the day, if we, as Servant Leaders, can incorporate these ideas into our thinking and heart space, we can create and sustain the joy for ourselves and others. Moreover, most certainly, we can create this in our organizations (where we spend so much of our daily lives) so that we work with joy, calling to a higher purpose, and personal meaning. In this way, we all are free.

To Forgiveness,

Dr. Crystal

Servant Leadership: 2016 Year in Review


Lead a More Daring Life” ~David Berry

It has been an amazing year for my learning blog, Lead.From.Within. The three-year journey has been chocked full of amazing learning experiences, networking opportunities and the chance to teach and write about Servant Leadership. This year, my message has spanned across 69 countries, the top five including the United States, Brazil, Canada, Philippines, and Russia! That is 31 more countries than last year! I am truly grateful for the opportunity to share in this journey with you.

In bringing 2016 to an end, I want to share seven contemplation questions that Cynthia James challenged us to sit with and to journal the answers for the new year. However, first let’s take a quick glance back at what we have learned and the tools we have gained for our Servant Leadership tool box in 2016;

2 Books

  1. A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World by Daniel Goleman.
  2. Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness by Larry C. Spears and Michelle Lawrence


The themes from a force 4 good book included the key concepts below. For the fuller explanation, click here.

1.      Free the Mind and Heart

2.      Embody Compassion

3.      Educate the Heart

4.      Oppose Injustice

5.      Choose Humane Economics

6.      Help Those in Need

7.      Heal the Earth

8.      Connect Across Divides

The themes from the Practicing Servant Leadership book were varied including servant leadership and boards of directors, servant leadership and organizations, and the use of positive language as Servant Leaders.


Four bloggers/teachers that have challenged me to greater depths of service and spirituality are David Berry, Marcel Schwantes, Cynthia James, and Rosetta Thurman. If you have a chance, you should check them out in 2017.

Cynthia James, a poet, novelist, and independent scholar recently posted a challenge for us on Facebook. She presented seven contemplation questions for us to consider for our lives in 2017. When you have a chance, take some time to get quiet and jot your answers down. She says that if we get quiet and listen for 30 days (at least 10 minutes a day), we shall see amazing results in our lives! Here they are;

1.      What is the highest vision for my life?

2.      What must be released to fulfill this vision?

3.      What makes my heart sing?

4.      Where can I be of service that makes a difference?

5.      Who are the people that inspire me and why? How am I like those people?

6.      Where are the places I made a difference this year?

7.      If there were no obstacles. What would I be doing?

In the coming year, I will continue to ask myself the following questions (last year’s contemplation questions) and I challenge you to do the same to stay present with Servant Leadership and its message;

  1. How can I serve?
  2. How can you serve?
  3. How can we serve together?
  4.  Under what context am I serving?
  5. What do I want the end result of my service to look like?

I thank each of you wholeheartedly for your support of my blog! I am indeed in a debt of gratitude to you. I look forward to 2017 with great joy and anticipation for our work together. All is well. We are complete. And so it is. Namaste.

Something extraordinary is waiting for you.”

To Our Journey,

Dr. Crystal

Servant Leadership: The Movement


ANNOUNCEMENT: Happy Holidays to Everyone! I have been away for a while working on a servant leadership book as the series editor for a volume on servant leadership from the follower perspective. Look for our book on Servant Leadership with 12 fabulous authors/contributors later in 2017! As we close 2016, please know that I am grateful for each of you that follow along and journey together as Servant Leaders. Be Blessed! See you in 2017…

Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes when networks of relationships form among people who share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. This is good news for those of us intent on creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage and commitment that lead to broad-based change.” ~Margaret Wheatley

The Servant-Leader: From Hero to Host by Margaret J. Wheatley represents the last chapter, chapter twelve of the book we are using as a guide, Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness by Larry C. Spears and Michelle Lawrence.

Margaret Wheatley, author of the book, Leadership, and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World sums up the servant leadership experience in her interview with Larry Spears and John Noble of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership in the last chapter of the book. I believe her words and hope sustains and drives the Servant leadership movement forward. We will use her book for our blog series in 2017. Here are her closing remarks.

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” That phrase comes from a wonderful gospel song. This is the time for which we have been preparing, and so there is a deep sense of call. Servant-leadership is not just an interesting idea but something fundamental and vital for the world, something the world truly does need. The concept of servant-leadership must move from an interesting idea in the public imagination toward the realization that this is the only way we can go forward. I personally experience that sense of right-timelessness to this body of work called servant-leadership. I feel that for more and more of us we need to realize that it will take even more courage to move forward, but that the necessity of moving forward is clear. It moves from being a body of work to being a movement – literally a movement – how we are going to move in this world. I think that will require more acts of courage, more clarity, more saying this has to change now. I am hoping that it will change now.”

Servant Leaders understand that leadership is a journey and that Servant leadership is a movement whose time has come. We are here to live, learn, and lead with a heart of service. I wish you the very best for your Servant Leadership journey in 2017!

To the Movement,

Dr. Crystal

4 Premises of Theology Concerning Servant-Led Institutions


Towards a Theology of Institutions by David Specht and Richard Broholm represents chapter nine of the book we are using as a guide, Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness by Larry C. Spears and Michelle Lawrence.

I think it is befitting that after the presidential debate that took place last night, that this chapter speaks about this particular moment in time being both a terribly auspicious and an incredibly exciting moment to be exploring Servant-Leadership and Robert Greenleaf’s call for a theology of institutions. While there are innumerable opportunities for leadership to fail, some failures are particularly grievous, for, in each instance, they appear to reflect a fundamental lack of clarity on the part of those in leadership about what and whom they were holding in trust.

Today, we are facing a level of dispiritedness and lack of confidence in the commitment and capacity of public institutions, private institutions, and leaders that are unmatched. At the same time, is it also an exciting and provocative time to explore the lively intersectionality of the human spirit, sacred tradition, leadership, and institutional life.

Robert Greenleaf realized in the 1970’s, the necessity of existing institutions recognizing and adopting servant-leadership as a way of life and leading. We are in desperate need to understand and adopt servant-leadership in our institutions, both socially and politically in today’s atmosphere.

To that end, Specht and Broholm offer four theological premises for those who would hold organizations in trust. Let’s recap each.

Premise #1: Institutions Are a Part of God’s Order

Decent humanity and basic human respect are inextricably tied to and not separate from its social and political institutions.

Premise #2: God Loves Institutions

All faith and spiritual traditions understand that God’s love is universal but also the true essence of God’s intimate concern for each of us as individuals. Servant Leaders understand that rooting ourselves in the premise that God loves institutions (even in their mess) is an essential basis for the compassionate regard for organizations and institutions that enable us to hold them in trust.

Premise #3: Institutions are Living Systems

The affirmative belief that institutions are whole and living systems allows us to see first that institutions are alive and that institutions are systems. As such, they are wholly and completely interdependent on the evolving world around them, both impacting and affecting everything around them. The authors put it this way, “A fundamental mindfulness discipline of healthy organizations and institutions is maintaining a consistent awareness of these two dimensions of the institution’s utter interdependence with the world around it: both its fundamental dependence upon the world and the inevitable intended and unintended consequences of its decisions and actions upon that same world.”

Premise #4: Institutions are Called and Gifted, They are Fallen, and They are Capable of Being Redeemed

These premises hold three important theological assertions concerning the nature of institutions that stand in their own right and are interdependent on one another. As called and gifted institutions, they are called here for a reason. They are intended to represent instruments of God’s healing and reconciliation and to serve the common good, and good things are expected of them. Institutions are fallen and prone to inflating themselves, displaying disrespect and forgetfulness for its membership, and act in ways that neglect of harm the common good. In this way, institutions are capable of both great good and immeasurable harm.

Fundamentally speaking, holding an institution in trust, particularly around its brokenness, and in recognition of the realities mentioned above- that it is gifted and called, that it is fallen and that it is capable of being reawakened to its absolute best and evolved consciousness for the good of its people. Each of these premises can coexist simultaneously as possibilities within the life of institutions, each presenting in great measure, at any given moment in the life of an organization.

To human decency and respect for one another,

Dr. Crystal


6 Positive Phrases Servant-Leaders use when Listening


“There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.” ~Simon Sinek

Since there was so much good information in chapter eight, Servant-Leadership Characteristics in Organizational Life by Don DeGraaf, Colin Tilley, and Larry Neal, I decided to blog again on this chapter from the book we are using as a guide,Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness by Larry C. Spears and Michelle Lawrence.

Of the ten core competencies of Servant-Leadership, the foundational competency is listening. Not just listening, but authentic listening. That’s why is it the first core competency because it serves as the vehicle through which the other competencies can be nurtured. Servant-Leaders understand that great leaders are good communicators who can speak eloquently and more efficiently, but they are excellent and empathetic listeners.

One way that Servant-Leaders can develop listening skills is to practice reflective listening. Reflective listening includes three components;

  • Nonverbal clues: Learning to be aware of nonverbal communication in yourself and others
  • Understanding the content: Understanding the speaker’s main ideas and checking them out
  • Understanding feelings: Listening for and being aware of the feelings a person may have when communicating

And if you are like me, you’ve had to learn that remarks like, “I see” or “Oh, really,” or “You did?” are noncommittal responses and is not considered reflective or empathetic listening! Door-openers are responses that engage the person speaking and makes you an active listener. For example, below are some door-opening phrases that are either positive phrases or killer phrases. See if you have ever said any of the phrases.

Positive Phrases                                                                                 Killer Phrases

Keep talking, you’re on track.                                             The problem with that idea…

Keep going.                                                                                It’s not a bad idea, but…

I’m glad you brought that up.                                             You haven’t considered…

How can we build on that?                                                   We’ve tried that before.

That’s an interesting idea.                                                   You don’t understand the problem.

Let’s try it.                                                                                Has anyone else ever tried it?

Servant-Leaders understand that when we actively listen and use the positive phrases rather than the negative ones, we confirm for the listener that we hear and feel what they are saying. And don’t we all want to be heard and understood?

My son participated in an assignment this week whereby he brought the REAL BABY home. It was a part of his home economics class, the Real Baby Simulation Experience. It was fun. And he was tired. I got the chance to actively listen to him as he was frustrated at certain points of the experience where the baby was fussy. I stayed the course with him and listened quietly.

I offered him suggestions and coached him through it. He told me he could handle the baby through the night. And he did. He never came to get me. The next morning, he was so proud of himself. He did it! And I am proud of him too! He was actively listening for the baby’s cry and immediately began figuring out what the baby’s needs were. He was attentive and caring.

I always thought he was a loving child. And even as a teenager (and the teenager-ish attitude at times), his compassion, and authentic love showed through in his care and concern for the Baby. What a great experience for him…..and for me too!

To Authentic Listening,

Dr. Crystal

The 8 Pitfalls of Organizations and Emerging Servant Leaders


“All of us, whether or not we are warriors, have a cubic centimeter of chance that pops out in front of our eyes from time to time. The difference between the average man and a warrior is that the warrior is aware of this, and one of his tasks is to be alert, deliberately waiting so that when his cubic centimeter pops out he has the necessary speed, the prowess, to pick it up.” ~ Carlos Cataneda

Servant-Leadership Characteristics in Organizational Life by Don DeGraaf, Colin Tilley, and Larry Neal represents chapter eight of the book we are using as a guide, Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness by Larry C. Spears and Michelle Lawrence.

These authors provided an overview of the ten (10) core competencies of Servant-Leadership (Larry Spears created), but in this context, they used them in tandem with organizational life. I wrote about the ten core competencies a while back (here).  Rather than go back through them, I would like to touch on the core competencies that resonated with me today, and with another book, I am reading right now, Synchronicity: The Inner Path to Leadership by Joseph Jaworski. That core competency is awareness. But before I do, we should understand why awareness is so critical. Warren Bennis, Tom Cronin, and Harlan Cleveland suggested eight propositions for American leaders as to what blocks our ability to embrace awareness more fully:

  • The trouble with American leaders is their lack of self-knowledge.
  • The trouble with American leaders is their lack of appreciation for the nature of leadership itself.
  • The trouble with American leaders is their focus on concepts that separate (communities, nations, disciplines, fields, methods, etc.), rather than concepts that express our interconnectedness.
  • The trouble with American leaders is their ignorance of the world and of the U.S. interdependence – their lack of world-mindedness.
  • The trouble with American leaders is their inattention to values – forgetting to ask “Why?” and “What for?”
  • The trouble with American leaders is that they do not know how to make changes, to analyze “social architecture” [Warren Bennis’s term], and to create a team to make something different happen.
  • The trouble with American leaders is an insufficient appreciation of the relevance of stakeholders; of the implications of pluralism; and of the fact that nobody is in charge, and therefore each leader is partly in charge of the situation as a whole.
  • The trouble with American leaders is that they are not sufficiently aware of the context, or the external environment, or whatever it is they are responsible for doing.

Wow. These guys really pulled us on the carpet and told us about ourselves. I have seen and continue to learn myself as a Servant-Leader concerning the criticisms listed above.

Servant-Leaders understand that the core competency, awareness, is most critical to the development of the inner life of a Servant-Leader and the impact it has on organizational life. That cliché, “Some men go through a forest and see no firewood,” is so true in the ever-changing life of an unaware organization. That lack of awareness is dangerous to the 21st-century organization.

The need for managers to be critically aware of their customers, their staff, and their organization is well researched. But, as Servant-Leaders know, that additional step is to develop self-awareness. Self-awareness is about realizing life while living it, in every moment. As Jaworski says in his book, “it is a fundamental shift of mind.”

And the shift is a challenge. Heck, we are ALL so busy. It’s easier to live superficially than to live deeply. With all the programs we have to develop, people to see, places to go, and things to do, it’s a no wonder we can’t get off of the hamster wheel for a moment of self-reflection!

As a part of awareness, self-reflection allows us to renew the passion that attracted us to our organizations in the first place. It’s necessary to get that “fire back in our belly” so that we can access, reflect, and be honest with ourselves if we want to sustain our passion in the workplace and our personal lives.

I know that I am speaking to the choir right now. As Servant-Leaders we know all of this stuff. But, it is our responsibility to help others. To help other organizations. To help other Boards of Directors. And boy, do I have the perfect opportunity in front of me.

Have you ever been to a meeting where the energy is dead? I mean you can hear the crickets chirping and feel the lack of passion. This group that I am a new member of should engage in self-reflection, and be honest about where they are. Otherwise, I am afraid of what their destiny will be. What our destiny will be. They have long lost their passion and the way forward.

I leave with you a passage on the passion that the authors spoke about and know that if this group (and others) can get the passion back, they can survive and thrive as market leaders.

“When servant-leaders can demonstrate their passion for many of the core values of their organization, they reaffirm their organization’s commitment to the growth of the people and to building social capital within their communities. As a result, we must continue to develop our “inner fire within ourselves,” which allows us to continue to deliver programs and services at a high level over the long term, as well as encouraging a passion for services within our staff to meet the needs of the customers.”

To Re-Igniting the Fire Within,

Dr. Crystal


11 Tips for Servant-Led Collaborations

“When an organization knows its Spirit, it can lead itself from within…Organizations need a strong sense and conscience, a strong awareness of self, Who are we? What are we trying to do?”

~ Margaret Wheatley, Author of Leadership and the New Science

Anatomy of a Collaboration: An Act of Servant-Leadership by Wendell J. Walls represents chapter seven of the book we are using as a guide, Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness by Larry C. Spears and Michelle Lawrence.

Wendell J. Walls provides us with a fascinating story of how two organizations come together to host a joint conference (summer of 1999), and how they would forge this perfect union, a partnership, between the two of them; the Greenleaf Centers for Servant Leadership and the Community Leadership organization.

As the old saying goes, “It’s all about timing” and as it were, at the time of writing this blog and reading this fascinating story, a board of directors that I sit on is in its initial conversation with another organization (of like-minded souls) to merge conferences in 2017. Coincidence, you say? Nope.

Everything ALWAYS works together for what you need at the exact and perfect time. I am printing this article to take to the next board meeting.

So Walls takes us through the journey; how both organizations moved to Indianapolis, how the two CEO’s got together (Walls and Larry Spears) and really connected with their organization’s work and future, both professionally and personally, and one day during a conversation Spears and Walls was having at a pub on the north side of Indianapolis, Spear says, “What do you think about doing a joint conference?” to which Walls replied, “Sounds like a good idea to me.” And so was born the idea, really a new consciousness of collaboration, between the two organizations.

That’s how it happens.

Collaboration is born out of two people or two organizations (or several organizations) who have the same consciousness of Servant-Leadership. Both sides (or all sides) come together and realize it all about service. Walls said about the collaboration, “It is my belief that this collaboration reflected a consummate act of servant-leadership by the two organizations via their staff and the board leadership.” This example provides us, and me in a perfect way, with a model for effective institutional collaboration.

What I really thought was dead on in Wall’s article is that he talked about how, in the midst of planning the focus was on if the two organizations came together because of a finance issue or even if the collaboration was about a merger or take-over. Funny, how the energy of fear always races in first….

But because Walls and Spears and their organizations are both servant-minded in nature, there existed a spirt of collegiality right from the start. And this my friends, will always take an idea or a thought to the next level. Walls goes on to say how several positive ways of operating assisted the collaboration along the way; meaningful communicating, putting the hard stuff in writing early, accepting differences and similarities, navigating crisis together, and facilitation as an equal part of collaboration.

Walls talks about the synchronicity of it all and how successful the conference was. He mentioned the book by Joe Jaworski (I ordered this morning on Amazon) called Synchronicity. And I believe just like Walls does that the entire collaboration was meant to be, because that’s what synchronicity is about, “when things come together in an almost unbelievable way in our lives; high energy, coherence, a deep sense, of satisfaction, distributed leadership, and highly significant results.” Wow.

I am so excited that this article would *fall in my lap* just as the exact time that I would need it. I am inspired by the possibility that lies in front of me; to be a part of a collaboration that will, in the end, serve and heal the two organizations themselves and to be a beneficial presence to the people the two organizations serve.

Walls gives us 11 tips when considering collaboration. I’ll type this up separately to present to the board. Here is a re-cap of each.

  • Builds relationships at every opportunity. These relationships can be the gateway to future collaborative projects.
  • Allow the time and space for ideas to come forth. This could be quiet times or Aha moments. Ideas always come as a result of great communication and listening.
  • Collaborate just because it’s the right thing to do. There’s no need to wait for a problem to occur which then we believe a collaboration will solve.
  • There will be risks. Take them. No risk, no reward.
  • People fear loss, not change. Realizing this early on helps to ease the feelings of loss.
  • Frequent face-to-face meetings are a must. Emails, phone calls, and texts alone will not get it.
  • Put all of the firm stuff in writing immediately, Then, let the collaboration form organically as you move along.
  • Differences are a great path of creativity, discovery, and change. Spend time understanding differences between one another (or between organizations).
  • There’s nothing better than a crisis to seal a strong collaboration. Don’t fear it. Embrace it.
  • For the health of the group, engage in facilitation. If there is no independent facilitator, then facilitate for one another.
  • If in doubt, charge ahead. It will be worth the effort.

I wrote a blog post about a year and a half ago on collaboration. It was my most-viewed post in the history of my journey to share my message of Servant-Leadership (2,656 views). That was a clear indication for me that people and organizations realize the important of collaboration.

I like that Walls spoke on Stephen Covey’s 4 roles of leadership. Covey talked about them at the conference. He said that the leader must be a model of credibility, diligence, and the spirit of servant-leadership first and foremost, the leadership role is about pathfinding; wherein a vision is discerned, the alignment of values between organization must be institutionalized, and the fourth role (which is the fruit of the first three) is to empower the people.

I have been fortunate enough to be a part of many community-based and organizationally-based collaboration projects where we empowered the people around an idea. It’s hard work. Collaboration is about building relationships. They are about stepping into the unknown together and making dreams come true. They are about manifesting something into being. They are about leaning into and recognizing synchronicity when it happens. And when it all comes together, oh how sweet it is…

To Collaboration,

Dr. Crystal


4 Values of Servant-Led Organizations


There is nothing wrong with creating greater shareholder value or making a profit in your company… …However, there is something wrong when a Fortune 500 company doesn’t consider that its primary mission should be to exist for the sake of others, and not just for the sake of others in their exclusive shareholder family, but for the sake of making this world to the least and the last a better place.”

— Dr. Tony Baron, The Art of Servant Leadership

On the Right Side of History by John C Bogle represents chapter six of the book we are using as a guide, Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness by Larry C. Spears and Michelle Lawrence.

In this chapter, Bogle provides us with a captivating overview of the Vanguard Group, a mutual fund organization that has, since its inception, used the principles and philosophy of Servant-Leadership to make it a leader in the mutual fund industry. Bogle argues that Vanguard’s principles of creating a corporate environment that encourages its staff to do the right things in the right way have placed them on the right side of history.

It’s fascinating to read the story of the Vanguard Group and how they have surpassed their competitors in the industry by fostering a single focus on serving their fund’s shareholders. creating and maintaining an attitude towards low costs, and utilizing conservative investment strategies and concepts. Operating under the Servant-Leadership philosophy, the Vanguard Group enjoys assets topping 400 billion, cash flow at 50 billion, and switching to a no-load distribution in 1977, making the Vanguard Group that segment’s largest unit.

How do they do it?

Bogle takes ideas from Greenleaf’s essay, Building a Model Institution that provided the wisdom and vision for what has manifested at the Vanguard Group. Here is a re-cap of each.

Distinguished Serving Institutions

Employees who accept the challenge of discipline to operate in a higher consciousness are lifted to a nobler stature and are more effective. They are likely to achieve greater with less discipline in the workplace.

An Understanding of Leadership and Followership

Everyone in any institution is part leader and part follower. It follows that those employees that are natural servant leaders are the ones that should be empowered to lead.

Organizational Structure

Organizations that place an importance on organizational structure and culture understand how power and authority are handled. In this way, a discipline towards helping employees accomplish their goals for themselves and others make for a successful organizational structure. The Vanguard Group places the most power and authority with the fund shareholders rather than the managers. In essence, the collective power rests in the hands of those Vanguard serves.

The Need for Trustees

The Vanguard Group understands the need for trustees. That is those persons in whom ultimate trust is placed. These persons are objective, unattached persons that stand apart from the organization offering a detachment commitment that insiders.

Not only are the above-mentioned characteristic vital to the success of the Vanguard Group, but so is foresight and caring. Foresight is crucial to leaders to navigate the unknown. Foresight is about operating with a sense of purpose and objective, moving toward and embracing the unknown and harnessing the talent to manage the process for reaching new goals. Finally, the third is to have people who care about the organization.

Bogle puts it this way, “the institution must be the object of intense human care and cultivation. Even when it errs and stumbles, it must be cared for, and the burden must be borne by all who work for it, all who own it, and all who are served by it, all who govern it.”

At the end of the day, “the Vanguard way” is about creating extra value for its investors and indeed, their peers recognize this value advantage. Others in the industry didn’t pay attention until 10 years after the Vanguard Group’s success was noticed. And, they are being copied, but not with much enthusiasm.


Servant-Leadership is on the right side of evolving corporate history and the policies and procedures, that is, the consciousness that Vanguard adopted a quarter-century ago makes them a valuable Servant-Led institution today. To learn more about the Vanguard Group, click here.


To Servant-Led Organizations,

Dr. Crystal


10 Core Competencies of Servant Leadership and Philanthropic Institutions


You cannot buy engagement, and you will pay for disengagement.”

Adele du Rand, Professional speaker

Servant-Leadership and Philanthropic Institutions by John C. Burkhardt and Larry C. Spears represent chapter five of the book we are using as a guide, Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness by Larry C. Spears and Michelle Lawrence.

In this chapter, Burkhardt and Spears discuss the ever growing and evolving field of philanthropy including the ever changing society in which these institutions seek to serve. Robert Greenleaf had some ideas about the roles of service and leadership within philanthropic institutions and he believed, as I do, that service and leadership and interdependent, symbiotic and connected.

They mention the characteristics of servant leadership; Listening, empathy, healing, persuasion, awareness, foresight, conceptualization, commitment to the growth of the people, stewardship, and building community with regard to and in alignment with philanthropic institutions. Here is a re-cap of each.


Philanthropic institutions must show the way forward and listen not only to themselves but to listen, and even amplify the voices of those they serve that go unheard.


Foundations and other grants-making organizations must be ever careful that within their role of judging grant proposals (most times way more than they can fund) that they don’t lose sight of the people who have a need and to maintain this empathetic connection between the people who have the influence and the people who are being served.


Healing in this context refers to the healing of one’s self first. Greenleaf challenged us to heal internally from the isms in the world (racism, sexism, etc.) and to provide access to opportunity, promote and engage in peace, and to build community. He said these efforts cannot happen if we have not addressed them both internally and externally. Indeed, philanthropic institutions have the responsibility in the ongoing press of reconciliation.


Foundations must rely on leadership that works by influencing people through moral power and not through coercion and positional authority.


Philanthropic institutions must rely more on the awareness of perception to a greater level than ever before. Greenleaf spoke about the leaders as the seeker and in the grants-making world, awareness is a more evolved way to work (and judge grant proposal) rather than to just rely on objectivity, detachment, and expert knowledge. Awareness is at the next level of consciousness than these.


For philanthropic institutions, foresight is the most important servant leadership characteristic to possess for just as the original donor employed foresight in leaving an endowment and/or money for the future of service, the institution must commit to resources now, not thinking about the present day but using foresight considering the future of its work and service.


Conceptualization is about grant-making institutions making meaning of its work and service to society. In this context vision and conceptualization are seen as a process in which the leaders and followers arrive at the decision together. Conceptualization should be seen as the way for the institution and not merely a skill of the leader.

Commitment to the Growth of the People

As philanthropic institutions shift their consciousness from seeing its philanthropic investments as commitments to the people, rather than the problem, they will perceive their work in a different way, a new conceptualization. And Greenleaf called this new way of seeing it as a “high calling.”


The role of philanthropies is to, as Peter Block said, “hold something in trust for another.” What this means is that wealthy individuals gave their wealth to trusted organizations to act responsibly in serving and healing the world. Stewardship must directly impact the decisions that institutions make as stewards of endowments. In other words, keep the original vision of the endowment while operating in today’s context of need, all for the people.

Building Community

Philanthropic institutions must work together in purpose and as clear vehicles of internal cohesion if they are to be of service. Greenleaf says it plainly, “Am I connected?” Modern philanthropic institutions must live and work in a holistic and integrated way so that that remain, “On the growing edge of the contemporary phase of history but still connected to the main body of people and events. This is what community building is all about, staying connected to the people.


At the end of the day, philanthropic institutions and organizations have the greatest challenge as they serve and heal the world. Their challenge is to set the intention (create a vision) for their communities that go far beyond their approach, creating access for people, and contact. It’s all about engagement. Burkhardt and Spears put it this way, “The sense of community envisioned by Greenleaf does not tolerate much self-interest, nor does it provide much in the way of shelter from real relationships, with real people in real situations.


To Engagement,

Dr. Crystal


3 Questions to Consider as a Servant Leader

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 “Any time people want to focus on my work, servant-leadership, or other values as a way to get better results it’s critical to start from the right place. You sincerely have to start with what you yourself are wanting to become, the being and becoming of you.”      ~James Autry

Love and Work by James Autry represents chapter four of the book we are using as a guide, Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness by Larry C. Spears and Michelle Lawrence.

In this chapter, we get a glimpse into James Autry’s perspective on Servant Leadership, love, and work through an interview he had with then president and CEO of The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership Larry Spears and John Noble, the then director of the Greenleaf Centre-United Kingdom.

After 28 years in the management field, Autry provides us with real insight into what he’s learned about what makes a servant leader and what makes a great workplace. The interview included many questions. I chose three that resonated with me and hopefully they will resonate with you. Here is a re-cap of each.

What are the markers in your life, the people, and events that have helped shape your thinking?

Autry believes that everything is connected and interrelated. That is every experience, and every relationship is connected and they all point in the same direction. He said that he learned later in his business career that the most effective managers were those who were thought of as the weakest by higher management. He says he tried to manage from the old hierarchal attitudes and it just didn’t work for him.

The beginning of his transformation happened when he heard a speech by Bob Burnett, the CEO of the Meredith Corporation. Burnett claimed that “the most important thing is love,” and this statement forever changed Autry’s perspective of leadership in the corporate world. Indeed, he had never heard of managers and CEOs using the word lovein the business world. So, Autry let go of his old ways of managing and over time saw improvement. Autry argues that when he shifted his consciousness and started supporting people and building community within the workplace, the company went from 160 million in revenues to 500 million!

What does servant-leadership mean to you?

Autry doesn’t hardly ever use the term servant leadership but rather he pairs it with terms like being useful and being a resource. He believes that a leader’s responsibility is to provide the resources necessary for the team to accomplish their objectives and he understands that the principal resource of the people is you, the leader. The leader must serve the people. He says there are 5 precepts that he lives by; project authenticity and vulnerability, be present, be accepting, and see your role as being useful, as being the servant.


If every CEO, manager, and employees saw themselves as caring and serving to one another, the corporate world would be different and the profit we so want to make would show up bottom line. Every.Single.Time.

What is your sense of how a leader gets better at developing a servant’s heart, and how to view oneself as a servant to others?

This is the most powerful question asked. Autry’s response was, “To me, the road to servanthood has to be almost by definition, a road away from ego. We could shift this over to Buddhism and say path of heart– the path of heart, the move to a servant’s heart is a move away from ego. I think it has to be done in the context of one’s own spiritual development, spiritual growth, and by reading other spiritual disciplines, and picking people you think are spiritual heroes, those who emulate how you would like to be and following these models, letting them be mentors.”

One such person for me, one that I see as a mentor, although I have never met him, is David Berry. I am not exactly sure when I started reading David’s blog, but his message instantly struck me as real and authentic, caring and compassionate, spiritual and in-depth. He’s a great writer and his message is substantive. You never leave his blog post without a call to action for your own life.  Whether that is in your personal life or your professional life as a leader, David always inspires and encourages us to greater and better heights within ourselves. I think he is a servant leader.

His blog this week, The Story of Self perfectly aligns with our discussion here. You should read it and think about your own values, strengths, limitations, and purpose. And then write them down. I did. It’s empowering. Servant Leaders understand that this self-work is critical and worth every ounce of effort.

To Love and Work,

Dr. Crystal