The idea that a good leader must first be a good servant is an ancient concept but it was Robert Greenleaf who coined the phrase ‘servant leader’ and launched the modern servant leadership movement back in 1970.
I have just returned from an inspiring experience of what it all actually means, having served as a volunteer at a non-sectarian Vipassana retreat.
As part of one’s Vipassana practice, you are encouraged to do service. This year I felt compelled to do so: to show my gratitude and to get the chance to practice awareness and equanimity both on the cushion and in the daily tasks of serving others.
Servant leadership requires a comprehensive view of the quality of people, work and community spirit, and the two individuals who agreed to co-lead the team exemplified this with care. Furthermore it wasn’t just the wearing of the unflattering hairnet in the kitchen, but following a code of behaviour such as noble silence, segregation, downcast eyes and strict timetables, and giving priority to assisting mediators in whatever way possible, carved a path for the habits of egotism to begin to dissolve.
When we serve, we are at our best.
Ultimately I guess we are all here to do that: to offer ourselves to the service of life, to serve the needs of others and to help them grow.
Here’s to the parents and leaders who do this so selflessly.
- Greenleaf Centre for Servant Leadership: http://www.greenleaf.org/
- Vipassana Meditation: http://www.dhamma.org/
- Grazie mille to everyone at the Vipassana retreat and in particular: Claudia, Larissa, Uta, Lorella, Roberto, Marco, Rafael, Simone, Giovanni, Sergio, Simone, Giorgio and especially to Isacco and Querida for their leadership and the atmosphere they created.