A High Calling

Lesson 3: Topic 9 of 19

The high calling of the low place

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People who want power are easy to find. Most people don’t line up waiting eagerly to learn how they can serve others. It’s not glamorous. Servant leaders never seek to become the center of attention, and will not willingly receive all the praise for a job well done. He or she becomes like a stepping-stone or stepstool. A stepstool is not in a position of haughtiness, or self-importance. There is no prestige to be found in it. The stepstool simply boosts its user up to the higher level that they need to reach.

So why would anyone want to be a servant leader? True and lasting success.  Robert Greenleaf, a former executive at AT&T and lecturer at MIT, Harvard, and Dartmouth Universities, states in his book Servant Leadership, “…if one is to preside over a successful business, one’s major talent will need to evolve from being the chief into the builder of the team.”

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Each person on this earth has a purpose and plan for their life. As we grow and mature, our parents, siblings, our teachers, neighbors and friends all have the chance to either encourage and promote our life’s purpose, or diminish and negate that purpose. Business leaders especially have the opportunity and resources to either trap their employees or bring them into a larger space, and help them to fulfill their purpose and calling.

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.

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Greenleaf spent the bulk of his career at AT&T, starting out as a construction crew member and retiring as a senior executive. He also worked as a private consultant and as a lecturer at MIT, Harvard, and Dartmouth Universities. A constant theme of his was, “The organization exists for the person as much as the person exists for the organization.” Once common sense, this concept had been eviscerated by the Industrial Revolution, which treated workers as replaceable cogs grinding away inside the factory. It took Greenleaf years to make fashionable again the idea that companies must be worthy of their employees

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” the founders of the United States wrote. Not equal in terms of skills and  talents, but in terms of their inherent dignity and inalienable rights. Because, as they believed, these things are divinely endowed, it logically follows that every person can and should craft for themselves a life of meaning and purpose. As we grow and mature, parents, siblings, teachers, neighbors and friends can either encourage and promote our life’s purpose, or diminish and negate it. As adults, the opportunities to gather accolades and promote ourselves may be tempting, but we have the option to choose the higher, more meaningful road. Business leaders especially have the opportunity and resources to either trap their employees or bring them into a larger space, and help them to fulfill their purpose and calling. 

There are four legs to this stepstool, and then a platform on which to stand.