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.
Probably one of the most inspiring experiences I had in understanding what it all means, was when I served as a volunteer at a non-sectarian Vipassana retreat.
As part of one’s Vipassana practice, you are encouraged to do service. I wanted to do it, 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 we are all here to do that: to offer ourselves to the service of life, to serve the needs of others including the more-than-human world. To be in service to people and planet.
Here’s to all who do this so selflessly.
Grazie mille to everyone at that particular Vipassana retreat and in particular: Claudia, Larissa, Uta, Lorella, Roberto, Marco, Simone, Giovanni, Sergio, Simone, Giorgio, Rafaello and especially to Isacco and Querida for their leadership and the atmosphere they created.
Photo by Lisheng Chang on Unsplash