The Servant Leader – Becoming a Solutionary P.1

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The Servant Leader – Becoming a “Solutionary” Part 1

What is a servant’s heart? To most people, the quintessential servant’s heart is – Mother Teresa and her team of sisters in blue-piped white saris *washing the feet of the poor and sickly in Calcutta, India. An important fact is that on a train ride in 1946, she answered the “call within the call” to give up her role as Principal of Saint Mary’s to work in the slums with the poorest and sickest in Calcutta without a perfect seven-point plan on how to make that happen. Two years later, with official permission granted and basic medical training, she walked into the streets and her life’s work.

Having accessed what was needed on the ground, she founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 with a small team of former teachers and students. By the time of her death in 1997, she oversaw a leper colony, a home for those affected by HIV/AIDs, mobile clinics, nursing homes, a center for special-needs children in Kochi, and so much more. Were there hard, gut-wrenching times? Undoubtedly. But the servant’s heart does not strive for perfection but stays focused on being a solution as long as there is an entrenched need. She garnered some criticisms but also accolades, donations, and humanitarian awards including the 1979 Nobel peace prize. Canonized in 2016 as St. Teresa of Calcutta, today, the revered servant’s humanitarian work has expanded to an international, multi-million dollar charity with 5150 sisters actively working in more than 758 missions across 139 countries.**

Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

Two things recently got me thinking about servant leaders and the servant’s heart. First, team members were asked to take up supervisory positions and more responsibilities for a special ministry at church. Everyone took some time to consider our request. Some needed to hear from God and others needed to consult their families before committing. Of course, one must always consider the impact of serving on the family. Is hearing from God seeking an audible confirmation? Is that trying to make a distinction between what’s generally good and what’s specifically good for me? As believers, we have the Word, His peace, and His Spirit to guide us and these do. While we can’t accept every assignment, I think if it calls you up higher and beyond yourself, if it seems challenging and taunts any sense of inadequacy, it is so worth trying. But lean on God and like a miner, dig deep within for strengths and abilities that would otherwise remain dormant. A stagnant life is like the Dead Sea. Living things and beings need to grow. My breakthrough moments have always happened when I challenged myself to take the scary, unusual, and unexpected path.

Secondly, I came across Dr. Angela Lauria (Author’s Incubator) ideas on the servant’s heart.
Dr. Lauria states that “being in a place to serve has a lot to do with building your leadership muscle…becoming an object in motion…a forward-moving being.” Thus a servant’s heart is not passively idling till directions are given. Robert K. Greenleaf originally coined the term ‘servant leader’ in the publication of his classic 1970 essay, ‘The Servant as Leader‘  which launched the modern servant-leadership movement. The best leaders with an enduring impact like St. Teresa, whose maxim “I thirst…”  reminds us of the words and sufferings of Christ, adjure us to do as they have done. They are active catalysts for change, upturning the status quo, being and urging others to become “solutionaries.” Their work seeks a higher purpose to better humanity and transcends the individual. According to Greenleaf, their philosophy and practices seek to create “a more just and caring world.” A true servant detests inertia. One’s usefulness expires when they can no longer move forward. There are always new goals and challenges to tackle if we resist the paralyzing need to be 100% certain of success. 

Now, even though I know that our greatest lessons come from failures, I am just as guilty of research overload, calculating, and planning every step, making sure all the data and algorithms are just right, but then guess what happens? Nothing. Nothing but analysis-paralysis, because once we seek a no-fail process, we create an artificial biosphere, one so perfect that it has no place in reality and we lose the fun and adventure of fully living as we try to avoid (at all costs) the tension between what is and what could be. St. Teresa of Calcutta would have probably died as an excellent school principal if she had over-analyzed the extent of her assignment and in fear, refused to step out.

Okay, back to the church request – not everyone accepted the higher call but we truly love and appreciate every member of our team because in their own ways they actively serve and care for the most vulnerable amongst our children.
Servants are actually leaders who roll up their sleeves’ and “get action.” (Theodore Roosevelt) But if everyone leads, who will follow? Some people will never step up and then others who are “leader-first” are selfishly motivated by the quest for power, fame, or wealth. “Servant-first” people who make a “conscious choice to lead” then take deliberate action are in the people business. Greenleaf states that we can test a servant leader’s effectiveness by accessing if our collective humanity is better for it. Therefore, I’m convinced that we can both selectively follow and consciously lead. Our leadership and genius manifest in our specific assignments and we can learn from others in the arena.

So, take the instinct, volunteer, fan the flames of natural tendencies and build with commitment. Servant leaders act and recognize excuses for what they are – stumbling blocks to one’s true calling. Examples of servant leaders abound like Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, St. Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Moses, Albert Schweitzer, Jack Ma, Herb Kelleher, etc. This world can be hard and full of pain-points, but servant leaders are altruistic and the real heroes of our time. They have answered the call to be solutionaries and to an adventure – imperfect, unpredictable, and scary…but so worth it!

Ama.
#Becoming

References & Notes:

(1)The command or *mandatum in St. John’s gospel has become a religious rite observed in Islam and Christianity. Maundy Thursday during the Holy Week imitates the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus as a lesson in humility and service to each other. In Islam, the Wudu is a partial ablution or purifying activity before salat (formal prayers) and handling the Qur’an.

(2) Data of Active Contemplative Sisters (2015) The Order of the Missionaries of Charity. https://www.motherteresa.org/missionaries-of-charity.html website accessed 1/21/2020

(3) Mother Teresa (1910-1997) https://www.biography.com/religious-figure/mother-teresa. updd. 08/26/19

(4) Dr. Angela E. Lauria, 2016. “The Incubated Author – 10 Steps to Start a Movement With Your Message.” KPP eBook

(5) Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. 1970. ‘The Servant as Leader’ https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/  website accessed 1/21/2020

(6)”Solutionary” is the word used by my brother, Hon. Idopise Essien to describe his life work as a compassionate, solution-driven entrepreneur seeking to address the problems of entrenched rural communities. His company, Seteiye Integrated Services, takes solar-powered lighting to off-grid villages in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. I’ll explore his journey in the upcoming “A Servant’s Heart – Part 2.”

Image Credits: Google & Pixabay

Who is Clarence Avant – The Black Godfather?

Who is Clarence Avant – The Black GodFather? And Why Should We Care?

Reginald Hudlin produced and directed the Netflix documentary, The Black Godfather (2019) which chronicles the unusual path to power, influence, and the weightiness of Clarence Avant. In a culture obsessed with fame and celebrity, and in the ruthless business of television, film, music, and politics. This inimitable man wielded much of the power that shaped the 20th-century culture and yet did not need or seek the spotlight. To most people, he is The Godfather who just happened to be black because his goal was to ensure that all stakeholders irrespective of race and status in any deal, bought into a broader vision of fairness and respect for each other’s value. For this ultimate dealmaker in his work as a music executive, entrepreneur, and film producer, it often came down to “numbers.”

Through a career that spanned 50 years and numerous awards, like his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (2016), BET Honors (2013), and the Grammy Salute to Industry Icons Award (2019), Clarence Avant’s core message (laced with choice curse words) remained simple – family is the foundation for success, know your worth and demand it, move forward and bring others along, and know that real wealth comes from entrepreneurship and ownership. He is an intentional family man to his wife of 57 years, Jacqueline “Jackie” Gray and their children, Nicole (Fmr. Amb. to The Bahamas) and Alexander. He is a true friend to his lifelong buddy, Quincy Jones; and a no B.S. mentor to the countless individuals from all walks of life grafted into the bloodline of this Black Godfather.

He moved effortlessly between black and white communities connecting people, instinctively recognizing and serving the unmet need. He mentored a bloodline of high powered executives like Sony/ATV’s Jon Platt, Benny Medina; musicians and entrepreneurs like P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Snoop, Ludacris, Jamie Foxx; sports legends like Muhammed Ali and Aaron Hall; politicians like Ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. Al Sharpton, Presidents Carter, Clinton, and Obama. He helped launch the musical careers of producers like La Reid, Babyface, Terry Lewis, and Jimmy Jam; and artists like Bill Withers (Lean on Me, Ain’t no sunshine), Johnny Nash (I can see clearly now), Janet Jackson, and The SOS Band. On his now-defunct Sussex and Tubu record labels, he signed up talent regardless of race. It was Clarence Avant who made the phone call to move then Sen. Barack Obama’s unforgettable 2004 DNC speech to prime time, even though he remained loyal to his friends, the Clintons during the Democratic Primaries in 2008.

Why Should We Care?

This is someone you’ll like to know…I know I would. We learn in his story how to give ourselves in service to the greater good for all, how to receive help from friends when we fall, and how to remain authentic no matter what. From a poor kid born in 1931 in the segregated North Carolina, a teenager sent away to be raised by his aunt in New Jersey after getting into trouble, Avant became a behind-the-scenes power-broker and influencer. We watch the story of a man without advanced education use street smarts, learn life skills from his mentor, Louis Armstrong’s manager, Joe Glaser and apply them with his trademark candor and fairness to all who came into his path.

When asked about the motivation for his life-work, Avant points to the 1955 racially- motivated lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi for allegedly flirting with a white woman. Heart-broken and initially enraged by the senseless torture and murder, he refused to yield to hate and chose to become a bridge. This Netflix documentary is a well-deserved tribute to a living icon and a condensed account worth watching about a man, leader, and father, who remains crystal clear about his purpose which is to recognize the value in another, to facilitate connections that move people towards the “promised land,” so that they can, in turn, help the next generation.

Onward!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes/References:

Reginald Hudlin:

Producer and Director for House Party (1990), Django Unchained (2012) and Marshall (2017)

Image Credit: Netflix, Billboard, Google

Youtube: The Black Godfather (Netflix 2019)

 

Qui Vive

Already, this year has been exceptionally trying, but I have chosen to serve and to give out what I need most – an encouraging word. My hope for you all today is that you do not become weary from expecting the good. I am so ready for the harvest that comes after the waiting…

Qui Vive by Ama Danesi

In whatever state we find ourselves

God is working out the opposite.

When we fall, He lifts us up.

When we are bound, He frees our souls.

In the face of certain defeat, He is working

out a victory that cannot be denied.

In our darkest nights and earnest watching – qui vive.

His love roars loud and clear above the taunting waves.

He calms our heartbeat to the rhythm of His breath.

He sent us a helpless baby as Savior of the world.

Once an alien in Egypt but rich in gold, silver, and myrrh.

The pain and suffering that He allows, ushers in

destiny and purpose. He plants in untilled soil, that the

harvest may be wild and unrestrained reaching to

the ends of the earth and places marked “x.”

In the face of sorrow, our hope & joy is His name –

Emmanuel, God with us.

 

Alert & hopeful,

AD.

Historical Fun Fact:

Even motor boats have a purpose and are remembered for their service. The USS Qui Vive (SP – 1004) was part of the United States Naval Fighting fleet from 1917 – 1919. She served as a patrol vessel then as a hospital boat in the 5th Naval District during World War 1. Originally built by the Hutchinson Brothers (Alexandria, NY) for Houston Barnard (Rochester, NY) she was chartered by the Navy until she was decommissioned and returned at the end of her naval career. Her current state is unknown but her work and service endure.
(Bio and image credit: NavSource.org /Wikipedia/Pixabay)

Grace for Our Moments in the New Year.

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For all our moments in this blessed new year, I pray for grace and wisdom that’s beyond ourselves.
We seek the True North.
Happy New Year!!🎆

This is Going to Hurt

This is how I know my brain is functioning optimally – I might be inspired but find that I lack that the motivation to do anything other than shopping, browsing, and surviving another day. However, today, I’m doing more than just survive – my laptop is open, and my words are blowing free as the ocean’s salty breeze into the world. The prospects of a new beginning and its uncertain end is daunting. Sometimes, when I have a great idea and maybe even a daring one, instinctively, like most of us do…I hesitate. Mistake. Big mistake.

Here is why you have to be figuratively crazy to walk out of that cushy job or even the crappy one that barely pays the rent – we dread failure and the often shameful and public consequences of making a mistake. In psychology, it is referred to as the “Spotlight Effect,” where we perceive that we are continually being judged by others. This triggers paranoia and self-doubt and sets off an alarm in the brain which then goes into overdrive to protect us from danger or hurting ourselves.

The brain is doing its job when it magnifies all the risk implications, the certain pitfalls ahead, the strain on the body, mind, and resources that executing a grand adventure would entail. It knows we have three basic human needs – food, clothing, and shelter. Anything beyond these is asking for pain, and when the brain senses an overreach, it acts as an exceptionally effective lever. It will respond to your hesitation and uncertainty with a resounding, “No, we are not doing that !”  Our brains would also love this excerpt from The One Song* poem by Mark Strand (1990 U.S. Poet Laureate & 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry):

I prefer to sit all day

like a sack in a chair

and to lie all night

like a stone in my bed.

 

When food comes

I open my mouth.

When sleep comes

I close my eyes.

But we are not sacks or stones, and yes, we do need to eat and sleep but manifesting our ideas makes us thriving human-beings and is an ongoing and painful growing process that requires planning, strategy, and taking chances. Let’s not analyze our plans to the point of paralysis or death. Per the Spotlight Effect, the perception of being under constant scrutiny is unrealistic. People pay less attention to other’s mistakes and failures than we think. Another reason we have halls of fame and awards, the focus goes to those who tried and failed till they eventually had success.

That’s why Mel Robbins, author, and speaker, said, “Motivation is garbage.” This might come off as extreme, but I think people confuse the need to survive with motivation because she explains that we are never going to feel like doing the things that are tough, difficult, scary, or new. And so we can right now, stop waiting for motivation and just make decisions that we will follow through on.

We are one risky decision away from a totally different life. Our futures are determined by micro-moments of insanity and boldness, slight shifts in perspective, and crucial decisions to be kinder and bigger. And when you are at a crossroad, tell your conscientious brain before it stops you that, “Yep, this is going to hurt.” As the Good Book says, “Write the vision, make it plain, run with it…and at the end, it will speak.”** Till we get to that end, let’s embrace the pain that helps us evolve.

 

Sources:

* Poulin, A. 2006. Contemporary American poetry. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin. p.586

**Habakkuk 2:3 (para.)

Image Credit: Pixabay