This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Servant Leadership Fad

The hottest thing in the world of non-profit associations, including the one which employes my wife, is Servant Leadership. It is based on the teachings of Robert Greenleaf and rings true for many people due to its similarity to Christ's teaching that those who lead must serve his or her brothers (although in the Church, its usually a him). It is about empowering clients as well as leadership style. One can get seminars in Servant-Leadership from the Greenleaf Institute. As a former civil servant and public administration scholar, this movement kind of looks like Total Quality Management (TQM) for the non-profit world.

It is not that I disagree with the concept, I really don't. However, I must play the prophet here. (In the early church, prophets were truth tellers about whether the Brotherhood was measuring up to its ideals - there is no such role in the modern church).

As I was driving in to my wife's office to drop off her car, however, I couldn't help but notice that at her organization, which is now studying Servant-Leadership, the allocation of parking spaces has not changed. The executives still park next to the elevator, the next tier of managers park in the same structure, but farther away, and those with less rank park in another building and must walk outside. Temps don't get parking. The salary structure hasn't particularly changed either.

What I am getting at is that people are talking about servant-leadership a lot. They aren't quite getting to its essence, however. This is the same reason total quality management is yesterday's news. Both movements sought to drive responsibility down to lower levels, however unless authority and pay are driven in the same direction, what you get is lip service rather than results. When base pay is flat and additional pay is awarded based on family size, I will begin to believe that the Church is upholding its ideals, especially the ones involving the dignity of the unborn and the evils of artificial birth control. Until I see a living wage for its employees, I will have my doubts about the Church's commitment to its Gospel of Life or to Servant Leadership.

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