An additional advantage in studying these two books is that they complement each other.
The main problem in the world is that most of us are trying to get something from other people, and we usually want to control them. Robert Greenleaf builds a compelling case that we improve our lives when we serve other people rather than trying to dominate them. He developed the phrase servant leadership to describe the values and way of living that he advocates in the book.
Discussion is almost like a ping-pong game, where people are batting the ideas back and forth and the object of the game is to win or to get points for yourself.—David Bohm
A book that connects with Greenleaf’s thinking is On Dialogue. David Bohm advocated listening in order to understand rather than listening in order to plan a counterattack. Listening to understand is a form of service to the other person. We can also discover aspects of our point of view that we may not have noticed. You might provoke me to disagree with you and I didn’t know I had an opinion on the subject. Dialogue reveals us.
One of the most helpful aspects of Greenleaf’s book is that he identifies the structural problems with churches, businesses, and universities. The problems are the same today as they were in the 1970s when he wrote the book. We are indeed slow learners. Bohm clarifies one of our common struggles when he explains incoherence: “Incoherence means that your intentions and your results do not agree.” That pretty much describes the state of the world.
Servant Leadership is not light reading, at least not for me. But if it enables us to save the world it is probably worth the effort.