Archives for category: dreams

Casa Hogar Optical Mission Trip

The people of Lurin, Peru are in need of eye care and we have been asked to help out with the optical mission trip. Please consider helping us get there by making a contribution and/or sharing this with friends and family. Contributions of any amount and PRAYER are very much appreciated!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog over the last couple of years, consider showing your appreciation by helping me be of service to the people of Peru.

**We have updated our perks!  You can now receive the reflection book I’m writing with a $75 contribution.  This book will feature reflections on the intangible assets I observe during my time providing the tangible asset of the eye clinic in a novena-like format.**


before-casa La Familia


What assets do faith-based institutions located within the Washburn, Powell, Hood, and Hamilton neighborhoods of La Crosse, Wisconsin provide to those communities upon which further neighborhood development and revitalization efforts can best be built?

PHH Plan Boundary

There has been recent interest in revitalization efforts in the Washburn, Powell, Hood, and Hamilton neighborhoods of La Crosse, Wisconsin.  The need for intervention in these neighborhoods was a major platform point during local elections in early 2013 (Sullivan & Londre, 2013) along with a desire by neighboring institutions to spearhead development efforts (Gundersen Lutheran Health System & City of La Crosse, 2013).  After a preliminary review of the local literature, neighborhood planning efforts are focused on three areas:  safety/security, property improvement, and economic development (Burian, 2013; GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2013; Sullivan & Londre, 2013).  Primary stakeholders and critical supporters identified include businesses, social service agencies, and private individuals, with an overwhelming emphasis on government sponsored agencies (GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2013).   While there is a general reference to churches as a critical supporter in the PHH/Gundersen plan (GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2013), it is also noted a detailed examination of  the current place and future roles of small scale, faith-based organizations in these neighborhoods is missing from the neighborhood development conversation as a whole.

Addressing the omission of religious congregations in the visioning process for these communities is the focus of my proposed research.  The more disadvantaged a neighborhood community, the less involved residents become with community leader involvement increasing (Sampson & Graif, 2009).  Religious institutions are identified as key community leaders in neighborhoods (Sampson & Graif, 2009), therefore faith-based institutions should already be deeply involved in supporting the PHH neighborhood and will be instrumental in future redevelopment efforts. When developing abundant communities it is essential to look at the assets of the community first in order to build upon them instead of merely focusing on community faults in need of fixing (McKnight & Block, 2012).  These assets include tangible events such as community picnics and resources such as food shelves, but they also include certain properties (i.e., recognizing member gifts, nurturing communal life, hospitality to the stranger) and capacities (i. e., kindness, generosity, cooperation, forgiveness, acceptance of fallibility, mystery) that provide for satisfying communal relationships (McKnight & Block, 2012).  Identifying the current tangible and intangible assets of faith-based institutions within the PHH neighborhood will clarify areas for partnership, foundational assets to be built upon, and untapped assets as well.


To:  Barack Obama, President of the United States

From:  Krista Clements Orlan, Student of Servant Leadership

Re:  Thoughts as You Enter Your Second Term

Congratulations on your recent election win!  As a constituent who voted for you in both the 2008 and 2012 elections I want to express my joy that you are our president.  I appreciate the charismatic style of leadership you have brought to the office.  In these difficult times our country has been facing, with the fears of terrorism and the threat of economic collapse, it is important for the people to have a friendly face and voice of hope to go to when the future is uncertain.  You have confidently and optimistically led our country over the last four years despite fierce partisan opposition, and I am certain you will bring the hard work you began to a positive resolution as you move “Forward” into your second term.

I have been studying servant leadership and politics this semester at Viterbo University.  It has been an insightful course of study during the last leg of your election campaign, and now looking into the future of your next term.  There were several topics covered during the course that I would like to share with you as you go forward.  I hope you find my thoughts on politics as a vocation, credibility, and how they apply to you specifically, helpful in navigating through these next four years.  In the end, I offer these insights as rain and sunshine for the emerging servant leader within you.

Politics as a Vocation

            One of the first topics explored in class was the idea of politics as a vocation according to German economist and sociologist, Max Weber.  In a lecture given to the Free Students Union of Munich University in 1919, Weber offers his definition of politics and the state, explains politics as a vocation, discusses the three types of authority, and considers the needed compromise between an ethic of ultimate ends and an ethic of responsibility in decision-making.

Weber defines politics as “any kind of independent leadership in action” (1919, p.1).  Politics happen within the family, in the workplace, within any aspect of life.  For purposes here, I am referring to the politics of the state.  Weber defines the modern state “sociologically only in terms of the specific means peculiar to it, as to every political association, namely, the use of physical force” (1919, p.1).  Using this definition, the United States of America is an association of governments acting together to decide if and when physical force is used to control international or civil situations.  As the president of these United States it is your primary duty to decide when and when not to go to war as the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Army and Navy (Koh, 2001).

The authority of president, this power to make or not make war, has come to you due to your charisma.  Weber outlines three distinct types of leadership in his lecture.  There is the traditional or legitimate leader – one who assumes his position through inheritance or local custom.  Second is leadership by legality – someone whose power is a product of policy or law.  And finally, there is the charismatic leader – a person who rises to the position due to a heroic personality that inspires confidence from his constituents (Weber, 1919, p. 2).

This last leadership type is that of the elected official, and where the heart of politics as a vocation lies.  The charismatic personality of the elected politician bubbles up from who they are, not from the position itself.  Elected officials are called by their constituents to their positions by virtue of who they are and when the leader’s “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” (Buechner, 2012).  This makes charismatic leadership unstable because authority can be taken away based on the whim of constituents.  This whim is continually being swayed by the leader’s personality and the day-to-day decisions made on behalf of the state.

Weber continues to discuss utilizing various ethics in political decision-making.  A charismatic leader will tend towards an ethic of ultimate ends where his focused passion for a cause will lead to any means necessary to achieve the end.  However this ethic lacks any regard for consequences, and this is where a politician can find himself in trouble with his constituents.  An ethic of responsibility is needed to balance the fervor of the ethic of ultimate ends so that all stakeholders are considered.  Weber surmises that political leaders acting through the vocational call will balance an ethic of ultimate ends and an ethic of responsibility in sound decision-making.  This is the path of the mature leader; the one who is able to guide the state along the path of long-term success and not get lost in the short-term wins.  This tactic will lead to credibility with constituents and support longevity in the vocation.

An interesting picture emerges when considering Weber’s thoughts on politics as a vocation and the direction for your second term as president.  I believe you were re-elected largely in part to your past decision-making on war and other physical conflict on behalf of the nation.  During the 2008 campaign you promised to end the Iraq War safely and responsibly within sixteen months and this was a promise you kept (Gibson, 2011).  During a 2008 presidential debate against Senator McCain you stated:

“And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think we have to act, and we will take them out.  We will kill bin Laden.  We will crush al-Qaida.  That has to be our biggest national security priority” (Adair, 2011).

This was another promise kept.

Not only did you keep these promises but you demonstrated a good balance in ethics of ultimate ends and responsibility in achieving these goals. “Although about 48,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq as a transitional force, the bulk of the combat forces were headed home by the end of summer 2010,” reported FOX News (Gibson, 2011).    You considered the consequences to the Iraqi people if you pulled our troops out all at once and decided a transition was needed to ensure long-term peace in the region. According to CNN, 57% of Americans trust you to handle an international crisis as opposed to only 50% for Romney (2012).  This demonstrates your decisions in regards to international force have created credibility with the American people.

It is important to move forward with other international conflicts in a similar manner during your second term.  The American people are expecting you to move firmly, yet not recklessly, in international affairs.  We want to consider the impact our forceful actions have on other countries.  Proceeding in this same direction will ensure continued call by your constituents to the role of the charismatic leader as your presidency is over and new political opportunities evolve.


The course bookend to Weber has been James Kouzes & Barry Posner’s book Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It.  The book fleshes out thirty years of ongoing research into leadership.  The bulk of the work focuses on the six steps to building and maintaining credibility as a leader: discover your self, appreciate constituents, affirm shared values, develop capacity, serve a purpose, and sustain hope (Kouzes & Posner, 2011, p. 35).  As I stated earlier, you were successful in building credibility with American voters during your first term of office; this is why you were re-elected.  Now your challenge is to maintain that credibility throughout the remainder of your presidential career.  Indulge me as I explore how you built credibility in each of the six areas, and make recommendations on how you can continue to build credibility into the future.

“To be credible, you need to have trust in your abilities to do what you believe, especially in uncertain and challenging situations” (Kouzes & Posner, 2011, p. 43).  In a nutshell, this is the ultimate challenge of self-discovery for a leader.  You are a great leader because your life has been focused on self-discovery and this self- awareness has provided you what you needed to lead an entire country.  Author, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, called your book, Dreams from My Father, “one of the most powerful books of self-discovery I’ve ever read” (Obama, 2004, back cover).  Through the process of writing this book you were able to unpack a lifetime worth of searching for your True Self in a way most people do not take the time or energy to embark.

I also had the pleasure of reading your second book, The Audacity of Hope, where you explore what you believe about our nation and how the government can best address our country’s needs.  You sought out the best educational opportunities available in our country at Harvard, and have taken your book smarts to the streets as a community organizer in Chicago, as well as the halls of Congress, in order to build your competencies.  The sum of all your life experiences and how you have aggressively sought to make sense of them has instilled in you the confidence to lead a nation.

As you move through these next four years, it is important that you always take time to contemplate who you are at this moment.  Self-discovery is an ongoing process.  Who we are is constantly developing.  Being in touch with who you are right now will keep you grounded and confident in making the difficult decisions needed of the president.

Credible leaders appreciate their constituents.  They listen deeply and ask for feedback.  They also encourage constructive controversy as a way to make better decisions and build commitment within their teams.  In observing you through the media over the last several years, you make a point of relating to the average American. You are frequently pictured in everyday situations with everyday people, for instance, eating pie in a café or playing a game of basketball.  You always look completely comfortable and honestly happy to be spending time with these people.  As an “average American” myself, I have always enjoyed these media moments as a window into a man who is just like me and appreciates who I am and what I go through as part of this society.  That is pretty amazing considering you are a black man and I am a white woman.

Moving forward, I think it will be necessary for you to shift your energy toward building credibility with your immediate stakeholders, namely the Republican members of Congress. There is much bi-partisan work to be done in addressing the federal budget deficit, the sagging economy, and federal healthcare legislation. It will be important for you to promote constructive controversy in order to come to the best decisions in a way that does not drive a wedge further between the two political parties.  This is a tall order, but a challenge I believe you can undertake.  While editor of the Harvard Law Review you were known for your unique ability to work constructively with conservative editors on the Review.  In an interview shortly after being elected as the first black president of the Review board you explained, “If I’m talking to a white conservative who wants to dismantle the welfare state, he has the respect to listen to me and I to him. That’s the biggest value of the Harvard Law Review. Ideas get fleshed out and there is no party line to follow” (Drummond, 2008).  Unfortunately, in the White House there is a party line to follow, and this is what will make your second term particularly challenging.  Keep striving to understand conservative perceptions, concerns, and values in regards to these issues as a way to keep the conversation headed toward compromise.

Once a credible leader understands their stakeholders values they can build further credibility and confidence by affirming the values that are held in common.  This has been a difficult task during your first term and the most complicated area of credible leadership in the current political climate.  The problem of affirming shared values between liberal and conservative factions has not been your problem, but that of the parties.  Christine Lee, a black Harvard law student during your time on the Review board noted, “He’s willing to talk to them (the conservatives) and he has a grasp of where they are coming from, which is something a lot of blacks don’t have and don’t care to have” (Drummond, 2008).  This aspect of credible leadership comes naturally to you; however it is the deep seated stalemate between the GOP and the DFL that has been a barrier to constructive compromise in Washington.

Your challenge going forward is to build genuine working relationships with every person involved in party negotiations.  Building these types of relationships takes a lot of time and energy.  You understand this from your time as a community organizer in Chicago.  In fact, you may spend your remaining four years building these relationships so that constructive compromises can be made immediately before leaving the presidency, or perhaps you will be laying the groundwork for the next president.  Regardless, your work now is in building a community of politicians committed to making changes for the common good based upon shared values and blind to party affiliation.  It may seem an insurmountable task, but if anyone can do it, you can.

Credible leaders build the capacity of their constituents so they can better help the leader address those insurmountable tasks.  They “provide the resources and other organizational supports that enable constituents to build their skills and put their abilities to constructive use.  Credible leaders foster an ownership mindset by making sure people have choices and the freedom to use their training, their judgment, and their experience to do what is right” (Kouzes & Posner, 2011, p. 131).  You are in the unique position of offering this to all Americans who need access to an affordable, quality education.  According to online parent resource, you have made education a priority as president.  You have supported the development of new federal assessment standards to replace the problematic No Child Left Behind, provided grant money to states for starting charter schools as a way to offer more school choice, made the federal student loan system more efficient in order to free up money for Pell grants, offered grant money to make preschool accessible to more people, increased funding for science and math education, and funded experiments in merit pay for teachers (Sorrentino, 2012).  You see the importance of training the next generation of our country’s leaders and back up that value with federal support.  I encourage more of the same from you in the upcoming years.  It is the best way to leave behind a legacy as a leader – empowering others to do what was not yours to do.

Serving a purpose is also important to building credibility in leadership.  This is done by putting the country’s guiding principles before anything else (Kouzes & Posner, 2011, p. 152).  You spoke about this in your 2012 victory speech:

“By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock, resolve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.  But that common bond is where we must begin” (Obama, 2012).

A guiding principle of our nation is that we are united in innumerable ways, including a unity of diversity in opinion and worldview, and it is in working through our diversity that our country’s unity is perfected through consensus and compromise.  Living out this purpose on the political stage has not been an easy task; in fact it often seemed there was no hope for consensus and compromise in the midst of all the hard-line partisan rhetoric.  But you persistently tried, and from recent headlines it seems as if the long held stalemate may soon fall aside in the interest of addressing the deficit (Espo, 2012).  To keep the momentum of compromise going I recommend remaining open to constructive conversations and opposition because “credible leaders provide tangible evidence of their commitment and are visible models of the kinds of behaviors that are expected” (Kouzes & Posner, 2011, p.152).

The final, and what I consider most essential quality of credible leadership, is the ability to sustain hope.  Hope has been an abiding theme in your life and your presidency.  Through your childhood you held on to the hope of finding where you belonged.  During college you participated in political demonstrations in the hope of ending apartheid (Drummond, 2008).  You moved to Chicago to work as a community organizer in the hope of bringing just treatment to those living in impoverished neighborhoods. Your conversion experience into the Christian faith involved listening to a sermon entitled “The Audacity of Hope” surrounded by those you were called to serve.  You went on to write a book by the same title about your hopes and dreams for America’s future. “Hope” was your first presidential campaign slogan.  Hope has been a driving force in your life and you have not been afraid to embrace the power of hope when others have dismissed it as a soft and wistful emotion.  Your very presence as the President of these United States, a young black man from an unstable home, has brought hope to so many Americans.  Hope has made you a leader “with a positive, confident, gritty, can-do approach [Yes, we can!] who remain[s] passionate despite obstacles and setbacks” (Kouzes & Posner, 2011, p. 173).  And you will sustain hope in our nation by helping us all think positively about the future through your gift as an orator.  You are America’s cheerleader and that is exactly what we need in order to rise above our country’s difficulties.  Thank you for your gift of hope!

Servant Leadership & Politics

In conclusion, I want to share with you some thoughts on servant leadership and politics.  It has been a topic of conversation in our servant leadership classes on campus this semester.  Opinion is divided about whether or not it is possible to be a politician and a servant leader simultaneously.    Some think it impossible because of the large number of constituents a politician represents.  It is not possible to build interpersonal relationships with most of them, and that is a key component of servant leadership.  In today’s political climate, politicians have to answer to their parties and supporting lobbies more so than to the people they represent in order to be effective in their positions.

This makes it difficult to actually listen to constituents and act according to personal values.  The battleground of politics is an unfriendly place for the servant leader.

However I think someone who is firmly grounded in their role as servant leader can successfully navigate the world of politics, and I think you are a prime example.  Robert Greenleaf defines a servant leader as “servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.  Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead” (Greenleaf, 2008, p. 15).  You demonstrated this when you chose to work as a community organizer before heading to law school.  You continued to demonstrate this when you chose to work in civil rights and as an educator before initiating your political career.  Your political career in itself is an act of civil service.  Your service to others, and inspiring others to service, has always been a motivator for you.

Servant leadership emerges from you in other ways as well.  I have already written about your desire to connect with people on an interpersonal level and how that positively affects the rest of us who will never have the opportunity to meet you in person.  Of all the presidents I have known in my lifetime, you are by far the best storyteller of the lot.  You have the gift to connect, inspire, and reassure with your words, both orally and in written form.  Critics often claim this is all you have going for you, but when looking through the servant leader lens, the ability to uplift and motivate others to service through story is the key to successful leadership.  The servant leader does not have to do it all by himself, he does not want to because his primary purpose is to develop other servant leaders.  In your 2008 victory speech you expressed this desire:

“This victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change.  And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other” (Obama, 2012, November 4).

You clearly understand what it takes to be a servant leader and have tried your best to apply what you know in your role as president.  You may not have always been successful in your leadership – what servant leader has not failed in some way – but I observe you continually use your failures to grow and develop as a leader.  This is all we can legitimately ask of our leaders, and of ourselves.

You have spent the last four years laying the groundwork for your next four as president.  I have hope and confidence that you have built the relationships necessary to break down the walls of partisanship and build the bridges of cooperation and compromise in Washington, D.C.  Despite having never met you in person, you have managed to build credibility with me during your first term, and I am sure there are thousands of others like me.  I want you to know how very proud I am of being an American during the term of our first African American president.  I want you to know how very proud I am of you.


Adair, B. (2011, May 1). Politifact: In 2008, obama vowed to kill osama bin laden. Retrieved from

Buechner, F. (2012). Goodreads: Frederick buechner quotes. Retrieved from

CNN. (2012, November). America’s choice 2012: Election center exit polls. Retrieved from

Drummond, T. (2008, September 4). Barack obama, harvard law review editor, march 19, 1990. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from

Espo, D. (2012, December 5). Obama and boehner discuss fiscal cliff by phone. Retrieved from

Gibson, J. (2011, April 5). A brief look at candidate obama’s 2008 campaign promises. Retrieved from

Greenleaf, R. K. (2008). The servant as leader. Westfield, IN: The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

Koh, H. (2001, September 13). What war powers does the president have?. Retrieved from

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2011). Credibility: How leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Obama, B. H. (2004). Dreams from my father: A story of race and inheritance. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Obama, B. H. (2008). The audacity of hope: Thoughts on reclaiming the american dream. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Obama, B. H. (2008, November 4) Retrieved from

Obama, B.H. (2012, November 7). Transcript of president obama’s election night speech. The New York Times.  Retrieved from

Sorrentino, J. (2012). Barack obama on education. Retrieved from

Weber, M. (1919). Politics as a vocation. Retrieved from



       My family is invaluable to me.  I take seriously my responsibility to be a supportive wife and a nurturing mother.  I have often set aside my own personal needs and wants in order to provide for them.  However, I often feel I have fallen short in my responsibility to family.  Countless times I have failed to serve them because I have been busy with work, volunteering at church, or spending time with my friends.  It is difficult finding a healthy balance between quality family time and personal development.

Part of my frustration in discovering this healthy balance has been because I have not fostered a servant leader culture within my family, even though servant leadership is a concept that comes naturally to me.  I did not need to study the theory and practice of servant leadership in order to successfully support theatre production teams and casts in joining their gifts together in a way that made powerfully creative moments on the stage.  I also did not need to sit through 32 hours of class in order to begin my journey with leading from the inside out (Cashman, 2008), to effectively coordinate a regional community in rehabilitating houses in rural Minnesota, or to peacefully lead a neighborhood association in educating a whole city about municipal tax policy and its just application.  While I still have much to learn in order to develop into a mature servant leader, I recognize it as a gift to be nurtured and not a habit to be formed.  However, when it comes to my family, servant leadership is a habit I need to develop within myself and in our familial interactions.

I intend to explore how to best apply what I have learned thus far about servant leadership, in the context of interpersonal and organizational dynamics, to my family life.  According to Robert Greenleaf, while learning the skills of servant leadership is important, the process of discovery, seeking, and reflection are the most vital:

Individuals and organizations seek a better, more humane way of living in integrity, discover the servant-leader within themselves and its potential in their organizations, and then reflect together on how to widen the circle of servanthood so that it embraces persons and policies, missions and mandates (Frick, 2009, p. ix-x).

I can easily substitute the word “family” for “organization” in the above quote and apply this basic formation process to my nuclear family unit.  First, I need to release control of our family dynamic so that everyone can develop as a leader.  Next, we need to seek a better way of interacting together.  And finally, we can begin to dream of how our family can be a force for positive change in the lives of those around us.  These are the tasks ahead of us.


Developing a Family of Leaders

While I recognize this first task of developing the leader in each of our family members is up to me, it is not because I am going to make my husband and son into leaders, but because I need to allow them the room to grow into family leaders.  Bill George, former Chairman and CEO of Medtronic explained, “the more we can unleash our whole capabilities – mind, body, spirit – the more value we can create within and outside of our organizations” (Cashman, 2008, p. 25).  I need to get out of the way so they can discover and contribute their gifts to our family.

I am confident in saying that I am currently the leader of our family.  Both my husband and I grew up in matriarchal households, and it came naturally that I would be the primary influencer and doer in the family.  I tend to have the last say when making decisions.  I initiate most activities around our house, whether they are home repair related or a family activity.  I keep track of the family schedule.  I pay the bills, manage our finances, and oversee our rental property.  I keep the gears of family life moving.

My husband and son take more passive roles in our family.  They are less likely to initiate ventures new or outside the normal routine.  Both of them do a much better job of honoring leisure at home than I do.  This is not because they are incapable of being productive – my husband does the majority of the cleaning at our house, the yard work, and we split cooking duties – but because they do not need to show initiation because I have already taken care of it.

I have control issues.  I know there have been times when they have attempted to be in charge of a project within the family, and I micromanaged it.  Control is a symptom of leading by coping.  It is not leading at all; it is management through doing (Cashman, 2008, p. 48). This leads to unnecessary interpersonal tension because my family feels stifled and I feel overwhelmed.

This is not how a servant led household should work.  All members of our family team should contribute according to their passions and abilities.  The best way for me to lead our family in discovering the servant leader within is by simply being present.  By doing so, I am available to support each individual in developing the three behavior patterns typical of the most effective leaders: authenticity, influence, and value creation (Cashman, 2008, p. 24).

Cashman (2008) defined authenticity as, “well-developed self-awareness that openly faces strengths, vulnerabilities, and development challenges” (p. 24).  My husband, son, and I each need to individually discover the gifts we bring to our family, honestly acknowledge our personal weaknesses, and identify the obstacles that keep each of us from positively contributing to the family.  Once we have done this discovery work into who we truly are as individuals, then we will be ready to influence each other in implementing a servant led family structure that will create value within the communities we are a part.

How am I practically going to support our family’s personal development in mind, body and spirit?  I feel like this is a slippery slope.  This is not a journey I can take for them; they need to initiate it for themselves.  And at the same time I need to be wary of not outsourcing my care to professionals (McKnight & Block, 2012, p. 36).  I think it is easier for me to support my son in his development because of his age.  He is constantly asking me questions about how objects work and why situations are the way they are.  I enjoy sharing my knowledge with him.  My challenge is to be patient with his questions when they come fast and furious.  In the realm of body, I attempted to include our son in my daily workout routine this summer, but he was resistant.  We had the most success in hiking together; I should involve him more in the planning of where we go hiking and for how long.  I also need to listen to him better about his participation in organized sporting activities.  For his spiritual development, we have invested in providing him a Catholic school education, but I would like to bring this focus back into the home.  We have lost our sense of family church in the move back to Wisconsin.  I am ready to support our whole family in bringing communal prayer back into our home.

The question of how to support my husband in personal development is even trickier.  Very recently I came to the realization my husband’s unwillingness to do inner work is a major source of interpersonal conflict between us.  I have been committed to discovering my authenticity for the last ten years and have been inwardly transformed in countless ways.  While these have been positive changes for me, they have also created a widening gap between us.  This is not my problem to fix.  I cannot make him change, I cannot make him do the inner work, and I certainly should not stop my discovery process.  It is out of my control.  This is a journey only he can travel.  He needs to take the lead in bridging the gap.  I took the only step I can at this time – communicated to him what I had identified as a challenge for our family and offered my support in overcoming whatever obstacles he identifies as being in the way of his inner work.  I pray he takes this step of the process seriously because our family will not be able to move on to implementing servant leadership without his commitment to doing the inner work.

Discovering authenticity is an ongoing process.  While I continue to do my own inner work I need to find a healthy balance between supporting my family in doing theirs and giving them the room to grow as individuals.  I trust Frick’s (2009) observation, “After doing the head and heart work and modeling servant leadership, implementation proceeds organically, backed by smart strategy and wide-ranging and inclusive communications” (p. x).  This is about putting the foundation of inner work into practice.


Implementing Servant Leadership in my Family

Once each individual in my family has had the opportunity to begin their journey toward authenticity we will be ready as a group to implement servant leadership together.  I need to initiate this process with both my husband and my son in different ways.  With my husband I need to put the idea out there and allow him to think about it.  Once he is at a critical point in his inner work, he will respond positively to the suggestion because that is the natural response to claiming authenticity.  My son, on the other hand, responds to recognition.  I need to recognize the concerns he has expressed about our family life and invite him into the process as a way of addressing those concerns.  This is where the work of influencing can begin.

Cashman (2008) suggests that successful leaders have meaningful communication that influences.  The purpose of this communication is to remind each other what is truly important.  I would propose that our family get together to talk about what is important to each of us.  Not only would we self-identify what is important to us, but we would also talk about what we perceive as being important to the others according to the behaviors we observe.  This will enable us to identify any gaps that exist between what is genuinely important to us and how we act.  This would be similar to the 360 feedback process Hunter (2004) suggests in his method to developing servant leader behavior.

Once we have identified our behavior gaps we can begin supporting each other in making positive changes.  Hunter (2004) suggests making SMART goals to eliminate gaps in the third step of his change process. Each of us would identify specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound action-plan goals to bring our behaviors in line with our priorities, and these would be shared with the entire family.  Together we would brainstorm different ways we can each put our goals into practice within the context of family.

Accountability is essential to changing behavior.  Hunter (2004) recommends convening a “continuous improvement panel” on a quarterly basis to insure progress towards SMART goals.  I envision the three of us making a ritual of going out for a special dinner once a season and returning home for dessert to discuss how we feel we were coming on our goals, and to brainstorm ways we could support each other in achieving those goals that prove troublesome.

Not only is implementing servant leadership an ongoing process, so is the process of inner transformation.  Both processes walk hand-in-hand in creating people of integrity.  Frick (2009) defines the process of implementation as “seek[ing] a better, more humane way of living in integrity” (p. ix).  I ran across a TEDxTalk by evolutionary theologian, Michael Dowd (2012), the other day and his statement, “Integrity is not a solo sport”, really struck me. (2012) defines integrity as the “adherence to moral and ethical principals; soundness of moral character; honesty” and “the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished”.  It takes a group of people working together in order to develop the morals, character, honesty, and wholeness of each individual.  This is the result of implementing servant leadership.


Influencing Positive Change through my Family

We do not have to wait for servant leadership to be fully integrated into our family life before we start positively influencing the community around us.  All it takes is for us to be doing one task well together for us to be able to share it with others.  This is the idea behind an abundant community – focus on what we do well and deficiencies are set aside.

Frick (2009) suggests that “reflect[ing] together on how to widen the circle of servanthood so that it embraces persons and policies, missions and mandates” (p. x) is the natural culmination of the servant leadership implementation process.  Likewise, Cashman (2008, p. 24) observes the effective leader pattern of value creation, the desire to serve multiple constituencies over the long-term.  Once you begin working well together as a group, in our case a family, it is a natural consequence that we want to share the abundance with others.

McKnight & Block (2012) recognize three properties that constitute an abundant community:  gifts, association, and hospitality.  If I apply these three concepts to my family and how we can be a positive force together in our community, a natural process emerges.  First we identify what we do well together that we can share with others.  For instance, I could see our family selecting music as a common gift.  Next, we select with whom to share our gifts.  This may be a group of others who share our common talent, or it could be a group that is in need of what we have to offer.  Sticking with the music example, our family has considered participating in our parish choir together this year.  Finally, we invite others to join us (this is also called making friends).  Perhaps we invite others with the common interest to join the association as well, or we invite someone to fill a need of our family.  If our family decides to join the church choir this year, we could also invite my cousin’s family to do the same because they have expressed an interest in being in the choir too.  The effect of all this is a thriving, abundant community.  The parish choir will grow, the quality of music increases and is more consistent, and connections are made for further community growth and change.

As servant leadership becomes a habit within our family dynamic we will naturally reach out further as a family unit.  Energy and joy are created through our positive interactions with each other that provide for sustained commitment to positive contributions in the community.  If done correctly, by honoring the individual and providing for adequate leisure time, we will grow closer as a family and accomplish amazing works of abundance together at the same time.



Let me conclude by dreaming about the exciting possibilities that lay ahead for my husband, son, and I if we are able to implement servant leadership within our family.  We will each begin to uncover our True Selves.  My husband will find the confidence to succeed in the ways he desires.  My son will grow into a compassionate leader who guides us toward a peaceful future.  I will discover a healthy balance between the hermit and the evangelist within me.  Our family will begin communicating better, there will be less interpersonal conflict, and we will discover interests in common that everyone enjoys doing together.  No one will feel unappreciated, constantly overwhelmed, or worthless.  Everyone will feel supported, valued, and loved.  We will begin to make strong community connections in our neighborhood, our parish, our extended family, and in association with like-minded people.  And these connections will lead to positive change that ripples out to the entire world.  This is what abundant community is all about, and abundant community starts right here in our home.



Cashman, K. (2008). Leadership from the inside out: Becoming a leader for life. (2nd. ed.). San Francisco, C.A.: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc. (2012). Retrieved from

Dowd, M. (2012, June). Why we struggle now. Paper presented at Tedxgrandrapids, Grand Rapids, MI. Retrieved from

Frick, D. M. (2009). Implementing servant leadership: Stories from the field. La Crosse, W.I.: D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership at Viterbo University.

Hunter, J. C. (2004). The world’s most powerful leadership principle: How to become a servant leader. New York, NY: Crown Business.

McKnight, J., & Block, P. (2012). The abundant community: Awakening the power of families and neighborhoods. San Francisco, C.A.: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Son of citation machine. (2010). Retrieved from



It is amazing the effect that each of us has on the communities of which we are a part.  The work we do, the relationships we foster, the things we say and stand for, all have a ripple effect that impacts our circles of influence for years into the future.  Through my reflections for this class I have come to appreciate the work I was called to do in Elbow Lake, Minnesota in new ways.

In my first reflection paper, “Created & Called” (2012), I talked about coordinating the Land of Lakes Group Workcamp.  Even though housing rehabilitation was not something with which I had previous experience, I quickly became a part of that world and very passionate about housing issues.  I now realize I was called to more than just working on that particular project for a year; I was called to bring people together to talk about the injustices faced in their neighborhoods in regards to housing.

Two years after the completion of the Workcamp I was invited by some neighbors to attend an informational meeting.  The City of Elbow Lake had decided to start an overdue infrastructure project to rebuild our neighborhood’s water utility, sewer, and streets.  However, the city had not budgeted for the project and the proposed assessments were astronomical.  Our neighborhood was comprised mostly of senior citizens and young families, and many of them were concerned they would be forced to move in order to avoid assessments that approached their property value.  Needless to say, the meeting was heated from the start; people were angry and scared.  A state legislator and lawyer were there, and they both called for a neighborhood association to be formed to work with the city in addressing our concerns.  My friend, Johanna, and I knew we needed to act or this situation was headed for disaster.  I left the meeting as vice president and Joey joined me as treasurer of the Westside Association.

In summary, after three years of effort our association was able to create positive change for the entire community of Elbow Lake.  We kept a potentially hostile situation on constructive terms, working with the city to procure grant money to cover 90% of the costs and educating the rest of town about the brokenness of the city’s tax policy.  We were able to keep the assessments reasonable and got the whole community talking about what needed to change in order for us to run our town within our means.

It took a whole neighborhood working together to come to this conclusion.  McKnight & Block explained, “Associations are a primary place in community where individual capacities get expressed” (2012, p. 71).  We had all of the resources we needed to get the job done right in our own neighborhood: a state legislator, a lawyer, and old ladies to pass out newsletters on their morning walks.  I understand now my neighbors trusted me to lead our association through this complicated mess because of my background, and success, in housing advocacy.  I had gone from not knowing what I was doing to being the expert!

It only takes one person to create change, but when a community works together for a common goal, the end result is amazing.  We each have a responsibility to do what we are called to in order to bring about positive change in our communities.  I need to take that responsibility seriously and encourage others to join me.  No more waiting; the time is now.


Clements Orlan, K. S. (2012). Created & called. Informally published manuscript, Master of Arts in Servant Leadership, Viterbo University, La Crosse,W.I., Retrieved from

McKnight, J., & Block, P. (2012). The abundant community: Awakening the power of families and neighborhoods. San Francisco, C.A.: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.


2009 was the year that we threw out to the universe that we wanted to move back to the La Crosse area.  We didn’t know how that was going to happen – we had a business and a house in a depressed housing market – but we wanted to go home.  We trusted that if we were meant to move the way would open for us.

The Universe responded by my husband getting the first job he applied for in Wisconsin.  He was to report to the GET School District in April 2010.  We still had a business and a home to figure out what to do with, and I was put in charge of staying back in Minnesota to take care of those details while my husband moved to WI to start work.

West Central Computer Solutions was the only computer business in Grant County and it was my job to get it sold.  We had built up a dedicated client base and a solid reputation over the 10 years we were in business.  We had also developed a relationship with the local ISP that made our business viable in the rural area we serviced.  I negotiated a deal with the ISP that they would offer a one year probationary contract to whoever we were able to sell our business.  I also worked out a deal with our landlord that they would lease our store to the new owners if that was something they wanted to do to keep consistency with location.  The purchase of our business would include not only this perks, but also all of our inventory, our customer list, the open invoices, and an agreement to service the warranties on our computers.  I even included the option to purchase our home in conjunction with the business for someone who was looking to make a new start in a new community.  The price was right and it was a turn-key investment.

I went about getting the word out that our business was for sale.  I spent lots of money on statewide, regional, and local advertising.  I made personal solicitations to other area computer businesses and individuals who I knew were looking to get into the business.  I received consultation from the MN Small Business Bureau and they did an assessment on the perceived value of the business.  We met with five possible buyers, one of whom we met with several times and had our lawyers and accountants involved in the process. 

In the end we were unable to sell both our business and our home.  We ended up having to move to WI without the income from the business or home sale that we had anticipated, and had to pay for ongoing expenses of each.  This caused a lot of stress on our family and my husband and our relationship.  I have felt like I was the “bad person” in the move and the failure of selling our assets. 

Is there anything I could have done differently?


The difficult experience that immediately came to mind is still raw, and even though it happened months ago it passes through my mind daily.  This experience dovetails well with the humility essay I recently wrote, “Lessons in Radical Humility” (2012), because it is a story about entering into a place of humility and then being humiliated when asking for help.  My husband, Steve, and my FSPA companion community have helped me process through the situation because of the intense feelings of violation and helplessness that I continue to experience.  I welcome this opportunity to further explore what happened, and pray that I gain insight that leads to peace.

After our annual 2012 New Year’s “where are we headed” discussion, Steve and I decided that if our family was going to make relational sacrifices with both of us working, then it was important to make some changes to ensure we had enough income to make ends meet and support Sam in taking private cello lessons.  Sam’s instrumental music teacher at school recommended private lessons.  We didn’t have the extra money for this, nor did our families.  We needed a plan.

I had applied for a promotion at work several months prior.  If I did receive the promotion, our problems would be solved.  If I didn’t, then I would begin searching for a new job that paid better, and we would find someone to sponsor Sam’s cello lessons during the transition.

Unfortunately the department director let me know that I was not being considered for the promotion because I lacked a master’s degree and it was a preferred attribute.  The next day I met with my supervisor to inform her of my need for a higher paying position, ideally staying with the organization.  I asked her to serve as a reference and she said she’d be happy to help, but to keep her informed if I had any interviews.  Later that evening I sent off my first job application, and composed a letter to be sent to a few family friends and business acquaintances asking them to consider sponsoring Sam’s cello lessons for several months.

Despite my keen intuition, two days later I was totally blindsided.  The department director summoned me to his office.  He stated he had been notified I was soliciting money from trustees.  This was considered unethical behavior and I should be prepared to meet with the President at the beginning of next week and potentially lose my job.

I explained I hadn’t contacted any trustees asking for money.  “No,” the director replied.  “You sent a letter out to our trustees asking them to pay for Sam’s cello lessons.”  Now I had a clue!  I tried to clarify.  I explained I had sent the letter to a few family connections, but no one I was aware of who was on the board of trustees.  (I later discovered that the wife of one of my father’s business associates is a trustee.)  I provided a letter copy, and a list of whom I had sent the letter and why they received the sponsorship request.  The director thanked me for the transparency.

The following day I received a call from the family acquaintance in question.  He thanked me for the well-written letter and explained he gets sponsorship requests all the time and cannot help everyone.  However he said he had made a call to my employer to see if there was an employee assistance fund and encouraged me to pursue that avenue.  I received a phone call from a true servant leader that day.

After several weeks my supervisor finally called me into her office.  “Good news!” she exclaimed.  “Your materials were reviewed and it was determined that you were not doing anything unethical per se.  However, it was determined that your letter inappropriately noted you worked at our organization.”  She had me sign a memo stating I understood I may not tell people I work for the organization when making personal solicitations.

While I was relieved by the “good news”, I was feeling victimized by the entire process.  Why was I immediately accused of being unethical?  Why hadn’t I been approached in a neutral “fact-finding” sort of way?  Why had I not been given the opportunity to explain myself in person after being accused of wrong-doing?  Why did the acquaintance react as a servant leader to my solicitation while my employer treated me as a criminal?  The entire situation had been utterly humiliating; having to share my personal business with my supervisors in order to prove my innocence, and especially considering we had entered into a deeply humble place in order to reach out for help in the first place.

Desmond and Mpho Tutu share three important truths in their book Made for Goodness:

First, we will see that we are all designed for goodness, and when we recognize that truth it makes all the difference in the world.  Second, we are perfectly loved with a love that requires nothing of us, so we can stop “being good” and live into the goodness that is our essence.  And third, God holds out an invitation to us – an invitation to turn away from the anxious striving that has turned stress into a status symbol. (2011, p. viii)

When I apply these truths to this difficult situation I come to several helpful insights.

I was approached the way I was because my supervisor and the director do not automatically recognize the goodness in others.  Their reaction was not about me; it is how they perceive others and all new situations.  This was evidenced in the fact that they used a “trying to catch people doing something wrong” instead of “trying to catch people doing something right” style of supervision with the entire staff on a regular basis.

I also learned if I accepted the fact goodness is at my essence, this situation would have caused me less stress than it did.  The accusation immediately brought forward the vestiges of low self-esteem.  I felt worthless and guilty.  Had I done something wrong?  And if I did, how could I have been so blind to that fact?  Even though I have made great strides in accepting my value and giftedness, I still have work to do in believing I am worthy of respect.  Had that part of me been fully healed, the situation would still have been stressful, but I would not have allowed myself to be treated that way.

This experience also helped me to again accept God’s invitation to turn away from anxious striving.  I do not need to make decisions based upon what my parents will think (I’m 40, for God’s sake).  I do not need to “keep up with the Jones” or cave in to fast-paced urban living just because we moved away for our simple rural way of life.  I can bring that simple way into the urban setting.  I am now embarking on a journey into the center of my wholeness through graduate school knowing when I am whole, anxiety melts away and does not cling to my soul.

Thank God for the goodness in every situation, even this one.


Clements Orlan, K. S. (2012). Lessons in radical humility. Informally published manuscript, Master of Arts in Servant Leadership, Viterbo University, La Crosse, WI. Retrieved from

Son of citation machine. (2010). Retrieved from

Tutu, D., & Tutu, M. (2011). Made for goodness: And why this makes all the difference. New York, NY: HarperCollins.


In less than a week I will return to the world of graduate school, this time in the master of arts in servant leadership program at Viterbo University.  I am doing so full-time, no job so that I can focus on my studies and spend lots of time doing this sort of thing – writing.  I already feel like I have so much inside to share with the world and it is my hope that graduate school will help me to unleash the intuitive wisdom I have collected over the last 40 years.

This blog will be the format for writing about what I have learned, what I am learning, how it all connects together, and sharing it with whoever needs to hear it.  It will serve as an archive and a place to put ideas out there for discussion so that I can learn from all of you too.

I hope to challenge and be challenged.

I hope to nurture and grow.

I hope you will journey with me into the center of the whole.

%d bloggers like this: