Archives for posts with tag: servant leadership

ImageMy Journey with Norwex

2010 was a year charged with change.  My husband had accepted a job working for a school district in Wisconsin and we would be closing the computer business we had owned and operated for the previous 10 years.  This would require a five month transition process of our family living between two households in two states.  While I remained in Minnesota to close our business, my husband would start his new job and rehabilitate our new home in Wisconsin.

I had begun applying for jobs in Wisconsin starting in the fall of 2009.  The recession was in full swing and jobs were scarce.  I was fortunate to land an interview with each company for which I had applied, but could not secure a position.  As our transition time approached I began to feel uncertain about how I was going to financially contribute to this enormous journey our family was about to embark.  This is when I was introduced to a direct sales company that was relatively new to the United States, Norwex.

This was not my first encounter with network marketing.  Shortly after graduating from college, I had worked as an Avon sales representative.  I enjoyed meeting new people and making connections, as well as the freedom that came with being self-employed.  However I didn’t have the same passion for cosmetic sales as I had for my field in the performing arts, and there was no sense of purpose linked with the products I was sharing with my friends and family.  It did not take long for me to move on to where my passion resided – on the stage.  I did not see myself working in network marketing again.

            Perhaps the timing and circumstances were right, but when I was introduced to Norwex at a home party it seemed the perfect fit.  The Norwex mission is to improve the quality of life by radically reducing the use of chemicals in personal care and cleaning (Norwex, 2012, p. 8).  The company’s mission statement resonated with the 2010 Franciscan Living Challenge to clean green, which I had been called to focus on as an affiliate of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.  I was also impressed to learn the company’s core values were integrity, trust, and respect.  With an ideology to “strive to improve quality of life rather than standard of living” (Norwex, 2012, p.5) this multi-level marketing (MLM) company was obviously working from a different paradigm than any other direct sales company I had encountered.

For the last two and a half years I have been a part of the Norwex team as an independent sales consultant and during that time I have shared the Norwex mission with hundreds of people.  I have gathered other like minded people to my sales team, advancing to the team coordinator level, and am poised to advance to the sales leader level should I be able to support my team in achieving consistent sales.  Additionally, as I had hoped, I was able to financially contribute to my family’s move to Wisconsin.

One of the Norwex sales mottos is “Part-time, Full-time, Big-time!” (2012, website).  It was never my goal to go “big-time” with Norwex.  I simply wanted to use it as a career bridge from Minnesota to whatever was in store for me in Wisconsin.  At times it was a full-time endeavor, and as of late it has become very part-time as I work toward my graduate degree.  I had been intending to “phase out” my Norwex business as I move on to the new opportunities lying ahead of me after graduate school; however I am finding it difficult to do so because of the amazing connections I am making in my studies between servant leadership, ethical organizations, and network marketing.  This is particularly so with Norwex because of the unique purpose they have claimed for their company and its consultants.

I believe the next opportunity lying ahead of me is as a business consultant to network marketing companies in building the foundations of ethical leadership within their organizations by emerging servant leaders on multiple levels through structured training and mentor/coaching.  Following is an outline of how this training process would look.  My intent is to provide a basic overview, not a detailed outline, of how I would implement such a program.  I will use specific references to how this training could be applied to my Norwex team for illustrative purposes.

 

Building the Foundations of Ethical Leadership within a Networking Marketing Organization

            C.S. Lewis writes, “every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.  And taking your life as a whole, with all you innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature … Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other” (as cited in Hunter, 2004, p. 125).

In order to build the foundations of ethical leadership within an organization you must support as many people as possible in turning into “heavenly creatures”.  In terms of servant leadership, this is necessary on multiple levels – not just among ranking leadership – in order to create an ethics-based culture.  Because “the servant-leader is servant first” (Greenleaf, 2008, p. 15) and everyone has the ability to serve, all members within an organization have the capacity to lead.  In order to develop a strong servant led culture within a business, every person needs to accept their responsibility to support one another in achievement and ethical decision making.  The first goal of a quality leadership training program should be to provide each team member with basic servant leadership and ethical decision making concepts.

According to Jim Hunter (2004, p. 174) in his three-step leadership improvement process, the first training session should focus on identifying the standard and setting the bar for quality leadership, as well as provide a general orientation to the training program in its entirety.  In order to provide a good foundation for ongoing training, I would cover an overview of leadership styles, an introduction to servant leadership, the basics of virtue ethics and the Four Way Method to Ethical Decision Making, and a synopsis of the ongoing improvement process.

Everyone has a different idea of what it means to be a leader and, more importantly, what it takes to be an effective leader.  A quick survey of the Internet brought up at least seven commonly identified leadership styles, and an Amazon.com search of “leadership books” brought up a staggering 89,079 results!  I would begin the session with personal introductions and welcoming exercises followed by an exploration into the training group’s current understanding of leadership.  This will enable us to gather a diverse understanding of leadership and focus it towards what I identify as the way to authentic leadership – servant leadership.

Prior to this first training session, I would have the group read Robert K. Greenleaf’s essay, The Servant as Leader.  At this training session, I would introduce the basics of servant leadership as outlined in the essay, and apply Greenleaf’s servant leader test to discover the servant leaders in our lives.  This discussion will lead to the understanding that everyone has the potential to be a leader in their own circles of influence, regardless of their current role or position, including within a network marketing company.  With leadership comes responsibility and if everyone is a leader in their own right, then we are all bound to ethical behavior in an ethics-centered organization.

There was a time when business and ethics were thought to be mutually exclusive.  In recent years, scandals involving Enron and the banking industry have proven the need for business to be inclusive of ethical thinking in decision making.  This would be the focus of the next part of the first training session.  We would take the MLM’s existing mission and vision statements, core values, ideology, and goals and discuss them in terms of the virtues they support.  For instance, the Norwex (2012, p. 6-7) core values are integrity, trust, and respect.  Hunter (2004, p. 90-109) identifies these virtues as essential traits to effective leadership. I would lead a discussion defining these virtues and how they can be lived out in our Norwex businesses.  I would also introduce Dr. Richard Kyte’s (2012) Four-Way Method to Ethical Decision Making and give the group an opportunity to apply it to a real life ethical dilemma or one from the business fiction anthology, Minding the Store (Coles & LaFarge, Eds., 2008).  These practical exercises will help lift away the awe and mystique surrounding ethics and present ethical thinking in a tangible manner.

The final part of the first training session would be preparation for the ongoing leadership improvement process.  I would wrap up by introducing the concepts of authenticity, purpose, and community, and how these are expressed through our work in the network marketing organization.  I would also emphasize the necessity for continuous honing of leadership skills through feedback in a group setting and friction with a mentor/coach to provide for accountability.  This is the process of the emerging servant leader.

 

Emerging Multi-Level Servant Leaders

Once the foundations of ethical leadership are built on the hearts and in the minds of a network marketing team, we can begin the work of emerging servant leaders throughout the organization, at whatever leadership level a consultant is positioned.  Hunter (2004) recommends the second step in the leadership improvement process “require participants to clearly understand their personal deviations from the high standard of servant leadership and their current leadership skills.  Simply put, we must identify the gaps between the set standard and current performance” (p. 174).   The second leadership training session for MLM teams would focus on discovering authentic self, defining purpose, and working within the context of abundant community.

We would begin with an exploration into authentic self, who we truly are as opposed to who we think we are or how others identify us.  The discovery of true self is an ongoing, never-ending process that will not be accomplished during a single training session.  The objective here would be to introduce the notion of authenticity through an exploration of strengths.  Through a variety of reflection exercises we would compare our perceived talents to the strengths others see in us, enabling us to identify the gifts we possess for further development. 

Once our strengths have been identified we can begin to explore how they can be best utilized within the context of the organization through discussion and assessment tools. Using myself to illustrate the objective, my top five strengths according StrengthsFinder 2.0 are connectedness, input, ideation, responsibility, and adaptability.  When I use my strengths together I am at my best, fulfilling my purpose.  Specifically, it is when I help others connect their talents, actions, and mission to enhance achievement.  I do this by researching information and sharing it with others, and I communicate this information best through presentations and written work.  In the context of my direct sales organization, this means that I may not be the best sales consultant or a great recruiter, but I do have the ability to motivate and train others to reach their full potentials as sales consultants and team leaders within my organization.  This is how I would best contribute my talents to the common good of the organization.

The final part of this second training session would focus on abundant community.  An abundant community is characterized by people of like-mind coming together to share their gifts and offer hospitality (McKnight & Block, 2012, p. 119).  This definition could also be used to describe a healthy network marketing organization such as Norwex.  When looking at the Norwex (2012) ideology, I can see people are attracted to the company because they share an “ecological approach that considers all living species and nature are interdependent” (p. 4), those who believe “we must find a way to provide for the needs of the present, without sacrificing future generations” (p.4), and those who care about the health implications of using chemical cleaners in the home (p. 5).  In terms of hospitality, it is a hallmark of the network marketing sales experience.  The bulk of sales are done through home parties where a hostess invites the consultant and her guests to come together around refreshments.  I would use this training time to explore the unique qualities of the MLM community and how each individual resonates with the association, as well as the important place hospitality holds in a servant led culture.  Abundant community is about people fulfilling their purposes together in order to affect positive change in the world.  We would conclude the second training session with the group brainstorming ways our teams could become actively involved in the company mission.

The group training sessions do not end here.  Hunter recommends quarterly training on a variety of foundational and leadership mastery topics as a catalyst for the third step of the leadership improvement process.

 

The Importance of Leadership Coaching on the Direct Sales Team

The final step in Hunter’s leadership improvement process centers on accountability.  He writes:

In order to create friction – a healthy tension, if you prefer – it is important for people to become convinced that the top leadership if fully committed to the process and is expecting to see continuous improvement in the form of growth and behavior change (Hunter, 2012, p. 176)

Hunter goes on to detail a friction process that includes meetings with continuous improvement panels, sharing SMART goals with peers and subordinates, and monthly small group meetings.  While this methodology works well in the context of a traditional business structure, it is not practical for the unique business structure of an MLM.  Each consultant is an independent contractor working out of their own home.  Sales teams may get together on a monthly basis and leaders may make support calls to their downline consultants, but there is no formal accountability structure built into the direct sales business.

            This is where I envision leadership coaching and mentorship playing a vital role in providing the accountability needed to catalyze growth.  It is important for each individual sales consultant and team leader to have a relationship with a mentor/coach with whom they can discuss their gaps and goals for self-improvement.  Hunter (2012, p. 178) recommends an ongoing training session occur immediately prior to accountability sessions for this reason.  Besides being a companion along the journey, a mentor/coach can be a general business resource as well as a challenger to put into practice the concepts being learned through training.

In terms of the leadership improvement training program I would like to develop, I would offer individual coaching sessions in person or over the phone in conjunction with the regular program as a way to support leadership development and growth within the sales team.

 

Conclusion

Where do I go from here?  I have a growing Norwex sales team of my own along with the beginnings of a solid leadership training program, and many connections within the direct sales industry.  My first goal is to develop the foundational training session this fall.  I plan to pilot the program with my Norwex team and another local team in an effort to work out the kinks.  If the pilot program is well received it is my hope the Norwex head office will hire me to offer webinar training sessions so the entire organization can have access to this valuable tool.  Once the program is solid I also hope to offer it to other network marketing companies through webinars, regional meetings, and conferences.

This is my contribution to Norwex and the direct sales industry.  The time is right to shift training focus from the microcosm of booking parties and recruiting to macrocosmic thinking which leads to widespread success.  I have already begun to feel the ripples of servant and ethical leadership positively affect all areas of my life since beginning my studies three months ago.  I want to share the abundance with all my communities, including Norwex.

ImageThere has been recent interest in revitalization efforts in the Washburn, Powell, Poage (formerly Hood), and Hamilton (PPH, formerly PHH) 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 review of the local literature, neighborhood planning efforts are focused on four areas:  safety/security, property improvement, public infrastructure improvement, and economic development (Burian, 2013; GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2013; Kirch, Anderson & Cantellano, 2002; 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 PPH (PHH)/Gundersen plan (GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2013), and the Washburn Neighborhood Plan (Kirch, Anderson & Cantellano, 2002) categorizes churches as “Places of Worship” in its neighborhood assets map, a detailed examination of the current place and future roles of these religious associations 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 this proposed research.  Greenleaf (1996) identifies religious associations and their leaders as having a distinct role in the social change process from impoverishment to abundance.  They are the vehicle that seeds abundance throughout communities by acknowledging the leadership of all, including the stranger, and developing that leadership.  This is done by helping the individual identify their personal assets, and connecting that individual with a community institution whose needs will be served by the emerging servant leader (Greenleaf, 1996).  It is also done with the hope the new leader will further seed abundance in the institution by helping others, and the institution itself, identify assets to be put into service (Greenleaf, 1996).  As the cycle of asset-naming and needs-connection replicates, a community grows in abundance.

This is where Greenleaf’s vision of religious congregations and leaders as servant leaders in neighborhood social change intersects with asset-based community development.  This approach focuses on identifying assets to build upon as opposed to the traditional community development model where problems in need of fixing are identified (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  In Greenleaf’s essay, “The Inner City Church as Servant to Its Community”, he points to a key role of religious congregations as identifying strengths and development for the neighborhood (Greenleaf, 1996).  Churches and religious leaders as servant leaders do not look for problems to solve, but instead look for goodness to lift up so all may access it.  The ABCD strategy recognizes the gifts of even the most alienated communities.  It avoids belittling an already struggling neighborhood in the effort to make it better, as can happen in traditional community development scenarios.  When ABCD utilizes community members, in much the same way Greenleaf envisioned neighborhood churches identifying potential trustees, the community as a whole is empowered in their abundance seeking.

Sampson and Graif (2009) note the more disadvantaged a neighborhood community is, the less involved its residents become and the more invested community leadership.  They identify religious institutions as key community leaders in neighborhoods (Sampson & Graif, 2009).  Given this, one might expect religious congregations to already be deeply involved in supporting the Washburn-PPH neighborhoods being studied, and will be instrumental in future redevelopment efforts. According to Greenleaf (1996), these religious associations should be accustomed to identifying and developing assets.  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).  These properties and capacities are the intangible assets offered by churches to their membership and to those they serve in their neighborhoods.  Identifying the current tangible and intangible assets of religious congregations within the Washburn-PPH neighborhood will clarify areas for partnership, foundational assets to be built upon, and untapped assets that will help the neighborhoods grow in abundance.

Conceptual Definitions

While the notion of servant leadership has been practiced since biblical times, the concept as applied to institutions, organizations, and as an individual leadership style has only been of interest in recent history.  Greenleaf (1970, 1977) generalized this set of behaviors as a leader’s desire to be “servant first” rather than “leader first”, putting others’ needs before their own.  He expanded this leadership concept to organizations of all types including businesses, academic institutions, board of trustees, and religious associations (Greenleaf, 1970, 1977, 1996).

Greenleaf (1996) took special interest in reflecting upon the role of religious leaders and congregations as servant leaders, observing how the spiritual life intersects with business and society in meaningful and necessary ways.  He defined a church as any organization that effectively “nurture[s] the spirituality of individuals and model[s] for others as a serving institution” (Greenleaf, 1996, p. 55).  Likewise, Greenleaf identified religious leaders as anyone who has hope that: 1) all who suffer alienation can be helped to accept and nurture their inner servant; 2) all who lead can be helped to maintain a level of spirituality that buffers them from the stresses of leadership; and 3) are open to receive the gift of spiritual leadership in themselves and acknowledge it in others (Greenleaf, 1996).  From a servant leadership perspective, religious associations and their leaders have a distinct role in shaping culture and society (Greenleaf, 1996).

This viewpoint has been adopted with increasing vigor by the United States government since the mid-twentieth century (Marsden, 2012).  In the 1960’s, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiatives brought government into partnership with existing church-sponsored welfare programs (Marsden, 2012).  The administration under George Bush Sr. introduced “charitable choice” provisions into the welfare reform bill of the mid-1990s (Marsden, 2012).  The Clinton administration took these provisions a step further in 1996, enabling religious charitable organizations to receive public funding and exempting them from the mandate to hire employees who do not hold their faith beliefs (Marsden, 2012).  One of George W. Bush’s first acts as president in 2001 was to establish the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI), which brought government funding to faith-based organizations (FBOs) engaged in foreign aid work through USAID (Marsden, 2012).  Current president, Barak Obama, expanded the FBO programs by replacing the OFBCI with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and establishing a 25-member presidential advisory council, which has created a level of conversation between FBOs and government that has never been seen before (Marsden, 2012).  However, while FBO initiatives have increased interest and conversations with congregations in regards to their further involvement in social services, churches have not actually become more active in this area between 1998 and 2007 (Chaves & Wineburg, 2010).

Despite the fact there has been significantly more interest over the last two decades in the role of FBOs as social service providers in civil society (Wuthnow, 2004; Wuthnow, Hackett, & Hsu, 2004), the integral role of religious associations in these areas is often absent from crucial conversations at the local level, especially when it comes to community development and revitalization efforts.  According to Chaves (2004) congregational social services are characterized as: 1) peripheral; 2) involving a small group of well-organized volunteers; 3) crisis management that involves minimal interaction with those being served; 4) dependent upon secular social services to exist; 5) never having had more prominence than secular social services in society; and 6) prophetic despite governmental collaboration. Congregations do not garner the same amount of attention as other providers of social assets.

This fact is evidenced in the revitalization plans created for the neighborhoods included in this study (Gundersen Lutheran Health System & City of La Crosse, 2013; Kirch, Anderson, & Cantellano, 2002).  They utilize traditional neighborhood planning methods that tend to be needs-driven as opposed to asset-based, creating the perception only resources from outside the community will solve community problems (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  Assets-mapping is included in both neighborhood development plans; however it is presented as a peripheral section of the plans instead of the central focus of the method (GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2013; Kirch, Anderson, & Cantellano, 2002).  Churches are lumped together as a whole with no explanation of the specific assets each congregation offers in the PPH (PHH)/Gundersen plan (GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2012), while they are simply recognized as various places of worship in the Washburn Neighborhood Plan (Kirch, Anderson, & Cantellano, 2002).  The full range of tangible and intangible assets religious associations offer to these neighborhoods is not identified in revitalization efforts.

Historically, churches have provided many tangible assets to the community in the areas of education, health care, and other social services.  According to Chaves (2004), food programs, housing programs, and programs aimed at children and students are the most common social services offered.  Few churches are intensely involved in offering these services on their own and either rely on, or partner with, secular associations (Chaves, 2004).

However there are many assets congregations provide in the dispensing of services that are not available when offered through secular agencies (Olivier, Cochrane & Schmid, 2006; Chaves, 2004).  These intangible assets are “the volitional, motivational and mobilizing capacities that are rooted in vital affective and symbolic dimensions of religious faith, belief and behavior” (Olivier, Cochrane & Schmid, 2006, p. 11).  They are provided through a holistic approach that is “relational, morally compelling, and personable; provides love, guidance, and friendship; and helps people transform their lives” (Chaves, 2004, p. 58).  Religious congregations play an essential role in neighborhood revitalization because of this layering of assets that can be further enhanced in the development of an abundant community through the empowerment of community servant leaders.  The following section looks at what others have learned about religious congregations and community assets.

Review of the Literature

Overview

Change is a constant in community life.  According to Somerville, Van Beckhoven, & Van Kempen (2009) the primary source of neighborhood change is socio-economic factors mediated by the housing market and neighborhood relationships.  As a neighborhood community moves through its cycles of change it is important to have a holistic view of the neighborhood revitalization process in order to effectively move in positive directions.   This literature review will first look at what makes a community abundant, and then considers a method of community development oriented toward the features of abundant communities, namely, asset-based community development.  Finally, it will discuss the various types of assets an abundant community possesses, and then focus on religious congregations and the unique assets they provide a community, especially that of leadership development.

Abundant Communities

According to McKnight and Block (2012) an abundant community is a unique living organism.  There is no definitive blueprint for what constitutes an abundant community because it is not organized in a systematic way (McKnight & Block, 2012).  They are distinctive from other communities because “a competent community, one that takes advantage of its abundance, admits the realities of the human condition and the truth of the decay, restoration, and growth processes that are a part of every living system.  Variety, uniqueness, and appreciation for the one-of-a-kind are its essence” (McKnight & Block, 2012, p. 65).

However certain generalizations can be made about communities where abundance is a focus, creating a stabilizing effect as the neighborhood moves through its cycles of change.  McKnight and Block (2010, 2012) describe abundant communities as places where physical and social environments are supportive of individual health outside of medical systems; they are stewards of the land they occupy and of the food they eat in ways that further support the health of citizens; they are safe and secure communities because neighbors know each other by name and spend time outside their homes, with some of this time spent in developing the local economy either by providing goods and services in the community or by shopping at neighborhood businesses;  they care for each other; they care for their children and their elders as their own and there is no need to outsource care to agencies or systems.  The residents of neighborhoods where these elements exist are generally satisfied with their community life in such a way that the assets associated with these characteristics can be further built upon (McKnight & Block, 2010, 2012).

According to McKnight and Block (2010, 2012) the satisfaction with these tangible assets comes from a set of organizing principles for achieving community competence: focus on member gifts, nurture of associational life, and hospitality to strangers, with these properties creating a community environment where certain capacities are created within families and neighborhoods:  kindness, generosity, cooperation, forgiveness, acceptance of fallibility, and mystery.  These properties and capacities are a way of being in community that facilitates participation in tangible asset development, and measures to support this way of being augment communal satisfaction (McKnight & Block, 2012).

Unfortunately few neighborhoods recognize the communal assets in their midst because of the traditional way of addressing development as a neighborhood changes and grows.  The next section includes a review of concerns with the most common approach to community development and describes an alternative that promotes community healing from within.

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD)

Traditional methods of community revitalization focus on neighborhood deficiencies.  According to Kretzmann and McKnight (1993), these deficiencies represent only a portion of the truth about the neighborhood, “but they are not regarded as part of the truth; they are regarded as the whole truth” (p. 2) when doing community development. This tendency creates a downward spiral of negative consequences for the community.  It disassociates residents from the development process, making them believe they are fundamentally deficient and incapable of providing for their own future change.  They become victimized, relying on outside experts to fix problems instead of working together to problem solve (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993).  This dissociative effect is corroborated in a study by Sampson & Graif (2009) showing residents of disadvantaged communities as less involved in community life than those confident in their resources.

Kretzmann and McKnight (1993) identify further consequences from outsourcing services due to needs-based development strategies.  Outside experts tend to view the neighborhood as a list of problems instead of a cohesive whole, causing a fragmentation of efforts that further complicate the community’s ability to problem-solve together.  Available funding is routed to these outside service providers instead of to the community directly.  In order to procure this funding, community leaders are forced to denigrate the neighborhood by highlighting problems instead of strengths, and problems must continue to worsen in order to obtain repeat funding.  Bonds within the community are further weakened with the persistent focus on deficits and dependency on service relationships from outside.   Needs-mapping tends to focus services towards individual clients instead of community development as a whole which creates a cycle of never-ending need throughout the community.  The traditional needs-based approach to community development provides a maintenance strategy at best (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993).

An alternative approach is asset or capacity-based community development.  This focuses on identifying the gifts and positive relationships existing on the individual, associational, and institutional levels of a local community (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  Other scholars have attempted to further refine this analytical framework by differentiating these levels into the domains of education, religion, business, politics, law enforcement, and community organizations along with individuals such as long-time residents, youth club/gang leaders, and youth mentors (Sampson and Graif, 2009).  According to Kretzmann and McKnight (1996), “historic evidence indicates that significant community development takes place only when local community people are committed to investing themselves and their resources in the effort” (p. 25).  ABCD researchers acknowledge outside resources may be needed at times, but they are only truly successful when assisting communities in developing their own assets (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).

The ABCD approach can be characterized in three ways.  First, it takes into account community strengths as opposed to weaknesses.  Policies and decisions are based on the good the community has to offer instead of what is wrong with the neighborhood (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  Secondly, it is internally focused so that agenda building and problem solving are done on a local level instead of by outside experts.  If outside resources are needed they work in a way that supports local definition, investment, creativity, hope, and control (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  Finally, it is a relationship-driven process.  Building partnerships, networks, and other connections between all levels of community life and their assets is at the heart of the asset-based approach (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).

This process is more than just an inventory of services offered within the community however.  While tangible assets are the easiest to identify, and therefore the typical focus of assets-mapping, there are many other capacities of a more intangible nature that are often overlooked in the process.  The next section identifies tangible and intangible assets and how they are both an important part of the asset-mapping process will be discussed.

Tangible and Intangible Assets

The unique assets a community has to offer its residents are as varied as the communities themselves.  On the surface it would appear the identification of these assets can be accomplished by a simple walking tour of the neighborhood or surveying the phone book.  These strategies are part of the typical asset analysis and result in detailed lists of businesses, institutions, and the services they offer within the neighborhood.  However communities offer other, less tangible assets that are equally important in supporting an abundant community.

There is a growing body of research in the field of global health that is evaluating the impact tangible and intangible assets of religious associations have on the communities of which they are a part (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006).  While the African Religious Health Assets Programme (ARHAP) research is based in sub-Saharan Africa, the conceptualization is rooted in the asset-based community development of the United States, particularly in the work of Kretzmann and McKnight (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006).  Tangible religious assets include facilities such as schools, clinics, and places of worship, and services such as food pantries, clothes closets, and childcare (McKnight & Block, 2012; Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006).  Intangible assets are the unseen “volitional, motivational and mobilizing capacities” that come from performing service, receiving an education, changing behavior for the positive, and engaging in religious belief and practice, that when present can have tremendous effect on the development of abundant community (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006, p. 11).

McKnight and Block (2012) group intangible assets together in what they term the capacities of an abundant – or competent – community, and are individually identified as kindness, generosity, cooperation, forgiveness, fallibility, and mystery.  According to McKnight & Block (2012), “capacities reside in individuals and can be nurtured to exist in the collective.  They are the core elements that need to be visible and manifest to create an abundant community, and a family and neighborhood to function” (p. 83-84).  While this analysis is of a more secular vane as compared to that of ARHAP, the transferability of these six capacities to religious associations is quite apparent.

Religious congregations are natural community hubs for assets of all types, especially those of an intangible nature, of which churches may be a particularly powerful source.  Because of this they play an essential role in neighborhood revitalization and development.  The following section will look at the role of religious associations in neighborhood communities through the lens of servant leadership.

Religious Congregations in Neighborhoods

Asset-based community development research has identified religious associations as serving an important role in neighborhood revitalization efforts due to the tangible and intangible assets they offer the community (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006).   From the servant leadership perspective, Greenleaf (1996) proposes in his 1984 essay, “The Inner City Church as Servant to Its Community”, that churches best contribute to their neighborhoods by: 1) developing leaders, 2) forming partnerships with other institutions, and 3) acting as a mediating institution.  Greenleaf (1996) further breaks down the development of leaders into the strategies of recognizing gifts, mentoring, supporting the overall well-being of the individual, and connecting people to leadership opportunities.  Likewise, Ebener (2010) identifies the behaviors of recognizing gifts; serving side-by-side, to and with others; and empowering others to leadership as essential to successful leadership development.  The key difference between Ebener’s model of parish servant leadership and Greenleaf’s vision of church as servant is in where the benefits of the leadership development are directed.  The primary purpose of Ebener’s model is to be of benefit to the congregation and its mission, while Greenleaf envisions leadership development for the benefit of the surrounding community (Ebener, 2010; Greenleaf, 1996).

At the heart of Greenleaf’s (1996) proposed congregational servant leadership strategies is the work of connecting individual community member strengths with neighborhood needs by developing trustees for community non-profit institutions.  He suggests congregations become actively involved in the community building process in order to know neighborhood institutions and their trustees on a personal level so they can more easily anticipate needs and make connections (Greenleaf, 1996).  At the same time Greenleaf (1996) warns “it is important for a pastor to strive to make his or her contribution in a way that strengthens, rather than diminishes, the ability of neighborhood people to help themselves and to evolve strong leaders for their institutions” (p. 265).

One way this is accomplished is by religious congregations taking on the mission of developing community leaders.  Greenleaf (1996) explains, “one measure of the center city church as servant to its community is how well it nurtures men and women who will lead, or otherwise influence, the center city neighborhood institutions they are involved in, to the end that those institutions are effective as servants to every person they touch” (p. 260).  Churches nurture community leaders by empowering them to create, inspire, persuade, and persevere as servants (Greenleaf, 1996).  This is primarily done by mentoring residents as trustees in the hope they will lead institutions to respond to community needs with vision (intangible assets) as opposed to simply listing services (tangible assets) (Greenleaf, 1996).

In the end a religious congregation’s ultimate goal is to develop a sense of vocational calling in an expanded “priesthood” of community leaders (Greenleaf, 1996).  In doing so, the “church achieves servanthood to its neighborhood by being servant to those who are servants to the neighborhood’s institutions, their trustees” (Greenleaf, 1996, p. 272-273).

Conclusion

Abundant communities contain all of the resources necessary to meet the ongoing and changing needs of the community.  These resources include the visible, tangible assets that meet neighborhood needs in practical ways, as well as intangible assets that are not so easy to identify, but absolutely necessary in developing holistic communities.  Neighborhood religious associations are an untapped resource for all types of community assets.  They have a long history of providing tangible assets to their communities; however explorations into the intangible assets congregations hold is an emerging field in community development.  Greenleaf (1996) theorized about the role of churches in neighborhood communities, and identified leadership development, partnerships, and acting as a mediating institution as key strategies in sharing assets with the neighborhood.  Developing neighborhood servant leadership is essential to developing competent communities and one important pathway for this development is religious associations because of their access to tangible and, more importantly, intangible assets.
The power of community assets is at the core of the literature reviewed.  An abundant community is characterized by its focus on and development of these assets (McKnight & Block, 2010).  Minimal time is spent looking at community deficiencies because the community trusts these weaknesses will be addressed by bolstering asset networks.  Asset-based community development takes its cues from what abundant communities already know.  Instead of accessing community problems as is done in traditional community development processes, ABCD maps the assets in order to better connect them with community needs.  Communities find their power not only in the practical assets they offer to help their residents from within, but most especially from the good that comes from being a part of a caring community, an asset unto itself.  Religious associations understand well how this interplay between tangible and intangible assets builds the power of their community life.  They can be of best service to their communities by developing leaders to go into the neighborhood with this asset-based way of thinking.

A distinctive feature of this study is that it connects the ABCD literature directly to the strategies envisioned by Greenleaf (1996) for church servanthood to the neighborhood community.  Greenleaf identified the need for recognizing assets and building upon them so they can be directed to neighborhood needs outside of the ABCD conversation.  This connection opens the door for future servant leadership research incorporating ABCD methodologies and theories.

More research is also needed into intangible assets.  These assets seem to provide the connective power that ties neighborhoods to their tangible assets in a way that the community grows in abundance.  Available research in this area is slim, and there is disagreement in the research that does exist (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006) because of the fact these assets are intangible, invisible, hard to identify, and difficult to name.  They are not concrete, but more akin to the spiritual and therefore difficult to empirically analyze.  This study attempts to identify the intangible, as well as tangible, assets held by the religious associations in the Washburn, Powell, Poage, and Hamilton neighborhoods of La Crosse, Wisconsin.  In so doing, the study adds to the body of ABCD research with the hopes it can be applied for future community development.   Therefore, the research questions that provide the framework for this study are:

  1. What tangible religious community assets do congregations located within the Washburn-PPH neighborhoods of La Crosse provide to those communities?
  2. What intangible religious community assets are offered to these neighborhoods through the activities of these congregations?
  3. In what ways is Greenleaf’s vision for congregational servant leadership to neighborhoods being lived out in these communities?

Method

A qualitative research design incorporating ABCD and participatory research methods was used to identify the tangible and intangible assets offered by the churches to the neighborhood community, as well as reveal the ways church congregations achieve servanthood in their neighborhoods.  A qualitative design was chosen over a quantitative design because of the ephemeral nature of intangible assets.  These assets are difficult to capture using quantitative methods, yet can be revealed through text interpretation and analysis.  An ABCD asset-mapping approach utilizing qualitative interviews for gathering the data was chosen because of the strong correlation between this approach and the servant leadership tendency to focus on assets in developing interpersonal relationships (Greenleaf, 1996). Participatory research methods were included in an effort to incorporate the commitment to community involvement characteristic of the ABCD approach.  A participatory practice also promotes cooperation between the perspectives of the research subject, the researcher, and the research process (Swinton & Mowat, 2006).  The qualitative research design employed was an adaptation of a framework proposed by Swinton and Mowat (2006) that was based on the work of Smith(1996), Diekelmann et al. (1989), and Van Manen (1990).

Twenty-five religious associations from the study neighborhood and surrounding area were mailed letters inviting them to participate in the research.  These religious associations had been identified in a neighborhood walk asset-mapping process conducted in an undergraduate research project completed in the spring of 2013.  Additional religious associations were added to this list in order to incorporate religious associations that had moved in the neighborhood after the initial list was generated or that had failed to be included on the initial list.  These additional associations were identified through a neighborhood walk and online search.  The scope of the research study area was broadened to include religious associations immediately surrounding the Washburn-PPH neighborhood for the initial study request in order to assure for adequate response.  Six congregations responded to the request and were interviewed.  Four of the respondents were churches from Washburn-PPH, one was a church located outside the neighborhood, and one was a religious community located in the neighborhood. In order to stay true to the study parameters only the interviews from the four churches located within the Washburn-PPH neighborhood were included in the study.  The remaining two religious associations were excluded.  Given there are eight church congregations total within the neighborhood area studied this sample represented half of the possible study participants.

The four church congregations included in the study were Neighborhood City Church (NCC), St. John’s United Church of Christ, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, and First Evangelical Lutheran Church.  All four congregations are located in the Washburn neighborhood.  Denominationally, NCC belongs to the Evangelical Free Church and First Evangelical belongs to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.  Both are considered evangelical denominations which are considered to be more theologically and politically conservative in nature.  St. John’s belongs to the United Church of Christ while Our Savior’s belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  These are both considered mainline Protestant denominations and on the progressive end of the spectrum.  The oldest church congregation is First Evangelical founded in 1839, followed by Our Savior’s in1861, St. John’s in 1866, with NCC being the newest congregation founded in 2001.

Demographically, NCC is the most akin to a neighborhood church with the majority of its regular attenders residing in the Powell-PPH neighborhood.  It is the most ethnically diverse of the church congregations consisting of African American and Caucasian members.  While St. John’s consists of mostly members who do not live in the neighborhood, most of them did live there at one time and this dynamic creates for a tight-knit community feel to the congregation.  Our Saviors’ identifies a third of the congregation as heritage families who have ancestral roots in the neighborhood but who do not live there and come together as a family to worship on Sunday; a third as members of the LGBT community who travel great distances to worship in a safe environment; and a third as neighborhood residents.  First Evangelical consists of mostly Caucasian members who are scattered throughout the La Crosse community.

Semi-structured interviews of approximately two hours in length were conducted with a religious leader from each congregation at their church location.  The religious leaders interviewed were Pastor Chris Crye of Neighborhood City Church, Pastor John Parkyn of St. John’s United Church of Christ, Pastor Mark Jolivette of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, and Pastor Roger Saks from First Evangelical Lutheran Church.  These interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed into a text format.  The interview schedule consisted of open-ended questions regarding church ministry and activities, spiritual and theological motivations, and leadership practices.

Informal observations were made during the interview process.  For instance, several pastors offered tours of their facilities and interactions with the church staff and others were observed and noted.  The interviews were the primary source of data.  The interview transcriptions were thematically coded using a priori code sets.  The tangible asset codes were adapted from the congregational social service activities identified in research conducted by Chaves and Tsitsos (2001).  The abundant community capacities identified by McKnight and Block (2012) were used for the intangible asset code set.  The congregation servant leadership strategy code set consisted of the strategies and sub-strategies identified by Greenleaf (1996).  These were evolving code sets in that the coder added to the a priori code sets as further themes arose during the analysis.  The coded transcripts were shared with a second coder to provide for intercoder reliability, as well as with the research participant for validation.  The researcher compared the thematically analyzed texts in search of unifying patterns.

Findings

All six abundant community capacities as identified by McKnight and Block (2012) are present in the religious congregations studied.  In addition, a seventh capacity of presence was identified.  Tangible assets served as the vehicle for transmitting intangible assets to the community.  The religious congregations studied offered an abundance of gifted individuals, advocacy, prayer and worship, employment, facility, food, and financial resources to the neighborhood.  Instances of the strategies developed in the Greenleaf (1996) essay, and hereby referred to as congregational servant leadership strategies (CSLS), were identified in many of the congregations as a way of sharing these assets with the neighborhood.  The most common CSLS identified were partnerships and recognition of individual gifts.

Kindness

According to McKnight and Block (2012), “Kindness is what you do if you want to have a group of people in community.”  It is a way of relating that is full of love, care, and respect while being aware of another’s vulnerability and softness.  Kindness has the ability to heal emotional wounds.  It is fostered by creativity and nurtured through the sharing of stories (McKnight & Block, 2012).  The intangible asset of kindness is abundantly available in the Washburn, Powell, Poage, and Hamilton neighborhoods through the religious congregation subjects of the study.  Kindness is shared through the tangible assets of people, social justice advocacy, and communal prayer and worship.  It is also offered through the CSLS of partnership.

Two of the congregations interviewed embrace their neighbors in need as part of their church family instead of viewing them as outsiders to whom they minister.  Pastor Chris Crye at the Neighborhood City Church explained:

Most of the churches that I deal with are talking about people like that – this is a people that we are ministering to.  They come to us and what do we do with them?  We fold them into our congregation.  You know, we get people around them.  We are those people … We are the people that have needed.  Those are our ushers and our worship leaders.  They are the ones working within the context of the church.  They are key people.

Respectively, this kindness of inclusion is offered regardless of whether a person actively participates in parish life at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.  Pastor Mark Jolivette considers everyone who walks through the doors whether they are homeless or suffering mental illness as his parishioners.  By including the marginalized in their vision of church community these congregations offer the type of kindness that can heal the wounds of isolation.

Our Savior’s extends this kindness of inclusion from inside the neighborhood to the LGBT community throughout the area.  The church joined Reconciling in Christ (RIC), a program for Lutheran congregations seeking to become welcoming places of worship to people with alternative sexual orientations, when they were struggling to understand how to best respond to this need.  At the core of being an RIC church community is the commitment to advocating for gay rights and equality.  Since coming out to the La Crosse community as a LBGT friendly church, their membership has increased as individuals and families from near and far have flocked to Our Savior’s in order to be a part of a religious congregation where they can openly be who they are without fear of discrimination or hatred.  Our Savior’s continues to grow as more people hear their message of hospitality and safety in being who God created them to be.

Hospitality is offered to all through the prayer and worship practices of the congregations.  Both Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and St. John’s United Church of Christ offer open communion to whoever comes up to receive; no questions asked.  “They will sit in the back seats, and they may sleep the whole church service and then they walk up the aisle for communion.  What do I do?  Well, there is only one answer”, explained Pastor Jolivette of Our Savior’s. “Somehow we have to live out this welcome and this acceptance and this embrace.”  This sentiment is echoed by Pastor John Parkyn at St. John’s, “We do that pretty much because we have walk-ins all the time and we don’t know who they all are.”  Pastor Parkyn also chooses to use the Revised Common Lectionary for their worship services to provide familiarity for guests and other infrequent attendees.  The lectionary provides a three year cycle of readings for each Sunday of the year so the same bible passages are being read in a large number of churches on any given Sunday.  This provides for a unity in liturgical storytelling regardless of what church location an individual may be worshipping.  First Evangelical Lutheran Church offers “The Path”, a contemporary café-style worship service in their fellowship hall every Sunday.  Pastor Roger Saks explained they recently started it “ to reach out to people who may not be so attracted to the traditional form of worship in the church, and it is a more casual form of worship” featuring coffee and praise music complete with drums and guitar.  The Sunday worship practices of these congregations demonstrate their commitment to hospitality to the stranger.

The intangible asset of kindness is also prevalent in the CSLS of partnership.  Our Savior’s partnership with the RIC program offers kindness and acceptance to the LGBT community and their families.  St. John’s has developed a sort of partnership with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, both in which Pastor Parkyn holds leadership positions.  They have been troubled with various national-level controversies over the years.  Many churches that had hosted troops and packs distanced themselves from scouting in the wake of the controversies.  Instead of distancing, St. John’s has chosen to embrace and support the programs.  They have recently started hosting a Girl Scout troop that is lead by a congregation member and includes several girls from the neighborhood who do not attend St. John’s.  The church also allows both scouting programs to use its facilities free of charge for local meetings and region-wide trainings.  St. John’s chooses to recognize the softness and vulnerability of the scouting programs with the decline in numbers and troop closings, yet focuses on the good offered youth in an effort to sustain what the programs have to offer through their partnership.

The church congregations studied all offered love, care, and respect to their neighbors.  They do this by offering unconditional welcome into their church families.  They open their doors and welcome people in for who they are.  In many instances, a special welcome is offered to the “leper”, to those who have no home because of some vulnerability. This welcome extends beyond the church doors in word and deed to the surrounding community, oftentimes through partnerships with other programs.  Kindness is abundant in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood.

Generosity

True generosity can only be experienced in the context of abundance.  It is to make an offer for its own sake, not in exchange for some value.  It is given with no expectations in return.  True generosity is not charity.  Charity is given within the context of scarcity.  Pastor Crye of Neighborhood City Church notes that charity is not generosity because it involves a false relationship.  Those with the resources “come with a God-complex” and those who do not have access to the resources play the victim.  “So in this place we do a little dance together and we’re diminished in it because that’s not our identity.  That’s not human dignity.”  Generosity is giving for the goodness in giving.  The church congregations studied offered true generosity to the neighborhood through the tangible assets of people, financial support, and the sharing of food.  Generosity was also expressed in the CSLS of partnership.

Generosity, in the purest form of the word, is best expressed by the individual members of congregations, often in unorganized capacities.  Neighborhood City Church has several members who work as accountants and CPAs.  Pastor Crye is aware that several of them help other attendees with tax preparation and personal finances.  Pastor Saks talked about a small group of men from First Evangelical Lutheran who make the rounds to neighborhood homes of the elderly, helping with raking leaves and shoveling snow.  This group is now becoming elderly themselves and Pastor Saks hopes younger parishioners will step forward in their place soon.  There is a small contingent of Our Savior’s parishioners who joined specifically because they wanted to belong to a church active in social justice issues.  These members are key volunteers in the church’s Come for Supper and Women’s Clothes Closet ministries. Pastor Parkyn shared a story about the generosity of some of St. John’s members and how it was the seed for further generosity.  Each year the church selects four needy children to give Christmas gifts.  One year they selected the family of a woman who had recently returned to the church after a bitter divorce with another church member.  This act of kindness and generosity drew the woman deeply into the church community and she began to ask how she could get more involved.  In the end, she drew St. John’s into collecting school supplies for a county program that is now administered by Catholic Charities.  In all instances these things were done with no strings attached.  They were simply done because these people wanted to do good for another.

Many of the churches are also very generous with financial contributions.  Pastor Parkyn explained that because St. John’s membership is small they do not have the numbers to contribute much volunteer time to projects.  Instead they have formed a congregational mission committee that puts together an annual budget to be given to different charitable organizations, one each month.  St John’s also takes up a special food and cash collection once a month for WAFER to distribute.  The Come for Supper and Women’s Clothes Closet programs at Our Savior’s are funded almost entirely through memorials, individual gifts, and fundraisers with “anything beyond that we’ll absorb into our church budget if we fall short.”

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church offers one of the largest feeding programs in the area.  Come for Supper is every Tuesday throughout the year, including holidays, “because we don’t want anyone to not have a family.” They typically feed 320 people at each meal.  Our Savior’s partners with the Hunger Task Force in order to purchase food at discounted prices, keeping the annual budget around $11,000.  It is staffed by volunteers from Our Savior’s as well as a rotation of volunteer crews from other area churches.    Our Savior’s also offers two hospitality events specifically for the neighborhood community.  This past year they hosted two block parties for the residents of the neighboring HUD apartment towers.  The purpose of the events was to allow neighbors to get to know each other, not to try to increase church membership.  They simply wanted to extend welcome by saying “here’s a free meal, just come and we’ll play bingo together and we’ll talk and get better acquainted … No strings attached.”  Both hospitality events were hosted in an effort to generously give food and companionship to whoever arrived with no expectations of behavior in return.

Once again, forming partnerships is the best CSLS for these congregations to optimize the amount of generosity offered the neighborhood community.  The majority of the churches studied said they were listed on a resource list distributed by the Salvation Army to homeless people who come to them for assistance.  These people spend their day visiting area churches in the hopes of getting help with their immediate needs.  St. John’s, First Evangelical, and Our Savior’s all offer Kwik Trip gas cards to those who are living out of their vehicles.  Our Savior’s also has developed a partnership with Catholic Charities to help connect people with financial and other crisis assistance.  The congregation makes a monthly financial contribution to Catholic Charities who then administers it to people in need.  Pastor Jolivette also holds a position on the Catholic Charities advisory board.  Neighborhood City Church has recently formed a partnership with Gundersen Health System and other area civic organizations in providing computer and internet access to people without these services.  The organizations have donated their old computers to the church in order to build a small computer lab for church members and their friends to use in order to apply for jobs and access the new government healthcare marketplace.  In each instance, working together on a specific asset enabled the congregation and the organization to maximize the impact of the asset shared with the community.

The church congregations studied offer various tangible assets to their neighbors with no expectation of reciprocity.  These offers are made purely with the intention of sharing abundance with someone who could benefit.  Sometimes the generosity is offered in an unstructured or random manner, while other times it is offered through a structured church program or formal partnership.

Cooperation

Cooperation is the opposite of competition.  Competition is how relationship is expressed in a culture of scarcity.  Individuals and organizations strive to be better than others to demonstrate power and control of resources.  Cooperation is how individuals and organizations relate in an abundant community.  There is no need for power or control when everyone has access to the available resources.  There may still be disagreement over how to use the resources, however all parties involved enter the conversation in the spirit of sustaining the relationship because everyone comes to the table as equals.  There is no need for power-brokering, only consensus.  The intangible asset of cooperation deeply saturates the Washburn-PPH neighborhood.  It is most evident in the CSLS of partnership and recognizing gifts employed by the religious congregations studied.  The tangible assets of advocacy, prayer and worship, and people were also excellent cooperation transmitters.

Several of the religious congregations interviewed partner with other La Crosse area churches in facilitating the La Crosse Warming Center.  Pastor Parkyn from St. John’s United Church of Christ told the story of how the Warming Center came into existence through the cooperative efforts of many congregations committed to providing a safe place for homeless people to stay during the winter months:

Originally there was some sort of an evening only shelter down by Gundersen.  I can’t remember where it was located.  That’s how this whole thing got started.  It wasn’t big enough, and whoever was sponsoring it, the hospital wanted to get it out of it.  So all of the churches’ first thought was that they were going to move it from church to church to church, well…  With what it takes in the city for permits, plus in a practical sense…  How would you tell people who don’t have a home what the schedule is going to be?  So the decision was that people would volunteer, but we’d in effect have a single church do it.  And so the Baptists took it, and we all send volunteers over to that church.

The La Crosse Warming Center partnership is an excellent example of how religious congregations from an assortment of denominations came together despite theological difference to problem-solve how to continue to provide access to warm shelter for area homeless, many of whom have strong ties to the Washburn-PPH neighborhood.  There was disagreement as to the best solution for relocation, but the congregations stayed with the process until a consensus was formed on how to proceed into the future.  They pooled their tangible assets of people, finances, and facility together to provide a valuable service that none of them could provide alone.

Cooperative partnerships tend to be the vehicle for advocacy and prayer and worship assets in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood as well.  Our Savior’s Lutheran Church belongs to AMOS, a partnership of area churches committed to “building a more just and compassionate community” (AMOS, 2012) through relationship building, education, and cooperative problem-solving.  Through this partnership, Our Savior’s helps to advocate for restorative justice, food security, affordable healthcare, and immigration; all issues of importance to Washburn-PPH neighborhood residents.  The interfaith partnership creates an advocacy space and presence that is richer than what Our Savior’s could create on their own in the community.  Likewise, St. John’s United Church of Christ convenes a partnership of area churches and other organizations in providing Lenten prayer services to the community.  The partnership formed in response to the issue of declining membership that First Presbyterian, First Baptist, Christ Episcopal, Wesley United Methodist, and First Congregational Churches were all experiencing.  Low attendance at the Lenten services each was offering on their own was no longer making them feasible to offer.  By joining together they are able to continue to offer this important asset to not only their congregations, but the wider community.  Both the Franciscan Spirituality Center and Mayo Health System include the services in their community calendars as a way to invite all people into reflection and fellowship.  Each church takes a turn hosting a prayer service and luncheon during the Lenten season.  Each pastor also takes a turn offering the sermon, however they never offer the sermon at their own parish.  This practice promotes a sense of fellowship across the denominational lines and makes it truly a community event.  Both the AMOS and Lenten prayer service partnerships provide a deeper experience of the tangible assets these congregations offer than they could provide on their own.

This cooperative spirit is also evidenced in congregational culture and the practice of recognizing the human assets within congregational membership.  Pastor Crye sees NCC as being a model of diversity to the wider La Crosse community.  Their congregation is a mixture of middle and lower class, African Americans and Caucasians, highly educated professionals and high school drop-outs.  Despite these wide differences they come together as friends each Sunday to worship and in so doing, “we all come with our assets.  Rather than thinking those are just people who don’t know anything about me and I don’t know what they are going to provide, we start to see those things (assets)”.   Pastor Jolivette speaks of the Norwegian ethos of the Our Savior’s Lutheran Church community:  “If we have to debate something, we’re not going to do anything until we’re in consensus.  It has to pretty much be unanimous.”  Part of this ethos is that the congregation does not call forward people into leadership, however “if you have a dream and you’re willing to do it – good.  Go for it!”  The congregation will see your gifts and your willingness to share them, and support you in your pursuits.  The congregational practice of recognizing human assets within the membership is a cooperative effort.  In a diverse congregation the cooperative tension is between individual members navigating their differences and celebrating the gifts that make them unique.  In a homogenous congregation this tension tends to be between the collective and the individual as they step out to offer their uniqueness to the community consciousness.

Religious congregations in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood offer the intangible asset of cooperation most effectively through partnerships focusing on advocacy and prayer and worship.  Cooperation is also effectively offered through the CSLS of recognizing the gifts of individual congregation members.  The creative tension that exists in these situations is what binds the relationships together as all parties strive to share their assets jointly for the common good.

Forgiveness

McKnight and Block (2012) define forgiveness as “the willingness to come to terms with having been wounded”.  It is the uneasy process of accepting these past wounds, both self-inflected and inflected upon us, and finding a wholeness that includes the painful scar.  If we are able to accept the fallibility in this world we will find right action and freedom, the fruits of forgiveness.  The religious congregations studied successfully provide the intangible asset of forgiveness most pointedly through their partnerships and in acting as mediating institutions within the neighborhood.  Forgiveness is also offered through the people, employment programs, and advocacy work with which the church congregations most closely identify.

The most obvious example of a religious congregation sharing forgiveness with the community is the partnership between Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and Reconciling in Christ (RIC), an LGBT advocacy program offered by ReconcilingWorks in the Twin Cities.  Lutheran church congregations with the RIC designation are known to be safe havens of worship and community to everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. As an RIC congregation, Our Savior’s commits to being a public advocate for the LGBT community by modeling unconditional welcome and challenging others in the community to do the same.  They welcome back people to the clergy who left because of sexual orientation or gender identity, and promote the ordination of anyone regardless of these factors.  RIC congregations ritually bless long-term, same sex, monogamous relationships.  Encompassing all of these commitments is the commitment to “love one another, meaning we don’t have to agree on this.  What we are going to be united on is love, whichever side of the issue we take.”  Since becoming an RIC church, Our Savior’s membership has grown to include many individuals and families with connections to the LGBT community.  It is a place where they are free to worship no matter who they are or whom they love.  Currently one third of the congregation’s elected lay leadership is in long-term, monogamous, same sex unions.  Since beginning the partnership in 2002, Our Savior’s has come to fully identify with the RIC mission.  Pastor Jolivette describes his future vision for his parish and the wider community:

My goal is to no longer use words like gay or lesbian.  I want a world that has no descriptors, and we’re getting close.  In this community we’re getting close to those words not being used at all because we don’t need to [use them].

RIC helped Our Savior’s to heal past wounds as they first struggled to respond to those who did not feel welcomed.  Years later, they celebrate who they are as an RIC congregation and are encouraged by other area churches like First Congregational Church of Christ who also welcome the LGBT community.  The RIC partnership demonstrates how a religious congregation can offer forgiveness and it leads to action and freedom for not only the church, but the community as well.

While Our Savior’s Lutheran Church tells a forgiveness story about welcoming people into the fold, the Neighborhood City Church offers a story of forgiveness that is about saying goodbye.  NCC is a church plant of Bethany Evangelical Free Church, where Pastor Crye had served on staff for over 14 years.  He and a core group of supporters started the church because they saw a need for “an empowered, multi-cultural Christian community” in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood.  This founding group was comprised mainly of white, middle class people.  As the church began to welcome the neighborhood into the fold, the congregational dynamics began to change.  Some of the original members were pushed beyond their comfort zones and moved on to other congregations.  While Pastor Crye spoke of this part of the church’s history as a natural transitional period for the congregation, it was obvious that recalling it was difficult and still somewhat painful.  However he expressed deep gratitude for all of the contributions of those first supporters, especially the connections they helped the church to form with area social service agencies and neighborhood community networks.  These contributions have enabled NCC to act as a mediating institution between neighborhood residents and other community resources.  This CSLS is the fruit of forgiveness:  “Our goal of social justice, that’s a product of God reconciling all things to Himself.”

The forgiveness stories of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and Neighborhood City Church are both rooted in gratitude and love for the people who have identified with their congregations.  Our Savior’s welcomes those who had once been the outsider into church leadership.  They publicly bless and honor those who are seen as an abomination by others, celebrating who they are and the gifts they bring to the church.  NCC recognizes the important contributions made by those who have chosen to no longer journey with them in their mission.  Regardless of the circumstances under which these people left, they shared their gifts with the church at a crucial time in its history and their impact lasts beyond their physical presence in the congregation.  The Christmas present story from St. John’s also witnesses to how forgiveness is shared in gratitude and love for others.  Considering that the woman’s former husband held a leadership position in the church, despite that she returned to worship with the congregation. This speaks to her capacity for forgiveness.  Likewise, the congregation could have easily shunned her and the daughter for having left town in the wake of the divorce.  Instead they chose to welcome and care for them in a way that drew out the gifts of this woman to share with others. Forgiveness resides in these church congregations because of their ability to see the unique contributions of each person who walks through their doors.

For Neighborhood City Church the intangible asset of forgiveness has blossomed into their Jobs for Life program, a partnership with a national, biblically-based job training program.  Pastor Crye shared the teaching from the Epistles about masters and servants.  It is a teaching on right relationships.  Masters are to take good care of their servants.  They should not treat them cruelly or unjustly.  If you treat your servant well, they will provide you with good service.  Likewise, servants are to work diligently in their duties.  They should not be lazy or ignore their master’s commands.  Giving their best work shows gratitude to the master for the support he offers them.  This is an example of right relationship. It is possible to live out, even if both parties have been hurt by past negative work experiences, when both the master (employer) and the servant (worker) accept who their true Master is – God.  As a Jobs for Life site, NCC focuses on training people in the skills they need to get hired and hold down a job as a hard worker.  Pastor Crye acknowledged that the program doesn’t touch much upon the responsibilities of the employer in this right relationship and hopes to develop a parallel employer program that would then facilitate connecting employers with potential employees.

Several of the religious congregations in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood share deep stories of forgiveness.  The stories contain aspects of CSLS, both partnerships and as a mediating institution, and centered on the tangible asset of people.  Employment and advocacy assets were also important specific themes within each story.

Fallibility

Fallibility is the “willingness to live with people’s imperfections” by accepting instead of changing them (McKnight & Block, 2012).  While accepting fallibility is a part of forgiveness, it falls short of the latter.  Forgiveness is about learning to live with transgressions, while fallibility is about accepting short-comings.  Abundant communities recognize fallibility because it is a reality of the human condition and they can see the gift in it.  Acceptance of fallibility provides wholeness because we are embraced for who we fully are instead of only the nice half (McKnight & Block, 2012).  The church congregations studied offer the intangible asset of fallibility through the tangible assets of people and advocacy, especially when the CSLS of developing leaders through recognizing gifts is applied to those fallibilities.

Neighborhood City Church advocates for the just treatment and understanding of neighborhood residents in the greater La Crosse community.  They have discovered this is necessary because of the culture gap that exists.  NCC identifies most residents in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood as urban transplants and the surrounding community views the neighborhood through their Midwestern, middle class lens.  “We want diversity if everybody becomes like me and kind of looks a little different.   You know, that’s our idea of diversity.”  Pastor Crye sees this evidenced in the neighborhood plan that was put together by Gundersen Health System, the City of La Crosse, and the PPH (formerly PHH) Neighborhood Association:  “The new plan they had … you know it’s not really…  This is one of the most diverse places in La Crosse, but nobody talks about that … taking advantage of the diversity.”  Instead it focuses on homogenizing the neighborhood.

Pastor Crye attended a presentation hosted by the neighborhood planning committee where a city council member spoke about new housing that was being completed in the hopes of attracting doctors to the neighborhood so they could walk to work.  This part of the neighborhood plan, new housing to increase homeownership, does not respect the reality of 80% of the existing residents in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood:  “Where do people go that … don’t have resources or are under-resourced?  No one really ever asks the question about where they go.”  Instead the wider community expects them to change to fit our system, when La Crosse should be learning from them how we can improve our systems to meet changing community needs.  One of the assets Pastor Crye identifies with neighborhood residents is their ability to survive, and in many ways thrive, with limited resources:

I tell people all the time that if the electricity went out and all of a sudden we couldn’t go to the store, I would want our folks to teach me how to live because I don’t … I wouldn’t know how to do it when I’ve got nothing coming in.

Instead of viewing neighborhood residents as outsiders with limited resources, as a fallibility that needs to be hidden or pushed away, NCC chooses to recognize the giftedness of these people, warmly welcomes them into their church community and the neighborhood as they are, and speaks out on their behalf in the public arena.

The willingness to accept others as they are is also a core value of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.  They speak it in the mission statement the congregation wrote upon entering the Reconciling in Christ program:

All are welcome in this church.  The Good News of God’s grace is for all regardless of age, abilities, physical and mental health, race, sexual orientation, education, income, or strength of faith.  There is nothing we do, have done, or will do that can separate us from the love of God.  God makes no exceptions nor do we.  Come join us in praise, prayer, and the work of our Lord.

Pastor Jolivette puts the congregation’s call to acceptance of fallibility within a scriptural context:

Jesus was not picky about who came to the table.  Nowhere in Jesus’ definitions is the word ‘good’.  You don’t have to be good anything.  So Roman soldiers, the enemy, the tax collector who’s working for the enemy, the prostitute … and the poor.  What we have is this table fellowship that Jesus lives out and is constantly trying to get his disciples to understand.

This is the table fellowship centered on the acceptance of fallibility that Our Savior’s Lutheran Church tries to share with the neighborhood community every day.

Half of the religious congregations considered in the study share the intangible asset of fallibility with the neighborhood.  This is accomplished by recognizing the rich human assets within the fallibility surrounding them and boldly lifting them up to the wider La Crosse community.

Presence

Presence is the only intangible asset identified in the study that is not a capacity of abundant community as defined by McKnight and Block (2012).  Presence goes beyond the physical location of a church building or visibility of congregation members in the neighborhood.  Presence is the quality of the congregational spirit being felt by residents in their personal lives and throughout the neighborhood community.  It was a subtheme that came up several times through the interviews and fit best within the intangible asset theme.  Presence was most often associated with the tangible assets of facility, food, and people, and the CSLS of mediating institution.

The most common vehicle for presence is the most obvious: facility.  Each of the church congregations studied utilized their facility asset in different ways in order to create a broader sense of presence within the community.  Neighborhood City Church started out as a home fellowship.  They grew to move their offices to a neighborhood storefront and offered Sunday worship services at Lincoln Middle School.  While this arrangement answered their growing need for space it did not provide them with the sense of stable presence they desired in the neighborhood.  They began to look for a suitable facility that would answer all of their needs, but knew it needed to stay in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood.  Location was very important to this congregation because they needed to remain accessible to those who did not have transportation, as well as to avoid the perception of a church that was coming to minister to the neighborhood as opposed to coming to be a part of the neighborhood.  This limited their options.  However God provided, and they were able to work out an arrangement with a church congregation that had recently closed their doors, but still owned the historic church building.  Since making the church building at Seventh and Ferry their home, Neighborhood City Church has lived into its name.  Of all the religious congregations studied, NCC is a neighborhood church in the truest sense of the word.

St. John’s United Church of Christ utilizes their facility in a very different way that helps sustain their presence in the neighborhood.  They act as a neighborhood community center.  Over the years, the church has transitioned from what was once a large, blue-collar neighborhood church to a small, scattered congregation that comes together to worship on Sundays.  Because of this, the rather large church facility goes unused by the congregation six out of seven days of the week.  Instead of letting the building go unused, they offer its use free-of-charge to the community for meetings, classes, and other group events:  “We pretty much have never said no to a use of something.”  The facility has much traffic coming in and out, especially by people coming for the Jazzercize classes held eight times a week in the basement.  The Jazzercise classes are so well attended the church needed to install better security systems for the building.  All of this has provided St. John’s with visibility in the neighborhood as a destination.  The congregation has also begun to deeply identify with the groups and programs that use their facility, even though St. John’s does not officially host or offer any of these programs themselves.  By offering their facility as a community center during the week, St. John’s has been able to maintain a relationship with the neighborhood even though the number of neighborhood residents who belong to the church is declining.

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church also maintains a relationship with the neighborhood through its facility despite decreasing neighborhood membership.  While St. John’s has had to install a “buzz-in” security system at their facility due to the amount people coming through the doors, Our Savior’s has chosen to keep their doors unlocked during the day despite increasing violence in the neighborhood.  This decision was made so that anyone who needs to access the building or the staff can do so with a sense of welcome.  “I have a parish, if you want to call it that, of people who … if their escalating in a mental health crisis might walk in the door five or six times a day.”  Others come inside to get out of the cold as they are waiting for the bus to arrive at one of the two bus routes that stop right in front of the church.  Our Savior’s leaves their doors open so people in the neighborhood have somewhere to be if they have nowhere else to be.

First Evangelical Lutheran Church maintains its sense of presence in the neighborhood through its facility in the most traditional of ways.  It is a historic church building in La Crosse with the congregation operating out of that location since 1905.  The congregation has been a good steward to the building, making necessary accessibility improvements while maintaining the historic integrity of the original German Lutheran character.  It sits proudly on the edge of the Washburn neighborhood and is a well known La Crosse landmark.  It is difficult to live in the neighborhood and not know where First Evangelical is located.  Through its formidable towers and grand staircase leading up to the front doors, First Evangelical is a constant and noticeable presence in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood landscape.

Another way that many of these religious congregations establish their presence in the neighborhood is by offering food.  Neighborhood City Church and Our Savior’s Lutheran Church both host neighborhood block parties in the summertime.  These are festive events where the churches offer hospitality to the neighborhood regardless of whether the individuals choose to worship with them.  The focus is building relationships with the people of the neighborhood and being present to them.  Our Savior’s also offers the weekly feeding program, Come for Supper.  People from all over the La Crosse community come to share a free meal, no questions asked.  Come for Supper, as well as their clothing ministry, the Women’s Clothes Closet, have a long-standing, positive reputation in the community, and for many, it is what they identify with when they think of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.  Both programs make them a destination church to access tangible assets in the community.

All of the churches included in this study are present to the neighborhood through the charisma of their pastoral leadership.  Pastors Chris Crye, John Parkyn, Mark Jolivette, and Roger Saks are all involved in the community by serving on various boards as trustees.  Pastors Crye and Jolivette are especially involved with social service agency boards with Crye focusing on government run agencies and Jolivette focused on faith-based organizations.  Pastor Parkyn directs his service towards civic boards and organizations, and Pastor Saks serves in many leadership capacities within the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, most notably as a trustee of the Good Steward Thrift Shop.  Because of their personal community involvement, the congregations they lead are also associated with being present to community needs as well.

As mentioned earlier, both Neighborhood City Church and Our Savior’s Lutheran Church act as mediating institutions between neighborhood residents in need and a collection of institutions offering various resources.  As an institution that helps navigate an individual through the complexities of the social service system they create a sense of home, security, and presence through the interpersonal relationship with the individual that they do not receive from the institutions filling their needs.  The service provided by the congregation in walking with the individual through the process and remaining present to them after the needs are met is what solidifies the church’s presence in the neighborhood.

All of the congregations studied shared the spirit of their presence to the Washburn-PPH neighborhood through the use and physical presence of their facilities and the personal charisma of their leaders.  Several of the churches also shared presence through the gift of food and hospitality and by acting as a mediating institution.

Mystery

Mystery is the response to the unknown.  It is the sense of being grounded in not knowing the answers and accepting the uncertainness of the future.  Mystery goes beyond acceptance in that it contains a creativity and aliveness that is fostered by letting go of control.  The community’s capacity for mystery is essential for sustaining abundance (McKnight & Block, 2012).  Of all the capacities studied, mystery was the most difficult for the congregational leaders to articulate.  However when it was discussed, mystery was associated with the neighborhood residents, recognized as a gift in their lives, and accessed through a prayer strategy for the common good.

Pastor Crye of Neighborhood City Church recognizes that “the people we’re working with, there is a fluidity to their lives.  They in a sense come and go.”  This fluidity to life is their way of living mystery.  Mystery is a natural part of their lives because they are under-resourced and unable to participate in the consumer culture that so many others in our society submit to in the attempt of creating a sense of security against the unknown (McKnight & Block, 2012).  They are in many ways forced to live in mystery.

Pastor Crye recognizes this gift they hold.  NCC has responded by hosting prayer meetings centering on the polarized state of our country and increasing economic upheaval affecting more and more people each day.  The goal of these prayer meetings is to harvest the wisdom of neighborhood residents living in this fluid state of mystery.  “No one is asking them anything about how to do stuff.  What do we do to contribute to our community …how do we do creative things that we need to do to help people? … Nobody asks them.”  NCC understands we need, as a consumer based society, to include those living on the margins in the conversation because they hold answers we cannot fathom due to of our loss of mystery.  Mystery is recognized as a gift of the marginalized neighborhood demographic that has the potential to be shared with the rest of the community.

Discussion

The purpose of this study was to identify the tangible and intangible assets being offered to the Washburn, Powell, Poage, and Hamilton neighborhoods by religious congregations, as well as the congregational servant leadership strategies they employ in offering these assets.  From interviews with religious leaders from four church congregations in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood it was discovered that the most accessible tangible assets were the people of the congregations and the people of the neighborhood, as well as the advocacy work being done by the churches.  The interviews also revealed McKnight and Block’s (2012) abundant community capacities were all present in the neighborhoods to varying degrees, with the intangible assets of cooperation and forgiveness being a central focus for several of the religious leaders in terms of church programming and activities rooted in congregational identity.  In addition, the intangible asset of presence was identified by the researcher as a recurring subtheme in the conversations.  Of the seven intangible assets identified, mystery was the most difficult asset for the churches.  While all three of the CSLS suggested by Greenleaf (1996) existed to some extent in the congregations studied, the strategy of partnership was the most effective and commonly utilized in transmitting assets to the neighborhood community.  These findings are discussed in terms of the public role of faith congregations, asset-based community development, and Greenleaf’s vision for servant leadership in congregational settings in the hopes of providing insights for future planning in these neighborhoods.

Why Human and Advocacy Assets Figured Prominently

A widely diverse array of tangible assets was identified through the interviews.  Many of these assets came up repeatedly across the interviews, while several were a primary focus for a particular church congregation.  The tangible assets of prayer and worship, food and hospitality, employment training, LGBT ministry, facilities, and financial resources all dominated the conversations.  The human assets and advocacy work of each congregation was a common focus that stood out alone, as well as in conjunction with, other assets during the interviews.

People, both congregation members and neighborhood residents, were the most identified tangible asset in the study.  Half of the church congregations studied are considered mainline Protestant denominations.  According to Ammerman (2002), these churches produce more volunteers than other denominations, especially when involved in the work of community organizations.  In general, people are attracted to congregations for two reasons.  First, they see themselves as contributors connected to a complex richness of individuals.  Second, they measure their contribution in terms of how well they nurture and defend those connections (Gunderson, 1997).  People who belong to churches tend to want to share their gifts with others, whether it is the church congregation itself or the outside people or institutions to which the church is connected.  Because of this, church congregations tend to be a natural source of human talent and skill with the potential to address any neighborhood need (Gunderson, 1997).

Another plausible explanation for why people were the most frequently mentioned tangible asset is because it is in the nature of religious congregations to see people in light of their gifts and how they connect with others.  According to Gunderson (1997) “Spirituality is not primarily about longevity but about perspective – understanding where we fit, who we are in relation to everyone and everything else” (p. 9).  This perspective rooted the theology of the Body of Christ is part of the worldview of the religious leaders interviewed, and therefore the conversations were framed within the context of human talents and how they fit within the congregation and connect beyond the church doors.

After human assets, advocacy work was the next most frequently mentioned tangible asset being offered the Washburn-PPH neighborhood.  Historically, mainline Protestant churches have been forums for public dialogue and debate (Cadge, 2002).  According to Wuthnow (2002), six in ten congregation members reported hearing at least one sermon or group discussion on a significant social issue in the past year.   These discussions were most common in congregations with active social ministries (Wuthnow, 2002).  Typically the discussion of social issues in evangelical churches tends to promote public advocacy work by individual members and religious leaders (Wuthnow, 2002), while mainline Protestant churches tend to advocate corporately on behalf of the disadvantaged more than any other churches (Chaves, Giesel & Tsitsos, 2002).  Given the denominational demographics of the church congregations studied, it is expected that advocacy work would be a prominent theme in the interviews.

Advocacy work comes naturally to religious congregations because “the healing ministry of the church to the needs of the poor is one of the most noticeable expressions of the compassion of Christ” (Dimmock & Cassidy, 2011, p. 186).  This intimate relationship enables churches to shed light on the needs of these communities that are otherwise invisible to the wider community.  By their very nature and mission, churches are positioned to reveal injustices and take on the task of raising consciousness (Dimmock & Cassidy, 2011).  Besides being well positioned for advocacy, congregations have earned the authority to advocate on certain issues because they can tell the story in the context of faith, compassion, and community (Gunderson, 1997).  It is the intangible assets offered through the advocacy work of congregations that makes them effective advocates for their neighborhood communities.

Why Cooperation and Forgiveness were Potent

The most frequently referred to intangible asset was kindness.  It was mentioned in association with tangible assets and CSLS in all four of the interviews.  The theme of kindness was lightly sprinkled throughout the study.  However, the themes of cooperation and forgiveness were much more potently present in the conversations.  These intangible assets oftentimes dominated the discussion to the point they were almost tangible in and of themselves.  Because of the startling contrast in how these assets were expressed, cooperation and forgiveness was identified as having a more profound impact on the communities involved than the asset of kindness.

Cooperation and forgiveness were identified as essential to the healthy functioning of most of the religious congregations studied.  Because of this they are highly valued in the churches and shared with the community.  Two significant stories arising from the interviews were saturated with these themes and shed light into why these assets are so potently offered to the neighborhood community.

The first significant story comes from Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in the form of their LGBT ministry, Reconciling in Christ. Pastor Jolivette spoke extensively about their commitment in hospitality to, and advocacy on behalf of, the LGBT community as an RIC church, and how that role fully permeates their identity as a congregation.  As part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, their denomination has been committed to dialogue and debate on the issue of homosexuality for well over 20 years (Cadge, 2002).  The RIC program is the fruit of these cooperative discussions.  In becoming an RIC congregation, Our Savior’s has embraced the cooperative spirit and need for forgiveness valued by the program as part of its identity.  According to Ammerman (2002), it is common for such partnerships to cause congregations to redefine who they are in the midst of the new relationship.  This was evidenced by Pastor Joliette’s concern that all feel welcome at their church, not just the LGBT community.  He talked about their troubles finding a solution to the facility’s handicap accessibility issues.  He mentioned several mindful ways the church reaches out in welcome to those living in poverty.  He even went as far as to call into question the congregation’s facility use policy that prohibits groups who do not agree with the church’s welcoming statement from using the facility because “that is somewhat exclusionary, I mean that’s not 100% welcome, you know, here we are trying to be a welcoming church”.  Statements like that exemplify Our Savior’s deep commitment to forgiveness of past wrongs and willingness to cooperate in even the most difficult of situations.  Because cooperation and forgiveness are so highly valued, when the church veers even one iota away from these values they are startlingly aware of it.  They identify so completely with these values that they would not know how to interact with the neighborhood in any other way.

The second significant story of cooperation and forgiveness comes from Neighborhood City Church in the form of their commitment to being a model for diversity.  Pastor Crye talked about how NCC is rooted in reconciliation in principle, practice, culture, and mission, as well as how cooperation is a necessity in a congregation with such wide variations in income, education, and social status due to racial identity.  NCC seeks to go beyond mere tolerance of each other’s differences to a celebration of the uniqueness of each individual and their cultural identity.  This commitment to racial justice contributes to the continuing development of cooperation within the congregation (Wuthnow & Evans, 2002), however that cooperative spirit may be difficult to maintain.  According to Verter (2002), interracial churches do not hold a distinctive cultural identity therefore the social ties tend to be weak.  Greater cooperation is necessary among members because of this, resulting in a higher membership turnover rate than in culturally homogenous congregations.  Membership turnover is a part of NCC’s story.  The work of cooperation is hard and leaving the dynamics of an interracial church was an easy solution for some participants.  However this part of the story was also steeped in the theme of forgiveness.  In seeking to live out authentic relationship as experienced in the Divine, religious congregations like NCC are called to offer this same forgiveness in the name of God to each other and to the community (Rohr, 2011). This makes church congregations a deep reservoir for forgiveness because “every time God forgives us, God is saying that God’s own rules do not matter as much as the relationship that God wants to create with us”(Rohr, 2011, p. 56-57).

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and Neighborhood City Church are literally across the street from one another.  Seventh Street, between Division and Ferry Streets, is an epicenter of cooperation and forgiveness in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood.  While denominationally these two church congregations would make an unlikely pair, their shared commitment to cooperation and forgiveness, along with their geographic proximity, make them logical partners.  Allowing the spirit of cooperation to lead the way, Our Savior’s and NCC could work together in bringing healing forgiveness to the Washburn-PPH neighborhood in unprecedented ways.

A neighborhood reconciliation process is needed in order for future neighborhood revitalization efforts in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood to experience sustainable success. Revitalization is more than just painting home exteriors or improving streets.  A revitalization of neighborhood spirit is necessary to engage residents who tend to be disassociated from the development process in distressed neighborhoods (Sampson & Graif, 2009).  Given the diverse nature of the Washburn-PPH neighborhood, the fact that many residents are urban transplants who feel misunderstood by the greater La Crosse community, and that many lifelong residents feel wronged by the city for various things over the years, a reconciliation process would be ideal for healing old wounds so that more residents are willing to share their assets and gifts with the community.  Churches like Our Savior’s and NCC are best suited to lead this aspect of the revitalization process.

Why so Little Mystery?

A surprising discovery was how little mention there was of the intangible asset of mystery during the interviews.  Mystery is the most innately spiritual of the abundant community capacities.  It is the “co-breathing” of God; the true spirituality of “co-operating … a kind of synergy in which both parties give and both parties receive to create one shared truth and joy” (Rohr, 2011, p. 92).  Given that mystery is the spirituality of cooperation, it could be surmised that mystery would be offered along with the intangible asset of cooperation.  This was not the case for the most part.   The interview with Neighborhood City Church, one of the congregations with a deep commitment to cooperation, was the only instance where the theme of mystery arose, however it did not come into play in any of the other interviews.

One explanation could be that mystery does not fit within the Western philosophy of progress and upward mobility, nor in the religious ideals of perfection and holiness (Rohr, 2011). The pastors may have been more focused on providing information within this Western philosophical context.  Those belonging to the evangelical tradition may have shied from the messiness of mystery to engage in conversations centered on ideals instead.  Being that the study was framed within the context of community and leadership development, the pastors may have entered into the conversations from the traditional use of these terms.

Another explanation could be the researcher was at fault.  The interview questions may not have been the best for shedding light on mystery.  Perhaps this theme was hidden within the language of the interview, but the researcher could not access it.  According to Rohr (2011) mystery is participating in life, not merely observing or codifying it.  Mystery may only be accessible in the experiencing of it:

We move forward in ways that we do not even understand and through the quiet workings of time and grace.  When we get there, we are never sure just how it happened, and God does not seem to care who gets the credit, as long as our growth continues (Rohr, 2011, p. 51).

This is where mystery comes into play within the CSLS framework.  The single instance mystery was discussed in the interviews was within the context of recognizing gifts.  If churches are charged with recognizing individual gifts as part of the leadership development strategy for community servanthood, if a church helping individuals to grow moves the neighborhood forward in ways we do not understand, then churches possess an intangible asset that can be further leveraged for neighborhood revitalization by linking resident’s gifts with these efforts.

This idea is counter-intuitive to those working within the traditional community development model.  If the goal is to revitalize the neighborhood as a whole, why should resources be focused on developing individual people?  Resources should be directed to projects and agencies of a wider neighborhood scope.  If the goal is to improve the community, why are we focusing on things that are doing well?  Resources should be directed at fixing areas of weakness.  An answer to this is that church congregations are uniquely positioned to see the hidden gifts of individuals and communities that systems are too encumbered to see.  Because of this churches are able to align assets with neighborhood needs in creatively mysterious ways that provide for community abundance despite the messiness of life.  Churches accomplish this by instilling a vocational call to community involvement in individual leaders and aligning organizational assets through the development of partnerships in a framework similar to the theological concept of the Body of Christ.  As more churches begin to speak mystery into community development it will be difficult for systems to ignore their prophetic voices emerging from the mystery.

Partnership: A Well Developed Congregational Servant Leadership Strategy

This study also investigated the congregational servant leadership strategies that are employed by churches in disseminating various assets to the neighborhood community.  Partnerships and recognition of an individual’s gifts, a subtheme within the theme of leadership development, were identified as the most common strategies used by religious congregations within the Washburn-PPH neighborhood.  Of these, partnerships were utilized by all of the congregations studied.

Mainline Protestant churches are twice as more likely to form partnerships as other Christian churches (Ammerman, 2002).  These churches, together with African American and Catholic churches, are more likely than conservative denominations to form partnerships for policy advocacy in benefit of the community (Ammerman, 2002).  Advocacy, partnerships, and strategic planning are necessary in strengthening and maintaining community assets (Dimmock & Cassidy, 2011).  The tangible asset of advocacy goes hand in hand with the CSLS of partnership.  This was evidenced in several partnerships described in the interviews.  For instance, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church partners with several area churches through the organization AMOS to advocate for various social concerns.  They also partner with the national organization, ReconcilingWorks, in advocating for LBGT rights.

Partnerships that focus on connecting the local level advocacy work of church congregations with larger public organizations in order to mobilize local assets for the greater good is a relatively new idea (Benn, 2011).  In the past, mainline Protestant partnerships focused on charity.  While their scope was more local in nature, their reach extended beyond those within immediate walking distance of the church (Ammerman, 2002).  Partnerships tended to be grassroots oriented with a one-way trajectory of outward influence branching out like a tree.  However the new idea of partnership focuses on a continuous link of relationship between the micro- and the macro-level of community that has the ability to spread as a web of influence.  Churches tend to have good relationships on the micro-level with their congregational members and their immediate neighborhood communities.  When a church congregation partners with a macro-level institution, that partnership facilitates the larger institution in meeting the needs of the micro-level community in two ways.    First, the church uses its creditability to educate and advocate within the community in order to generate support for the cause.  Secondly, it acts on behalf of the larger institution in providing services.  The church acts as intermediary between the larger institution and the community being benefitted.   They are often more successful in administering services because they are “working for God” (Dimmock & Cassidy, 2011, p. 187).

Framing services in this way provides intangible assets, such as forgiveness and fallibility, along with the tangible services being offered to the community that the larger institution is unable to provide on its own.  Likewise, the partnership enables the religious congregation to provide more consistent services than they can alone due to lack of resources (Dimmock & Cassidy, 2011).  This new model of partnership focusing on advocacy and service has the ability to share assets for the common good while spreading the reach of those assets at the same time.  The partnerships between Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and ReconcilingWorks, and Neighborhood City Church with Jobs for Life are good examples of this advocacy/service and micro/macro partnership model.

This new partnership model demonstrates how forming partnerships with existing programs is an effective bridge between success in one community and the needs in another where they can be easily applied and adapted (Gunderson, 1997).  However a significant portion of mainline partnerships are informal cooperative efforts involving diverse groups of recipients and organizations (Ammerman, 2002).  Regardless of whether the partnership is formal or informal in nature, Dimmock and Cassidy (2011) identify several strengths in partnerships between religious congregations and public institutions that make them highly efficient and effective:  1) They provide access to the human assets within a church congregation that would otherwise be inaccessible to the public institution.  For instance, the informal partnership between NCC and La Crosse County Health & Human Services led to an elder and entrepreneur from the Washburn-PPH neighborhood being appointed to an advisory committee; 2) They facilitate quality leadership development.  For example, the partnership between St. John’s and the Girl Scouts resulted in sixteen young women from the church and neighborhood community being given the Girl Scout Gold Award in recognition for their service and leadership to the community; 3) They provide flexibility to test new methods, strategies, and research that the bureaucracy of public sector institutions often prevents them from doing on their own.   For instance, Pastor Crye talked about how social service agencies are often confronted with spiritual crisis in their clients that they are unable to address due to government restrictions and lack of proper training; 4) Partnerships offer co-credibility; and 5) Partnerships facilitate the coordination of services.  This was exemplified in the partnership between Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and the Hunger Task Force in providing free meals on a weekly basis throughout the year.

However, partnerships between religious congregations and public institutions in and of themselves are not enough.  Ongoing leadership development that empowers community members and serves the common good is necessary for efficient and effective community impacts.  According to Dimmock and Cassidy (2011), “Successful partnerships require the promotion of servant-leadership models, which assume that goals can be met through careful alignment and implementation by all who share a common vision” (p. 188).  In order to continue to improve and grow the strong foundation of partnership in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood the intentional application of servant leadership principles, beginning with leadership development, is necessary.

The Need for Intentional Leadership Development

The study attempted to identify the tangible assets, intangible assets, and congregational servant leadership strategies being shared and utilized within the Washburn-PPH neighborhood through religious congregations.  The interviews verified a variety of tangible assets are available to neighborhood residents.  Likewise, all abundant community capacities were identified as being present to some extent, as well as an additional intangible asset of presence.  The Washburn-PPH neighborhood congregations have a solid foundation of partnerships at their disposal in service to the community.  The reflections of these pastors and the programs offered at their churches suggest that the gifts of members and the neighborhood are recognized.  However this is just the first step in Greenleaf’s (1996) vision of developing servant leaders in church congregations for the benefit of the neighborhood community.

Instances of mentoring; supporting the spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being of leaders; and connecting leaders with leadership opportunities were infrequent throughout the interviews.  This is most likely because of the time intensive nature these commitments are in developing authentic relationships.  All of the pastors ministering on their own talked about how overly busy they are with their basic pastoral duties, leaving very little time for formal leadership development within their churches outside of the church council.  They need help with their leadership duties; however they do not have enough time to develop lay leaders to assist them, much less to serve the neighborhood community.  At the same time, it is imperative for leadership development practices focusing on disciple formation of lay leaders to be developed further to ensure the viability of the church and neighborhood communities (Cutts, et al., 2012).

The Most Rev. Martin Amos, Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport, IA understands the growing need for organized church leadership development programs.  He identifies the continuing shortage of clergy, the opportunities presented by the rich assets of the laity, and increasing demands on those already in leadership as key reasons why churches need to initiate leadership development in order to remain viable.  It is the calling of the church as we move into the mystery of an uncertain future (Ebener, 2010).

In the book Servant Leader Models for Your Parish Ebener (2010) recognizes churches of all denominations and faith groups, not just Roman Catholic, are currently being challenged to meet needs, especially those located in poor neighborhoods, rural communities, and remote locations, and that leadership development is the only long-term answer.  While the leadership development program he formulates to meet this growing need is based on sound servant leadership principles, experiential learning theory, and the pastoral planning cycle developed by Holland and Henroit (1983), it is does not directly engage Greenleaf’s (1996) vision of congregational leadership development.  Ebener (2010) focuses on leadership development for the church itself, but does not attend to the role of churches in developing leaders for neighborhoods.  A hybrid of Ebener (2010) and Greenleaf’s (1996) servant leadership development models could be developed and implemented in churches as a way of addressing both church and neighborhood leadership development needs concurrently.

In fact, church leadership development should not be separated from servant leadership in the neighborhoods in which they are located because of the religious underpinnings of servant leadership theory.  Leaders are prepared for service to the world through religious formation as a “priesthood of all believers” (Greenleaf, 1996, p. 261).  This formation process benefits the church as well because in “undertaking to make them a priesthood of all believers, it will be making itself a different and more vital institution” (Greenleaf, 1996, pg. 262).  Pastor Jolivette from Our Savior’s talked about the priesthood of all believers as a calling to “begin a new relationship and not carry grudges and not drag the past along, which is what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer – forgive us our sins, our trespasses, as we forgive.”  The church is called to develop a religious/neighborhood leadership development model centered in servant leadership and the intangible assets of reconciliation – cooperation and forgiveness – in response to an uncertain future.

Greenleaf’s (1996) congregational leadership development philosophy is also the first step in seeking a new theology of institutions.  Society expects the government to address suffering and injustice in our midst through the use of compulsion and financial incentive directed towards institutions.  Instead leadership development should be the first step toward creating institutions committed to caring and serving the marginalized.  This will shift focus from merely understanding the science of institutions to a theology of institution as servant of society (Greenleaf, 1996).  This new perspective will empower the Washburn-PPH religious congregations in becoming servant to their neighborhoods by creating common ground on which to build effective relationships and develop compassionate servant leaders for these institutions.

This raises some interesting questions in regards to McKnight & Block’s (2012) critique of institutions.  In general, abundant community theory tends toward anti-system, noting the limitations of institutions in providing for abundance.  However they are quick to clarify their argument is not against systems, but an observation that they have limits (McKnight & Block, 2012).  The servant leader theology of institutions may be the bridge necessary to close the gap between institutions and abundant community.  The role of church congregations as neighborhood leadership developer is vital in seeding servant leadership theology into institutions.

Given the need for churches to become more intentional in neighborhood leadership development so that assets, especially those that are intangible, can be more effectively shared with the neighborhood in creating abundance, future updates to the Washburn and Powell/Poage/Hamilton neighborhood plans need to recognize the vital role of churches in the community development process.  It is recommended that the City of La Crosse seek federal funding for a church-led leadership development process centered in reconciliation for the next phase of neighborhood revitalization.  Such a community development initiative will heal past wounds so that long-lasting future benefits can be achieved.  Reconciliation-based leadership development is the next step in creating a neighborhood abundant in servant leaders.

Conclusion

The Washburn-PPH neighborhood is one of the most economically impoverished and socially troubled neighborhoods in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  This fact has brought institutions, associations, and local government together in problem-solving ways to address the needs of this community.  However, this neighborhood is also abundant in a number of assets that have the potential to not only address its own needs, but also spill over and bless the surrounding La Crosse community.  Recognizing these assets is the first step towards aligning and leveraging them in creating abundant community.  Several of the church congregations in the Washburn-PPH neighborhood organically engage in congregational servant leadership strategies in sharing these assets with the neighborhood.  An intentional application of these strategies incorporating church and neighborhood leadership development will provide for a deliberate capitalization of these assets resulting in the continued growth of abundant community.  These efforts can be supported by local community development plans by linking federal funding with reconciliation-based leadership development programs in churches.

References

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Burian, H. (2013, April 13). Community looks to ReNEW Powell-Hood-Hamilton. WXOW News 19. Retrieved from http://www.wxow.com/story/21971407/2013/04/13/community-looks-to-renew-powell-hood-hamilton

Cadge, W. (2002). Vital conflicts: The mainline denominations debate homosexuality. In R. Wuthnow & J. H. Evans (Eds.), The quiet hand of God: Faith-based activism and the public role of mainline Protestantism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Chaves, M. (2004). Congregations in america. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=282062&site=ehost-live

Chaves, M., Giesel, H. M., & Tsitsos, W. (2002). Religious variations in public presence: Evidence from the National Congregations Study. In R. Wuthnow & J. H. Evans (Eds.), The quiet hand of God: Faith-based activism and the public role of mainline Protestantism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Chaves, M., & Tsitsos, W. (2001). Congregations and social services: What they do, how they do it, and with whom. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly2001(30), 660-683. doi: 10.1177/0899764001304003

Chaves, M., & Wineburg, B. (2010). Did the faith-based initiative change congregations? Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 39(2), 343-355. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspxdirect=true&AuthType=ip,cpid&custid=s6222504&db=a9h&AN=48593654&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Cutts, T., Gunderson, G., Proeschold-Bell, R., & Swift, R. (2012). The life of leaders: An intensive health program for clergy. Journal of Religion & Health, 51(4), 1317-1324. doi:10.1007/s10943-010-9436-6

Diekelmann, N., Allen, D., & Tanner, C. (1989). The NLN criteria for the appraisal of baccalaureate programmes: A critical hermeneutical analysis. In N. Diekelmann & D. Allen (Eds.), The NLN criteria for appraisal of baccalaureate programmes: A critical hermeneutical analysis. New York, NY: NLN Press.

Dimmock, F., & Cassidy, T. (2011). Maintaining and strengthening African religious health assets: Challenges facing Christian health associations in the next decade. In J. R. Cochrane, B. Schmid & T. Cutts (Eds.), When religion and health align: Mobilising religious health assets for transformation. Dorpspruit, South Africa: Cluster Publications.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1970). The servant as leader. Newton Centre, MA: Robert K. Greenleaf Center.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977/2002). Servant-leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1996). The inner city church as servant to its community. In A. T. Fraker & L. C. Spears (Eds.), Seeker and servant: Reflections on religious leadership (pp. 257-273). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1996). The need for a theology of institutions. In A. T. Fraker & L. C. Spears (Eds.), Seeker and servant: Reflections on religious leadership (pp. 257-273). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1996). Spirituality as leadership. In A. T. Fraker & L. C. Spears (Eds.), Seeker and servant: Reflections on religious leadership (pp. 51-64). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Gundersen Lutheran Health System, & City of La Crosse, (2013). Powell-Hood-Hamilton/Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center: Joint neighborhood and campus plan. La Crosse, WI: Gundersen Lutheran Health System.

Gunderson, G. (1997). Deeply woven roots: Improving the quality of life in your community. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Holland, J., & Henriot, P. (1983). Social analysis: Linking faith and justice. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis.

Kirch, L. J., Anderson, M. L., & Cantellano, A. City of La Crosse Planning Department & Washburn Neighborhood Association, (2002). Washburn neighborhood plan (File No. 2002-06-029). Retrieved from City of La Crosse, WI website: http://www.cityoflacrosse.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/3659

Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. L. (1993). Building communities from the inside out: A path toward finding and mobilizing a community’s assets. Chicago, IL: ACTA Publications.

Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. L. (1996). Assets-based community development. National Civic Review, 85(4), 23. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9702111364&site=ehost-live

Marsden, L. (2012). Bush, Obama and a faith-based US foreign policy. International Affairs, 88(5), 953-974. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2346.2012.01113.x

McKnight, J., & Block, P. (2010). Abundant community. Leadership Excellence, 27(4), 5-6. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cpid&custid=s6222504&db=bth&AN=49008495&site=ehost-live&scope=site

McKnight, J., & Block, P. (2010). Abundant community. Personal Excellence, 15(5), 13-13. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cpid&custid=s6222504&db=bth&AN=50335904&site=ehost-live&scope=site

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

Olivier, J., Cochrane, J. R., & Schmid, B. (2006). ARHAP literature review: Working in a bounded field of unknowing. Cape Town, South Africa: African Religious Health Assets Programme. Retrieved from http://www.arhap.uct.ac.za/downloads/arhaplitreview_oct2006.pdf

Rohr, R. (2011). Falling upward: A spirituality for the two halves of life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sampson, R. J., & Graif, C. (2009). Neighborhood social capital as differential social organization: Resident and leadership dimensions. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(11), 1579-1605. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2009-10143-005&site=ehost-live

Smith, B. (1996). The problem drinker’s lived experience of suffering: A hermeneutic-phenomenological study. (Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Aberdeen).

Somerville, P., Van Beckhoven, E., & Van Kempen, R. (2009). The decline and rise of neighbourhoods: The importance of neighbourhood governance. European Journal of Housing Policy, 9(1), 25-44. doi:10.1080/14616710802693557

Sullivan, S., & Londre, A. (2013, April 21). Sara Sullivan and Andrew Londre: Three steps will help city’s neighborhoods. La Crosse Tribune. Retrieved from http://lacrossetribune.com/news/opinion/sara-sullivan-and-andrew-londre-three-steps-will-help-city/article_90b6396c-a93a-11e2-9f27-001a4bcf887a.html

Swinton, J., & Mowat, H. (2006). Practical theology and qualitative research. London, England: SCM Press.

Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. New York, NY: State University of New York Press.

Verter, B. (2002). Furthering the freedom struggle: Racial justice activism in the mainline churches since the civil rights era. In R. Wuthnow & J. H. Evans (Eds.), The quiet hand of God: Faith-based activism and the public role of mainline Protestantism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Wuthnow, R. (2002). Beyond quiet influence?: Possibilities for the Protestant mainline. In R. Wuthnow & J. H. Evans (Eds.), The quiet hand of God: Faith-based activism and the public role of mainline Protestantism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Wuthnow, R. (2004). Saving America?: Faith-based services and the future of civil society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Wuthnow, R., & Evans, J. H. (2002). Introduction. In R. Wuthnow & J. H. Evans (Eds.), The quiet hand of God: Faith-based activism and the public role of mainline Protestantism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Wuthnow, R., Hackett, C., & Hsu, B. Y. (2004). The effectiveness and trustworthiness of faith-based and other service organizations: A study of recipients’ perceptions. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 43(1), 1-17. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2004.00214.x

Websites

AMOS. (2012). AMOS…building a more just and compassionate community. Retrieved from http://www.amosgreatriver.org/

DigiSage, Inc. (2009). Our Savior’s Lutheran Church: Worship, serve, grow . Retrieved from http://www.oursaviorslutheranchurch.net/

FinalWeb. (2013). Share, nurture, glorify: Welcome to First Evangelical Lutheran Church and School. Retrieved from http://www.firstlacrosse.org/

Jobs for Life, Inc. (2011). Jobs for life: Building lives, one job at a time. Retrieved from http://www.jobsforlife.org/

Neighborhood City Church. (2013). Neighborhood City Church: Building Christ-centered, ethnically diverse, transforming community that the world might know that Jesus Christ is lord. Retrieved from http://www.citychurchlax.com/index.html

Image

Photo Credit: Neighborhood City Church, La Crosse, WI

There has been recent interest in revitalization efforts in the Washburn, Powell, Hood, and Hamilton (PHH) 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 review of the local literature, neighborhood planning efforts are focused on four areas:  safety/security, property improvement, public infrastructure improvement, and economic development (Burian, 2013; GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2013; Kirch, Anderson & Cantellano, 2002; 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), and the Washburn Neighborhood Plan (Kirch, Anderson & Cantellano, 2002) categorizes churches as “Places of Worship” in its neighborhood assets map, it is noted a detailed examination of the current place and future roles of these religious associations 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 this proposed research.  Greenleaf (1996) identifies religious associations and their leaders as having a distinct role in the social change process from impoverishment to abundance.  They are the vehicle that seeds abundance throughout communities by acknowledging the leadership of all, including the stranger, and developing that leadership.  This is done by helping the individual identify their personal assets, and connecting that individual with a community institution whose needs will be served by the emerging servant leader (Greenleaf, 1996).  It is also done with the hope the new leader will further seed abundance in the institution by helping others, and the institution itself, identify assets to be put into service (Greenleaf, 1996).  As the cycle of asset-naming and needs-connection replicates, a community grows in abundance.

This is where Greenleaf’s vision of religious congregations and leaders as servant leaders in neighborhood social change intersects with asset-based community development.  ABCD focuses on identifying assets to build upon as opposed to the traditional community development model where problems in need of fixing are identified (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  In Greenleaf’s (1996) essay, “The Inner City Church as Servant to Its Community”, he points to a key role of religious congregations as coordinating asset-mapping and development for the neighborhood.  Churches and religious leaders as servant leaders do not look for problems to solve, but instead look for goodness to lift up so all may access it.  The ABCD approach recognizes the gifts of even the most alienated communities.  It avoids belittling what may be an already struggling neighborhood in the effort to make it better, as can happen in traditional community development scenarios.  When ABCD research utilizes community members, in much the same way Greenleaf envisioned via neighborhood churches, the community as a whole is empowered in their abundance seeking. 

Sampson and Graif (2009) note the more disadvantaged a neighborhood community, the less involved residents become, with community leader involvement increasing.  They identify religious institutions as key community leaders in neighborhoods (Sampson & Graif, 2009), therefore religious congregations should already be deeply involved in supporting the Washburn-PHH neighborhoods being studied, and will be instrumental in future redevelopment efforts. According to Greenleaf (1996), these religious associations should be accustomed to identifying and developing assets.  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).  These properties and capacities are the intangible assets offered by churches to their membership and to those they serve in their neighborhoods.  Identifying the current tangible and intangible assets of religious congregations within the Washburn-PHH neighborhood will clarify areas for partnership, foundational assets to be built upon, and untapped assets that will help the neighborhoods grow in abundance.

Conceptual Definitions

While the notion of servant leadership has been practiced since biblical times, the concept as applied to institutions, organizations, and as an individual leadership style has only been of interest in recent history.  Greenleaf (1970, 1977) generalized this set of behaviors as a leader’s desire to be “servant first” rather than “leader first”, putting others’ needs before their own.  He expanded this leadership concept to organizations of all types including businesses, academic institutions, board of trustees, and religious associations (Greenleaf, 1970, 1977, 1996).

Greenleaf (1996) took special interest in reflecting upon the role of religious leaders and congregations as servant leaders, observing how the spiritual life intersects with business and society in meaningful and necessary ways.  He defined a church as any organization that effectively “nurture[s] the spirituality of individuals and model[s] for others as a serving institution” (Greenleaf, 1996, p. 55).  Likewise, Greenleaf identified religious leaders as anyone who has hope that: 1) all who suffer alienation can be helped to accept and nurture their inner servant; 2) all who lead can be helped to maintain a level of spirituality that buffers them from the stresses of leadership; and 3) are open to receive the gift of spiritual leadership in themselves and acknowledge it in others (Greenleaf, 1996).  From a servant leadership perspective, religious associations and their leaders have a distinct role in shaping culture and society (Greenleaf, 1996). 

Despite the fact there has been increasing interest over the last two decades in the role of faith-based organizations as social service providers in civil society (Wuthnow, 2004), the integral role of religious associations in these areas is often absent from crucial conversations outside of the religious realm, especially when it comes to community development and revitalization efforts.  This may be due to the low-key approach religious associations have in providing these services.  Chaves (2004) makes six claims about congregational social services from his work with the National Congregations Study: 1) congregations are involved in a peripheral way; 2) congregational involvement is through a small group of well-organized volunteers.; 3) congregations are involved in crisis management that involves minimal interaction with those being served; 4) congregational social services depend upon secular social services to exist; 5) congregational social service has never had more prominence than secular social services in society; and 6) congregational collaboration with government does not discourage the prophetic voice of these associations. Congregations do not garner the same amount of attention as other providers of social assets.  This fact is evidenced in the revitalization plans created for the neighborhoods included in this study (Gundersen Lutheran Health System & City of La Crosse, 2013; Kirch, Anderson, & Cantellano, 2002). 

Traditional neighborhood planning tends to be needs-driven as opposed to asset-based, creating the perception only resources from outside the community will solve community problems (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  If assets mapping is included in the neighborhood development process, churches are often lumped together as a whole with no explanation of the specific assets each congregation offers (GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2012), or they are simply recognized as various places of worship (Kirch, Anderson, & Cantellano, 2002).  The full range of tangible and intangible assets religious associations offer to neighborhoods is typically not identified in revitalization efforts.

Historically, churches have provided many tangible assets to the community in the areas of education, health care, and other social services.  According to Chaves (2004), food programs, housing programs, and programs aimed at children and students are the most common social services offered.  Few churches are intensely involved in offering these services on their own and either rely on, or partner with, secular associations (Chaves, 2004).

However there are many assets congregations provide in the dispensing of services that are not available when offered through secular agencies (Olivier, Cochrane & Schmid, 2006; Chaves, 2004).  These intangible assets are “the volitional, motivational and mobilizing capacities that are rooted in vital affective and symbolic dimensions of religious faith, belief and behavior” (Olivier, Cochrane & Schmid, 2006, p. 11).  They are provided through a holistic approach that is “relational, morally compelling, and personable; provides love, guidance, and friendship; and helps people transform their lives” (Chaves, 2004, p. 58).  Religious congregations play an essential role in neighborhood revitalization because of this layering of assets that can be further enhanced in the development of an abundant community through the empowerment of community servant leaders.  The following section looks at what others have learned about religious congregations and community assets.

Review of the Literature

Overview

      Change is inevitable.  It affects every aspect of our lives including the neighborhood communities of which we are a part.  According to Somerville, Van Beckhoven, & Van Kempen (2009) the primary source of neighborhood change is socio-economic factors mediated by the housing market and neighborhood relationships.  As a neighborhood community moves through its cycles of change it is important to have a holistic view of the neighborhood revitalization process in order to effectively move in positive directions.   This literature review will first look at what makes a community abundant, and then considers a method of community development oriented toward the features of abundant communities, namely, asset-based community development.  Next it will discuss the various types of assets an abundant community possesses, and then focus on religious congregations and the unique assets they provide a community, especially that of leadership development.  Finally, the review will look at the motivations behind neighborhood leadership and discuss how they align with the assets of religious organizations.

Abundant Communities

According to McKnight and Block (2012) an abundant community is a unique living organism.  There is no definitive blueprint for what constitutes an abundant community because it is not organized in a systematic way (McKnight & Block, 2012).  They are distinctive from other communities because “a competent community, one that takes advantage of its abundance, admits the realities of the human condition and the truth of the decay, restoration, and growth processes that are a part of every living system.  Variety, uniqueness, and appreciation for the one-of-a-kind are its essence” (McKnight & Block, 2012, p. 65).

However certain generalizations can be made about communities where abundance is a focus, creating a stabilizing effect as the neighborhood moves through its cycles of change.  McKnight and Block (2012) describe abundant communities as places where physical and social environments are supportive of individual health outside of medical systems; they are stewards of the land they occupy and of the food they eat in ways that further support the health of citizens; they are safe and secure communities because neighbors know each other by name and spend time outside their homes, with some of this time spent in developing the local economy either by providing goods and services in the community or by shopping at neighborhood businesses;  they care for each other; they care for their children and their elders as their own and there is no need to outsource care to agencies or systems.  The residents of neighborhoods where these elements exist are generally satisfied with their community life in such a way that these assets can be further built upon (McKnight & Block, 2012).

According to McKnight and Block (2012) the satisfaction with these tangible assets comes from a set of organizing principles for achieving community competence: focus on member gifts, nurture of associational life, and hospitality to strangers, with these properties creating a community environment where certain capacities are created within families and neighborhoods:  kindness, generosity, cooperation, forgiveness, acceptance of fallibility, and mystery.  These properties and capacities are a way of being in community that facilitates participation in tangible asset development, and measures to support this way of being augment communal satisfaction (McKnight & Block, 2012).

Unfortunately few neighborhoods recognize the communal assets in their midst because of the traditional way of addressing development as a neighborhood changes and grows.  In the next section we discuss concerns with the most common approach to community development and describe an alternative that promotes community healing from within.

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD)

Traditional methods of community revitalization focus on neighborhood deficiencies.  According to Kretzmann and McKnight (1993), these deficiencies represent only part of the truth about neighborhood, “but they are not regarded as part of the truth; they are regarded as the whole truth” (p. 2) when doing community development. This tendency creates a downward spiral of negative consequences for the community.  It disassociates residents from the development process, making them believe they are fundamentally deficient and incapable of providing for their own future change.  They become victimized, relying on outside experts to fix problems instead of working together to problem solve (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993).  This dissociative effect is corroborated in a study by Sampson & Graif (2009) showing residents of disadvantaged communities as less involved in community life than those confident in their resources. 

Kretzmann and McKnight (1993) identify further consequences from outsourcing services due to needs-based development strategies.  Outside experts tend to view the neighborhood as a list of problems instead of a cohesive whole, causing a fragmentation of efforts that further complicate the community’s ability to problem-solve together.  Available funding is routed to these outside service providers instead of to the community directly.  In order to procure this funding, community leaders are forced to denigrate the neighborhood by highlighting problems instead of strengths, and problems must continue to worsen in order to obtain repeat funding.  Bonds within the community are further weakened with the persistent focus on deficits and dependency on service relationships from outside.   Needs-mapping tends to focus services towards individual clients instead of community development as a whole which creates a cycle of never-ending need throughout the community.  The traditional needs-based approach to community development provides a maintenance strategy at best (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993).

An alternative approach is asset or capacity-based community development.  This focuses on identifying the gifts and positive relationships existing on the individual, associational, and institutional levels of a local community (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  Other scholars have attempted to further refine this analytical framework by further differentiating these levels into the domains of education, religion, business, politics, law enforcement, and community organizations along with individuals such as long-time residents, youth club/gang leaders, and youth mentors (Sampson and Graif, 2009).  According to Kretzmann and McKnight (1996), “historic evidence indicates that significant community development takes place only when local community people are committed to investing themselves and their resources in the effort” (p. 25).  ABCD researchers acknowledge outside resources may be needed at times, but they are only truly successful when assisting communities in developing their own assets (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).

The ABCD approach can be characterized in three ways.  First, it takes into account community strengths as opposed to weaknesses.  Policies and decisions are based on the good the community has to offer instead of what is wrong with the neighborhood (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  Secondly, it is internally focused so that agenda building and problem solving are done on a local level instead of by outside experts.  If outside resources are needed they work in a way that supports local definition, investment, creativity, hope, and control (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  Finally, it is a relationship-driven process.  Building partnerships, networks, and other connections between all levels of community life and their assets is at the heart of the asset-based approach (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996). 

This process is more than just an inventory of services offered within the community however.  While tangible assets are the easiest to identify, and therefore the typical focus of assets-mapping, there are many other capacities of a more intangible nature that are often overlooked in the process.  In the next section we tangible and intangible assets and how they are both an important part of the asset-mapping process will be discussed.

Tangible and Intangible Assets

The unique assets a community has to offer its residents are as varied as the communities themselves.  On a surface level it would appear the identification of these assets can be accomplished by a simple walking tour of the neighborhood or surveying the phone book.  These strategies are part of the typical asset analysis and result in detailed lists of businesses, institutions, and the services they offer within the neighborhood.  However communities offer other, less tangible assets that are equally important in supporting an abundant community.

There is a growing body of research in the field of global health that is evaluating the impact tangible and intangible assets of religious associations have on the communities of which they are a part (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006).  While the African Religious Health Assets Programme (ARHAP) research is based in sub-Saharan Africa, the conceptualization is rooted in the asset-based community development of the United States, particularly in the work of Kretzmann and McKnight (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006).  Tangible religious assets include facilities such as schools, clinics, and places of worship, and services such as food pantries, clothes closets, and childcare (McKnight & Block, 2012; Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006).  Intangible assets are the unseen “volitional, motivational and mobilizing capacities” that come from performing service, receiving an education, changing behavior for the positive, and engaging in religious belief and practice, that when present can have tremendous effect on the development of abundant community (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006, p. 11). 

McKnight and Block (2012) group intangible assets together in what they term the capacities of an abundant – or competent – community, and are individually identified as kindness, generosity, cooperation, forgiveness, fallibility, and mystery.  According to McKnight & Block (2012), “capacities reside in individuals and can be nurtured to exist in the collective.  They are the core elements that need to be visible and manifest to create an abundant community, and a family and neighborhood to function” (p. 83-84).  While this analysis is of a more secular vane as compared to that of ARHAP, the transferability of these six capacities to religious associations is quite apparent. 

Religious congregations are natural community hubs for assets of all types, especially those of an intangible nature, of which churches may be a particularly powerful source.  Because of this they play an essential role in neighborhood revitalization and development.  The following section will look at the role of religious associations in neighborhood communities through the lens of servant leadership.

Religious Associations in Neighborhoods

Asset-based community development research has identified religious associations as serving an important role in neighborhood revitalization efforts due to the tangible and intangible assets they offer the community (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006).   From the servant leadership perspective, in Greenleaf’s (1996) essay, “The Inner City Church as Servant to Its Community”, it is proposed that churches act as mediating institutions, connecting individual community member strengths with neighborhood needs by developing trustees for their non-profit institutions.  He suggests congregations become actively involved in the community building process in order to know neighborhood institutions and their trustees on a personal level so they can more easily anticipate needs and make connections (Greenleaf, 1996).  At the same time Greenleaf (1996) warns “it is important for a pastor to strive to make his or her contribution in a way that strengthens, rather than diminishes, the ability of neighborhood people to help themselves and to evolve strong leaders for their institutions” (p. 265).

One way this is accomplished is by religious associations taking on the mission of developing community leaders.  Greenleaf (1996) explains, “one measure of the center city church as servant to its community is how well it nurtures men and women who will lead, or otherwise influence, the center city neighborhood institutions they are involved in, to the end that those institutions are effective as servants to every person they touch” (p. 260).  Churches nurture community leaders by empowering them to create, inspire, persuade, and persevere as servants (Greenleaf, 1996).  This is primarily done by mentoring residents as trustees in the hope they will lead institutions to respond to community needs with vision (intangible assets) as opposed to simply listing services (tangible assets) (Greenleaf, 1996). 

In the end a religious association’s ultimate goal is to develop a sense of vocational calling in an expanded “priesthood” of community leaders (Greenleaf, 1996).  In doing so, the “church achieves servanthood to its neighborhood by being servant to those who are servants to the neighborhood’s institutions, their trustees” (Greenleaf, 1996, p. 272-273).  The final section considers how this sense of vocation is expressed in leadership motivations.

Leadership Motivations

According to Rich (1980), traditional leadership theories hypothesize people become neighborhood leaders because the benefits outweigh the costs of leadership.  Benefits include “welfare goods”, material goods or compensation that come with leadership; “deference goods”, psychological gratification such as increase self-esteem and respect; and “collective goods”, benefits shared by the community such as garbage removal.  Leaders are motivated by access to a surplus in welfare goods, receiving notoriety in the community for their leadership, and access to the collective goods for which the association advocates – all self-serving motivations for leadership (Rich, 1980).

 However Rich’s (1980) case study analysis revealed a very different set of motivations for those accepting neighborhood leadership.  Most leaders are motivated by deference benefits and do not self-report welfare goods as primary benefits to leadership (Rich, 1980).  Satisfaction with the results of their leadership, as opposed to material compensation, is what motivates them to continue on (Rich, 1980).  This satisfaction does not come from others affirming their role as leader, but from their personal values and their calling to community service (Rich, 1980).

People become neighborhood leaders not for self-serving reasons, but because they want to serve their communities (Greenleaf, 1996; Rich, 1980).  They access intangible assets, such as psychic gratification and pleasure in a job done well; as they help others access tangible assets or collective goods (Rich, 1980).  According to Rich (1980), “these benefits are available to them only because they feel an ethical commitment to serve the community and find fulfilling that commitment rewarding” (p. 579). 

Conclusion

Abundant communities contain all of the resources necessary to meet the ongoing and changing needs of the community.  These resources include the visible, tangible assets that meet neighborhood needs in practical ways, as well as intangible assets that are not so easy to identify, but absolutely necessary in developing holistic communities.  Neighborhood religious associations are an untapped resource for all types of community assets.  They have a long history of providing tangible assets to their communities; however explorations into the intangible assets congregations hold is an emerging field in community development.  Greenleaf (1996) theorized about the role of churches in neighborhood communities, and identified leadership development, which infuses emerging leaders with the intangible assets offered by the congregation, as being their primary function.  The Rich (1980) study supports Greenleaf’s (1996) contention by demonstrating neighborhood leaders are motivated to lead by a calling to serve, as opposed to desiring compensation or notoriety.  Developing neighborhood servant leadership is essential to developing competent communities and this is best accomplished by religious associations because of their access to tangible and intangible assets.
           

The power of community assets is at the core of the literature reviewed.  An abundant community is characterized by its focus on and development of these assets.  Minimal time is spent looking at community deficiencies because the community trusts these weaknesses will be addressed by bolstering asset networks.  Asset-based community development takes its cues from what abundant communities already know.  Instead of accessing community problems as is done in traditional community development processes, ABCD maps the assets in order to better connect them with community needs.  Communities find their power not only in the practical assets they offer to help their residents from within, but most especially from the good that comes from being a part of a caring community, an asset unto itself.  Religious associations understand well how this interplay between tangible and intangible assets builds the power of their community life.  They can be of best service to their communities by developing leaders to go into the neighborhood with this asset-based way of thinking.  Finally, the Rich (1980) study shows that assets motivate people into leadership, but not the sort of assets expected.  Leaders are motivated in their work not by their personal access to tangible assets, but to all the intangible assets received in being of service to others.

More research is needed into intangible assets.  These assets seem to provide the connective power that ties neighborhoods to their tangible assets in a way that the community grows in abundance.  Available research in this area is slim, and there is disagreement in the research that does exist (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006) because of the fact these assets are intangible, invisible, hard to identify, and difficult to name.  They are not concrete, but more akin to the spiritual and therefore difficult to empirically analyze.  The proposed research will attempt to identify the intangible assets held by the religious associations in the Washburn, Powell, Hood, and Hamilton neighborhoods of La Crosse, Wisconsin.  This will add to the body of community asset research with the hopes it can be applied for future community development.

Method

The methodology of this hermeneutic phenomenological study is to harvest and digest the stories of 6-10 leaders of religious congregations in the Washburn-PHH neighborhoods, and identify the tangible assets offered by the churches to the neighborhood community.  A deeper exploration of these service stories will begin to reveal the intangible assets associated with these religious congregations as well.  The research questions that provide the framework for this study are:

  1.  What tangible assets do religious associations located within the Washburn, Powell, Hood, and Hamilton neighborhoods of La Crosse, Wisconsin provide to those communities?
  2. What intangible assets are offered to these neighborhood communities through the services provided by these congregations?
  3. How can this religious asset-mapping be of service in community development and revitalization efforts?

A hermeneutic phenomenological qualitative study will identify the tangible and intangible assets offered by religious congregations through the perspective of the community’s religious leader.  Phenomenology is “a philosophy of experience that attempts to understand the ways in which meaning is constructed in and through human experience” (Swinton & Mowat, 2006, p. 106).  Hermeneutics “has to do with the ways in which human beings interpret and make sense of the world” (Swinton & Mowat, 2006, p. 107).  Intangible assets are the meaning constructed in and through the human experience of tangible assets, which the researcher will interpret in an effort to make sense of constructive ways they can be utilized in revitalization efforts.

The research design approach used in this study is an adaptation of a framework proposed by Swinton and Mowat (2006) that is based on the work of Smith(1996), Diekelmann et al. (1989), and Van Manen (1990).  First, interviews will be conducted using phenomenological principles.  They will be digitally recorded and transcribed into a text format.  Then the researcher will thoroughly familiarize with the texts, and use lectio divina to distill the texts into themes and concepts.  The researcher then uses dialogical reflection to authenticate the themes to the texts in order to develop a deepening meaning from the qualitative interviews. Next, a thematic analysis is conducted connecting various themes with illustrative text extracts in narrative form.  These thematized narratives are then shared with research participants, as well as expert qualitative researchers, for validation.  These validated texts will then have further interpretation done by the researcher through comparison and contrast in search of unifying patterns.  These individual thematic texts are then merged together into a final account.  This final account is presented to the research participant group so their reactions to the document can be incorporated into the final draft.

 

References

Burian, H. (2013, April 13). Community looks to ReNEW Powell-Hood-Hamilton. WXOW News19. Retrieved from http://www.wxow.com/story/21971407/2013/04/13/community-looks-to-renew-powell-hood-hamilton

Chaves, M. (2004). Congregations in america. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=282062&site=ehost-live

Diekelmann, N., Allen, D., & Tanner, C. (1989). The NLN criteria for the appraisal of baccalaureate programmes: A critical hermeneutical analysis. In N. Diekelmann & D. Allen (Eds.), The NLN criteria for appraisal of baccalaureate programmes: A critical hermeneutical analysis. New York, NY: NLN Press.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1970). The servant as leader. Newton Centre, MA: Robert K. Greenleaf Center.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977/2002). Servant-leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1996). The inner city church as servant to its community. In A. T. Fraker & L. C. Spears (Eds.), Seeker and servant: Reflections on religious leadership (pp. 257-273). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1996). Spirituality as leadership. In A. T. Fraker & L. C. Spears (Eds.), Seeker and servant: Reflections on religious leadership (pp. 51-64). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Gundersen Lutheran Health System, & City of La Crosse, (2013). Powell-Hood-Hamilton/Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center: Joint neighborhood and campus plan. La Crosse, WI: Gundersen Lutheran Health System.

Kirch, L. J., Anderson, M. L., & Cantellano, A. City of La Crosse Planning Department & Washburn Neighborhood Association, (2002). Washburn neighborhood plan (File No. 2002-06-029). Retrieved from City of La Crosse, WI website: http://www.cityoflacrosse.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/3659

Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. L. (1993). Building communities from the inside out: A path toward finding and mobilizing a community’s assets. Chicago, IL: ACTA Publications.

Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. L. (1996). Assets-based community development. National Civic Review, 85(4), 23. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9702111364&site=ehost-live

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

Olivier, J., Cochrane, J. R., & Schmid, B. (2006). ARHAP literature review: Working in abounded field of unknowing. Cape Town, South Africa: African Religious Health Assets Programme. Retrieved from http://www.arhap.uct.ac.za/downloads/arhaplitreview_oct2006.pdf

Purdue, D. (2005). Community leadership cycles and the consolidation of neighbourhood coalitions in the new local governance. Public Management Review, 7(2), 247-266. doi:10.1080/14719030500091418

Rich, R. C. (1980). The dynamics of leadership in neighborhood organizations. Social Science Quarterly (University of Texas Press), 60(4), 570-587. Retrieved from  http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=16561055&site=ehost-live

Sampson, R. J., & Graif, C. (2009). Neighborhood social capital as differential social organization: Resident and leadership dimensions. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(11), 1579-1605. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2009-10143-005&site=ehost-live

Smith, B. (1996). The problem drinker’s lived experience of suffering: A hermeneutic-phenomenological study. (Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Aberdeen).

Somerville, P., Van Beckhoven, E., & Van Kempen, R. (2009). The decline and rise of neighbourhoods: The importance of neighbourhood governance. European Journal of Housing Policy, 9(1), 25-44. doi:10.1080/14616710802693557

Sullivan, S., & Londre, A. (2013, April 21). Sara Sullivan and Andrew Londre: Three steps will help city’s neighborhoods. La Crosse Tribune. Retrieved from http://lacrossetribune.com/news/opinion/sara-sullivan-and-andrew-londre-three-steps-will-help-city/article_90b6396c-a93a-11e2-9f27-001a4bcf887a.html

Swinton, J., & Mowat, H. (2006). Practical theology and qualitative research. London, England: SCM Press.

Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. New York, NY: State University of New York Press.

Wuthnow, R. (2004). Saving America?: Faith-based services and the future of civil society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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Conceptual Definition

While the notion of servant leadership has been practiced since biblical times, the concept as applied to institutions, organizations, and as an individual leadership style has only been of interest in recent history.  Greenleaf (1970, 1977) generalized this set of behaviors as a leader’s desire to be “servant first” rather than “leader first”, putting others’ needs before their own.  He expanded this leadership concept to organizations of all types including businesses, academic institutions, board of trustees, and religious associations (Greenleaf, 1970, 1977, 1996).

Greenleaf (1996) took special interest in reflecting upon the role of religious leaders and congregations as servant leaders, observing how the spiritual life intersects with business and society in meaningful and necessary ways.  He defined a church as any organization that effectively “nurture[s] the spirituality of individuals and model[s] for others as a serving institution” (Greenleaf, 1996, p. 55).  Likewise, Greenleaf identified religious leaders as anyone who has hope that: 1) all who suffer alienation can be helped to accept and nurture their inner servant; 2) all who lead can be helped to maintain a level of spirituality that buffers them from the stresses of leadership; and 3) are open to receive the gift of spiritual leadership in themselves and acknowledge it in others (Greenleaf, 1996).  From a servant leadership perspective, religious associations and their leaders have a distinct role in shaping culture and society (Greenleaf, 1996).

Yet the integral role of religious leadership in these areas is often absent from crucial conversations outside of the religious realm, especially when it comes to community development and revitalization efforts (Gundersen Lutheran Health System & City of La Crosse, 2013; Kirch, Anderson, & Cantellano, 2002).  Traditional neighborhood planning tends to be needs-driven as opposed to asset-based, creating the perception only resources from outside the community will solve community problems (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  If assets mapping is included in the neighborhood development process, churches are often lumped together as a whole with no explanation of the specific assets each congregation offers (GLHS & City of La Crosse, 2012), or they are simply recognized as various places of worship (Kirch, Anderson, & Cantellano, 2002).  The full range of tangible and intangible assets religious associations offer to neighborhoods is typically not identified in revitalization efforts.

Historically, churches have provided many tangible assets to the community in the areas of education, health care, and social services (Chaves, 2004).  However there are many assets congregations provide in the dispensing of these services that are not available when offered through secular agencies (Olivier, Cochrane & Schmid, 2006).  These intangible assets are “the volitional, motivational and mobilizing capacities that are rooted in vital affective and symbolic dimensions of religious faith, belief and behavior” (Olivier, Cochrane & Schmid, 2006, p. 11).  Religious congregations play a vital role in neighborhood revitalization because of this layering of assets that can be further enhanced in the development of an abundant community.

Review of the Literature

            Change is inevitable.  It affects every aspect of our lives including the neighborhood communities of which we are a part.  According to Somerville, Van Beckhoven, & Van Kempen (2009) the primary source of neighborhood change is socio-economic factors mediated by the housing market and neighborhood relationships.  As a neighborhood community moves through its cycles of change it is important to have a holistic view of the neighborhood revitalization process in order to effectively move in positive directions.   First we will look at what makes a community abundant, and then consider the best method of community development that supports the building of abundant communities.  Next we will discuss the various types of assets an abundant community possesses.  We will then focus in on religious congregations and the unique assets they provide a community, especially that of leadership development.  Finally, we will look at the motivations behind neighborhood leadership and discuss how they align with the assets of religious organizations.

Abundant Communities

According to McKnight and Block (2012) an abundant community is a unique living organism.  There is no definitive blueprint for what constitutes an abundant community because it is not organized in a systematic way (McKnight & Block, 2012).  “A competent community, one that takes advantage of its abundance, admits the realities of the human condition and the truth of the decay, restoration, and growth processes that are a part of every living system.  Variety, uniqueness, and appreciation for the one-of-a-kind are its essence” (McKnight & Block, 2012, p. 65).

However certain generalizations can be made about communities where abundance is a focus, creating a stabilizing effect as the neighborhood moves through its cycles of change.  These neighborhoods provide a physical and social environment supportive of individual health outside of medical systems (McKnight & Block, 2012).  Abundant communities are stewards of the land they occupy and of the food they eat in ways that further support the health of its citizens (McKnight & Block, 2012).  They are safe and secure communities because neighbors know each other by name and spend time outside their homes (McKnight & Block, 2012).   Some of this time is spent in developing the local economy either by providing goods and services in the community or by shopping at neighborhood businesses (McKnight & Block, 2012).  Abundant communities care for each other.  They care for their children and their elders as their own and there is no need to outsource care to agencies or systems (McKnight & Block, 2012).  The residents of neighborhoods where these elements exist are generally satisfied with their community life in such a way that these assets can be further built upon.

The satisfaction with these tangible assets comes from a set of organizing principles for achieving community competence: focus on member gifts, nurture of associational life, and hospitality to strangers (McKnight & Block, 2012).  These properties create a community environment where certain capacities are created within families and neighborhoods:  kindness, generosity, cooperation, forgiveness, acceptance of fallibility, and mystery (McKnight & Block, 2012).  These properties and capacities are a way of being in community that facilitates participation in tangible asset development, and measures to support this way of being augment communal satisfaction (McKnight & Block, 2012).

Unfortunately few neighborhoods recognize the communal assets in their midst because of the traditional way of addressing development as a neighborhood changes and grows.  In the next section we discuss concerns with the most common approach to community development and propose an alternative that promotes community healing from within.

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD)

Traditional methods of community revitalization focus on neighborhood deficiencies.  Needs-driven community development ignores communal assets and capacities, and focuses instead on problems to be solved (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  This approach to neighborhood regeneration disassociates residents from the development process and relies on outside experts to fix problems while forcing local community leadership to denigrate the community in order to attract resources (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  This dissociative effect was corroborated in a study by Sampson & Graif (2009) showing residents of disadvantaged communities as less involved in community life than those confident in their assets.  Because of the negative effects needs-mapping generates, an alternative method to neighborhood revitalization is recommended.

One such alternative is asset or capacity-based community development.  This focuses on identifying the gifts and positive relationships existing on the individual, associational, and institutional levels of a local community (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  In their research on social capital, Sampson & Graif (2009) further differentiate these levels into the domains of education, religion, business, politics, law enforcement, and community organizations along with individuals such as long-time residents, youth club/gang leaders, and youth mentors.  According to Kretzmann and McKnight (1996), “historic evidence indicates that significant community development takes place only when local community people are committed to investing themselves and their resources in the effort” (p. 25). Necessary outside resources are successful when assisting communities in developing their own assets.

The ABCD approach can be characterized in three ways.  First, it takes into account community strengths as opposed to weaknesses.  Policies and decisions are based on the good the community has to offer instead of what is wrong with the neighborhood (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  Secondly, it is internally focused so that agenda building and problem solving are done on a local level instead of by outside experts.  If outside resources are needed they work in a way that supports local definition, investment, creativity, hope, and control (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).  Finally, it is a relationship-driven process.  Building partnerships, networks, and other connections between all levels of community life and their assets is at the heart of the asset-based approach (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1996).

This process is more than just an inventory of services offered within the community however.  While tangible assets are the easiest to identify, and therefore the typical focus of assets-mapping, there are many other capacities of a more intangible nature that are often overlooked in the process.  In the next section we discuss tangible and intangible assets, and how they are both an important part of the asset-mapping process.

Tangible and Intangible Assets

The unique assets a community has to offer its residents are as varied as the communities themselves.  On a surface level it would appear the identification of these assets can be accomplished by a simple walking tour of the neighborhood or surveying the phone book.  These strategies are part of the typical asset analysis and result in detailed lists of businesses, institutions, and the services they offer within the neighborhood.  However communities offer other, less tangible assets that are equally important in supporting an abundant community.

There is a growing body of research in the field of global health that is evaluating the impact tangible and intangible assets of religious associations have on the communities of which they are a part (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006).  While the African Religious Health Assets Programme (ARHAP) research is based in sub-Saharan Africa, the conceptualization is rooted in the asset-based community development of the United States, particularly in the work of Kretzmann and McKnight (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006).  Tangible religious assets include facilities such as schools, clinics, and places of worship, and services such as food pantries, clothes closets, and childcare (McKnight & Block, 2012; Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006).  Intangible assets are the unseen “volitional, motivational and mobilizing capacities” that come from performing service, receiving an education, changing behavior for the positive, and engaging in religious belief and practice, that when understood and utilized can have tremendous effect on the development of abundant community (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006, p. 11).

McKnight and Block (2012) group intangible assets together in what they term the capacities of an abundant – or competent – community, and are individually identified as kindness, generosity, cooperation, forgiveness, fallibility, and mystery.  According to McKnight & Block (2012), “capacities reside in individuals and can be nurtured to exist in the collective.  They are the core elements that need to be visible and manifest to create an abundant community, and a family and neighborhood to function” (p. 83-84).  While this analysis is of a more secular vane as compared to that of ARHAP, the transferability of these six capacities to religious associations is quite apparent.

Religious congregations are natural community hubs for assets of all types.  Because of this they play an essential role in neighborhood revitalization and development.  In the following section we will look at the role of religious associations in neighborhood communities through the lens of servant leadership.

Religious Associations in Neighborhoods

Asset-based community development research has identified religious associations as serving an important role in neighborhood revitalization efforts due to the tangible and intangible assets they offer the community (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006).   Greenleaf (1996) proposes that churches act as mediating institutions, connecting individual community member assets with neighborhood needs.  He suggests congregations become actively involved in the asset mapping process in order to know neighborhood institutions and their trustees on a personal level so they can more easily make these connections (Greenleaf, 1996).  At the same time Greenleaf (1996) warns “it is important for a pastor to strive to make his or her contribution in a way that strengthens, rather than diminishes, the ability of neighborhood people to help themselves and to evolve strong leaders for their institutions” (p. 265).

One way this is accomplished is by religious associations taking on the mission of developing community leaders.  Greenleaf (1996) explains, “one measure of the center city church as servant to its community is how well it nurtures men and women who will lead, or otherwise influence, the center city neighborhood institutions they are involved in, to the end that those institutions are effective as servants to every person they touch” (p. 260).  Churches nurture community leaders by empowering them to create, inspire, persuade, and persevere as servants (Greenleaf, 1996).  This is primarily done by mentoring residents as trustees in the hope they will lead institutions to respond to community needs with vision (intangible assets) as opposed to simply listing services (tangible assets) (Greenleaf, 1996).

In the end a religious association’s ultimate goal is to develop a sense of vocational calling in an expanded “priesthood” of community leaders (Greenleaf, 1996).  In doing so, the “church achieves servanthood to its neighborhood by being servant to those who are servants to the neighborhood’s institutions, their trustees” (Greenleaf, 1996, p. 272-273).  In the final section we consider how this sense of vocation is expressed in leadership motivations.

Leadership Motivations

Traditional leadership theories hypothesize people become neighborhood leaders because the benefits outweigh the costs of leadership.  Benefits include “welfare goods”, material goods or compensation that come with leadership; “deference goods”, psychological gratification such as increase self-esteem and respect; and “collective goods”, benefits shared by the community such as garbage removal.  Leaders are motivated by access to a surplus in welfare goods, receiving notoriety in the community for their leadership, and access to the collective goods for which the association advocates – all self-serving motivations for leadership.

However Rich’s (1980) case study analysis revealed a very different set of motivations for those accepting neighborhood leadership.  Most leaders are motivated by deference benefits and do not self-report welfare goods as primary benefits to leadership (Rich, 1980).  Satisfaction with the results of their leadership, as opposed to material compensation, is what motivates them to continue on (Rich, 1980).  This satisfaction does not come from others affirming their role as leader, but from their personal values and their calling to community service (Rich, 1980).

People become neighborhood leaders not for self-serving reasons, but because they want to serve their communities (Greenleaf, 1996; Rich, 1980).  They access intangible assets, such as psychic gratification and pleasure in a job done well; as they help others access tangible assets or collective goods (Rich, 1980).  According to Rich (1980), “these benefits are available to them only because they feel an ethical commitment to serve the community and find fulfilling that commitment rewarding” (p. 579).

Conclusion

Abundant communities contain all of the resources necessary to meet the ongoing and changing needs of the community.  These resources include the visible, tangible assets that meet neighborhood needs in practical ways, as well as intangible assets that are not so easy to identify, but absolutely necessary in developing holistic communities.  Neighborhood religious associations are an untapped resource for all types of community assets.  They have a long history of providing tangible assets to their communities; however explorations into the intangible assets congregations hold is an emerging field in community development.  Greenleaf (1996) theorized about the role of churches in neighborhood communities, and identified leadership development, which infuses emerging leaders with the intangible assets offered by the congregation, as being their primary function.  The Rich (1980) study supports Greenleaf’s (1996) contention by demonstrating neighborhood leaders are motivated to lead by a calling to serve, as opposed to desiring compensation or notoriety.  Developing neighborhood servant leadership is essential to developing competent communities and this is best accomplished by religious associations because of their access to tangible and intangible assets.

The power of community assets is at the core of the literature reviewed.  An abundant community is characterized by its focus on and development of these assets.  Minimal time is spent looking at community deficiencies because the community trusts these weaknesses will be addressed by bolstering asset networks.  Asset-based community development takes its cues from what abundant communities already know.  Instead of accessing community problems as is done in traditional community development processes, ABCD maps the assets in order to better connect them with community needs.  Communities find their power not only in the practical assets they offer to help their residents from within, but also most especially from the good that comes from being a part of a caring community, an asset unto itself.  Religious associations understand well how this interplay between tangible and intangible assets builds the power of their community life.  They can be of best service to their communities by developing leaders to go into the neighborhood with this asset-based way of thinking.  Finally, the Rich (1980) study shows that assets motivate people into leadership, but not the sort of assets expected.  Leaders are motivated in their work not by their personal access to tangible assets, but to all the intangible assets received in being of service to others.

More research is needed into intangible assets.  These assets seem to provide the connective power that ties neighborhoods to their tangible assets in a way that the community grows in abundance.  There is not much research in this area, and disagreement in the research that does exist (Olivier, Cochrane, & Schmid, 2006) because of the fact these assets are intangible, invisible, hard to identify, and difficult to name.  They are not concrete, but more akin to the spiritual and therefore difficult to empirically analyze.  The proposed research will attempt to identify the intangible assets held by the religious associations in the Washburn, Powell, Hood, and Hamilton neighborhoods of La Crosse, Wisconsin.  This will add to the body of community asset research with the hopes it can be applied for future community development.

 References

Chaves, M. (2004). Congregations in america. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Retrieved fromhttp://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=282062&site=ehost-live

Greenleaf, R. K. (1970). The servant as leader. Newton Centre, MA: Robert K. Greenleaf Center.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977/2002). Servant-leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1996). A. T. Fraker & L. C. Spears (Eds.), Seeker and servant: Reflections on religious leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Gundersen Lutheran Health System, & City of La Crosse, (2013). Powell-Hood-Hamilton/Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center: Joint neighborhood and campus plan. La Crosse, WI: Gundersen Lutheran Health System.

Kirch, L. J., Anderson, M. L., & Cantellano, A. City of La Crosse Planning Department & Washburn Neighborhood Association, (2002). Washburn neighborhood plan (File No. 2002-06-029). Retrieved from City of La Crosse, WI website: http://www.cityoflacrosse.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/3659

Kretzmann, J., & McKnight, J. P. (1996). Assets-based community development. National Civic Review, 85(4), 23. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9702111364&site=ehost-live

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

Olivier, J., Cochrane, J. R., & Schmid, B. (2006). ARHAP literature review: Working in abounded field of unknowing. Cape Town, South Africa: African Religious Health Assets Programme. Retrieved from http://www.arhap.uct.ac.za/downloads/arhaplitreview_oct2006.pdf

Purdue, D. (2005). Community leadership cycles and the consolidation of neighbourhood coalitions in the new local governance. Public Management Review, 7(2), 247-266. doi:10.1080/14719030500091418

Rich, R. C. (1980). The dynamics of leadership in neighborhood organizations. Social Science Quarterly (University of Texas Press), 60(4), 570-587. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=16561055&site=ehost-live

Sampson, R. J., & Graif, C. (2009). Neighborhood social capital as differential social

organization: Resident and leadership dimensions. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(11), 1579-1605. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2009-10143-005&site=ehost-live

Somerville, P., Van Beckhoven, E., & Van Kempen, R. (2009). The decline and rise of neighbourhoods: The importance of neighbourhood governance. European Journal of Housing Policy, 9(1), 25-44. doi:10.1080/14616710802693557

Relationships between Servant Leadership and Conflict Management Style

Krista S. Clements Orlan and Adele V. DiNatale-Svetnicka

Viterbo University

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Abstract

Servant leadership has been gaining speed as a desired leadership form since its introduction in the 1970s by Robert Greenleaf. With the characteristics of servant leadership focusing on the employee rather than the leader, (Greenleaf, 1970) it seems logical that servant leadership would be desired to successfully manage conflict in the work place. However, limited research exists on servant leadership’s effect on conflict management strategies in the work place. This study sought to provide empirical research demonstrating that servant leadership positively correlates with collaborative, accommodating, and compromising conflict management strategies while negatively correlating with competitive and avoidance conflict management strategies.                                                                                  

Surveys of servant leadership and conflict management attitudes, both utilizing the Likert-type format were received from 94 subjects in and around the campus of Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The results show servant leadership has a significant positive relationship with compromising and collaborative styles while there were no relationships supported with either avoidance or accommodating styles. The results indicate servant leadership having a significant negative relationship with competition but it is regarded cautiously with .68 reliability.

Keywords: servant leadership, conflict management styles, avoidance, compromise, accommodation, collaboration, competition


 

Relationships between Servant Leadership and Conflict Management Style

Conflict occurs everywhere, and the business or organizational setting is no exception. Different personalities and experiences lead to a variety of styles used to manage conflict; not all of them conducive to a productive and pleasant work environment. While much information is available on conflict management behaviors, there have not been a great number of studies on servant leadership’s affect on conflict management styles. By bringing servant leadership practices to conflict management styles, the consideration and development of the individual is considered as foundational to attaining a satisfactory resolution with any conflict.

Successful conflict resolution is beneficial for an organization as it positively affects job clarification, job satisfaction, and therefore better job performance. This led to our study of five research hypotheses: 1) Servant leadership is negatively related to competitive styles of conflict management; 2) Servant leadership is negatively correlated to avoidance styles of conflict management; 3) Servant leadership is positively related to collaborative styles of conflict management; 4) Servant leadership is positively correlated to accommodating styles of conflict management; 5) Servant leadership is positively related to compromising styles of conflict management.

Review of the Literature

Overview

Our study considers the relationship between the variables of servant leadership and conflict management.  First we examined published literature about servant leadership in regards to organizational practice, and then explored the understood dynamics of conflict management in the workplace. 

Servant Leadership (SL)

While the notion of servant leadership has been practiced since biblical times, the concept as a distinct management style has only been of interest in recent history.  Greenleaf (1970, 1977) generalized this set of behaviors as a leader’s desire to be “servant first” rather than “leader first”, putting others’ needs before their own.  The field of servant leadership has grown over the years with a deepening understanding around the theological and philosophical implications, while empirically based studies linking servant leadership to business practice have emerged only recently.

Current studies show servant leadership positively impacts employee performance and workplace behaviors (Al-Sharafi & Rajiani, 2013; Hu & Liden, 2011; Susanj & Jakopec, 2012; Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010).  Hu and Liden (2011) found that team leaders who use servant leadership naturally raise the confidence of the team through positive motivation, leading to higher levels of overall team effectiveness and team organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB), or positive behaviors beyond the duties of the job position.  SL can enhance team effectiveness regardless of the starting level of team potency (Hu & Liden, 2011).  This style of leadership not only indirectly raises team effectiveness by elevating the level of team potency, but it also seems to directly increase team effectiveness (Hu & Liden, 2011).  Supervisors who engage in SL serve their employees by making sure they understand their work goals and have the tools at their disposal to engage in the process of completing those goals.  This in turn raises the level of team potency (Hu & Liden, 2011), facilitating a collaborative team environment.

While OCBs can be developed naturally by working with the SL, formal training can facilitate positive organizational climates:  “…servant leadership is instrumental in developing positive climates that can then be used to enhance employee citizenship behavior in organizations … leadership programs aimed at enhancing procedural justice climate and service climate can be improved further by incorporating training in servant leadership skills” (Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010, p. 527), as well as a discussion on fairness in decision making and specific work related practices and policies, and quality customer service.  All three practices heighten the willingness to learn more and to assist others outside of defined job roles (Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010).  Jones (2012) also recommended upper management make a priority of establishing people-centered hiring and training practices that would recruit and develop the type of employee base where a servant leadership organizational culture would flourish.

Many of the organizational citizenship behaviors encouraged by servant leadership, whether through a training program or by working alongside a SL, are attitudes indicative of servant leadership in themselves.  Gibbs, Rosenfeld, and Javidi (1994) noted the OCBs of sportsmanship and conscientiousness positively influence job satisfaction.  Both OCBs are reflected in different attributes common to SL:  sportsmanship requires humility to sustain and conscientiousness is a product of empathy.  In terms of sportsmanship, people who are generally satisfied with their job are less likely to complain (Gibbs, Rosenfeld, & Javidi, 1994).  Even those who may not be satisfied with their coworkers, but are satisfied with all other aspects of their job, will tend to be conscientious because these behaviors are not individual specific but something one does in the spirit of being a good employee (Gibbs, Rosenfeld, & Javidi, 1994).  Compromise for the common good is developed in emerging SL employees.

While Gibbs, Rosenfeld, and Javidi (1994) found SL infused OCBs positively correlated to job satisfaction, Susanj and Jakopec (2012) found job satisfaction and fairness perceptions to be positive mediating factors between active leadership and OCB.  Servant leadership can be categorized as a type of active leadership according to Susanj and Jakopec’s (2012) definition whereby the leader motivates others to do more than they intended, or even thought possible; provides clear goal and process clarity; and rewards and disciplines fairly based upon the follower’s performance.  They also found no relationship when considering passive/avoiding leadership.  Because of this, Susanj and Jakopec (2012) recommend managers be active in clarifying job requirements, providing direction as needed and rewards for good job performance, while at the same time setting an example of work ethic by creating optimistic vision that inspires problem-solving, and treating each team member with dignity and respect.  Putting it simply, “managers should practice (active) leadership and avoid avoiding it” (Susanj & Jakopec, 2012, p. 522).

Walumbwa, Hartnell, and Oke (2010) expand the idea of servant leadership from individual attributes to the organizational level conceptualizing it “as ambient behavior directed toward the leader’s entire work unit that is a common stimulus shared among group members” (p. 518).  This organizational servant leader culture can be expressed as “corporate integrity”.  According to Soye (2011), “It is thus appropriate to conceptualise integrity as an organizational level concept since organizations are engaged in a web of relationships with stakeholders and are therefore bound by the ensuing expectations and agreed standards of operation” (p. 79).  Integrity in itself encapsulates SL.  This is further highlighted when considering the fullness of integrity as character, truthfulness, honesty, and conscientiousness – all characteristics commonly attributed to servant leadership (Soye, 2011).  SL can be lived and worked on individual and corporate levels.

For the purposes of this study we conceptualize servant leadership as an ambient behavior set of attributes as described by Spears (2010): listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community.  These are communicated within individuals and between organizational units.  According to Soye (2011), this integral culture of servant leadership on an organizational level has the power to heal conflict from within so as to reach outside the organization into the community in ways that promote conflict resolution.

Summary

Servant leadership is an ancient concept that is finding new applications in today’s culture.  In the workplace, the practice of SL leads to increased job performance.  It can be utilized by supervisors in their daily interactions with employees, and taught more formally through specialized training.  These servant leadership practices develop organizational citizenship behaviors that further promote a SL culture.  Once servant leadership is established on an organizational level, there is a corporate tendency to heal from within that is facilitated through various types of conflict management styles.

Conflict Management Styles (CMS)

The prevalence of conflict in the workplace requires that its resolution be of great importance to organizational management.  Conflict Management Strategies can have either positive or negative effects on an organization’s employees and their performance. Conflict, as seen in this study, is a disagreement that naturally occurs when individuals or groups have different attitudes, needs, values, or beliefs (Bakhare, 2010).  We agree with Soye (2011) that conflict management is a communication behavior and that an effective vehicle is needed for that communication to be successful. This desired successful communication will come from knowledge of effective conflict management styles that lead employees to work together and talk through their contrary stances in reaching a united consensus. As stated in Mohd Soieb, Othman and D’Silva (2013) an organization’s success and soundness relies on its managers’ capability not only to recognize conflict but to manage it well and effectively; they should model positive styles of conflict management.  

While individual managers have great influence in aiding conflict resolution between employees, their effectiveness is enhanced when the organization as a whole provides a conducive environment for constructive conflict management strategies (Mohd Soieb, et al., 2013).  This is “conflict culture” (Gelfand, Leslie, Keller, & de Dreu, 2012, p. 1131).  With both organizations and managers effectively recognizing, managing, and allowing an environment conducive to positive conflict management styles, trust between employees will increase when working within their own team as well as with other teams (Hempel, Zhang, & Tjosvold, 2009).   Given the many studies conducted on CMS, some with variations of labels, we will use the concept labels developed by Kilmann and Thomas (1974): compromising, accommodating, competing, avoiding, and collaborating.  As with servant leadership, developing personal relationships is key to effective communication and a willingness to understand the other’s point of view in managing conflict. In using the conflict management styles developed by Thomas and Kilmann (1974); competing, avoiding, accommodating, compromising, and collaborating, different skills are utilized in each area. As reiterated by Bakhare (2010) these styles can be distinguished by two scales: assertiveness and cooperation, and she goes on to elaborate on each style giving concise summarized skill sets for each style. With Bakhare (2010), we define compromising as “moderate assertiveness and moderate cooperation. Some people define compromise as ‘giving up more than you want,’ while others see compromise as both parties winning” (Bakhare, 2010, p. 46). There may be times when compromising is more appropriate than others, especially when the issues at hand are of moderate importance, the balance of power remains equal, or when resolving the issue is of utmost priority. The skills attached to being able to compromise are “negotiating, finding a middle ground, assessing value, and making concessions” (Bakhare, 2010, p. 47).

The style of accommodating is characterized by low assertiveness and high cooperation (Bakhare, 2010).  Situations indicating use of this style would be appropriate when it is desired to show fairness, improve performance, develop community and fellowship, and to maintain peacefulness. This style could be used when an issue or result is of little concern to someone. However, accommodation can cause problems if the person keeps track of all the times he or she accommodates, especially when it is not reciprocated. Skills used to accommodate are “forgetting your desires, selflessness, ability to yield, and obeying orders” (Bakhare, 2010, p. 47).

A competition type of CMS is high in assertiveness and low in cooperation (Bakhare, 2010).  Situations when this style would be appropriate would be when a quick decision or action is needed, when the decision needing to be made is unpopular, when essential issues need to be addressed, or when protection of one’s self interests is needed (Bakhare, 2010).  Competition type skills would include “arguing or debating, using rank or influence, asserting your opinions and feelings, standing your ground, and stating your position clearly” (Bakhare, 2010, p. 47).

The avoidance mode is low in both cooperation and assertiveness; it tends to be used because of a lack of ability or lack of confidence in that ability or just because there is a fear of engaging in conflict. Avoidance may be appropriate in times when the issue is not of high importance, tensions need to be reduced, if someone is in a position of lower power, or if more time will be gained with avoidance (Bakhare, 2010).  Skills found in avoidance are the “ability to withdraw, ability to sidestep issues, ability to leave things unresolved, and a sense of timing” (Bakhare, 2010, p. 48).

With collaboration one will find a great amount of both cooperation and assertiveness. Collaboration uses many ideas from multiple people leading not only to the best solution, but a better solution than would have been created by just a single person. Because collaboration produces such positive results some people believe it should always be the CMS to use. It should be kept in mind that collaboration takes a good deal of time and effort thus it should be used when the time and effort are available to allow it to work. Collaboration would be suitable for times when issues are too significant to compromise, when different perspectives are combined, when increasing commitment and developing relationships, when learning, and when the conflict is important to those who are building an assimilated solution (Bakhare, 2010).  Collaboration would include skills such as “active listening, non-threatening confrontation, identifying concerns, and analyzing input” (Bakhare, 2010, p. 48).

As stated in Gelfand, et al., (2012) cultures in which conflict is managed with a collaborative style will lend itself more to “viability (i.e. be characterized by high cohesion, high potency, and low burnout)” (p. 1135) while culture that uses a dominating conflict management style will have viability negatively affected  with “low cohesion, low potency, and high burnout” (p. 1135). Whereas conflict cultures that have the prevalent CMS of avoidance will find employees’ creativity stifled and a reduction in viability (Gelfand, et al., 2012).  In these situations an organization itself acts as the mediator between the conflicting parties in which it is vital that the manager is effective in carrying out their knowledge and experience in conflict management (Mohd Soieb, et al., 2013).

Hempel, Zhang, and Tjosvold (2009) found that a cooperative conflict management style increases trust among employees, especially team members, while a competitive conflict management style decreases this trust. They also found that the cooperative conflict management style affects conflict management between different teams by positively aiding the conflict resolution within that team and lessening the competition between teams. This is opposite of the competitive CMS that adds to internal competition within the team and makes it less likely that there will be cooperation between teams (Hempel, Zhang, & Tjosvold, 2009).

Summary

In general, we regard collaboration, compromise, and accommodation to be the preferred and more productive conflict management strategies. They tend to enhance effective communication and personal relationships, and positively contribute to a culture that handles conflict well thereby increasing employees’ viability and trust.  Contrasting that, avoidance and competition are less preferred as they tend to inhibit effective communication which negatively affects personal relationships and employee viability. We discern that servant leadership is highly in line with the collaboration style, and would serve compromising and accommodation well; while servant leaders would tend not to use avoidance or competition.


 

Conclusion

A hallmark of servant leadership is the willingness to engage with others in the task of problem solving.  Certain relational identifiers are encompassed in the ambient behaviors of servant leadership: collaboration, compromise, and accommodation to name a few.  These servant leader traits might be identified as specific styles of conflict management, as they align with Spears’ (2010) SL attributes of listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community to some extent, while avoidance and competition do not.  The goal of this study is to investigate these relationships.

Rationale

Servant leadership is a subset of transformational leadership. While transformational leadership seeks organizational change by inspiring employees (Bass, 1990; Susanj & Jakopec, 2012), SL promotes change by serving. Servant leadership is generally regarded as visionary and inspirational (see Spears, 1998). This underscores a fundamental tension in the servant leadership literature regarding management style. In day-to-day managing, serving others may build trust and good will as is often demonstrated through OCB (Hempel, Zhang, & Tjosvold, 2009; Hu & Liden, 2011; Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010). Organizational members may elect to follow the SL as a gesture of faith in her or his judgment and acknowledgement of the common ground they share (Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke (2010). In tumultuous times, however, the motive for following a SL is less clear. The SL may need to privilege one set of followers over others, prioritize one organizational unit over others, or discipline a follower when a legitimate need runs counter to the greater good (Susanj & Jakopec, 2012). 

Conflict is a normal experience within organizations.  Regardless of the pervasive leadership style within an organization there will be some conflict amongst team members because of differing preferences, opinions, and world views (Bakhare, 2010).  In a conflict context, the motivation to follow a SL may be eroded. The SL may elect to counter this erosion by using a conflict management style that adapts to followers’ situations, expectations, and preferences, or they may choose to model positive CMS that promotes organizational success (Soieb, et al, 2013).  Figure 1 demonstrates where each of Wilmot and Hockers’ CMS fall within an axis of interpersonal preference as well as the perceived outcomes for the parties involved in the conflict.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1: Wilmot and Hockers’ (2014) CMS model.

This study attempts to add to the literature by identifying the relationship between servant leadership and the type of conflict management styles typically used by those who espouse SL.

The SL’s role is to build community by working with others for their benefit instead of selfish motives (Spears, 1998).  By listening to employee concerns and empathizing with their struggles, the SL models behavior that is reflected throughout the team (Soieb, et la, 2013; Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010).  Hempel, Zhang, and Tjosvold (2009) found competitive CMS to diminish trust and increase internal conflict within the team and organization.  Thus it is reasonable to conclude that:

H1:  Servant leadership is negatively correlated with competitive CMS.

Spears (1998) suggests persuasion, foresight, and healing are important attributes of servant leadership.   SLs naturally raise team potency through positive motivation techniques (Hu & Liden, 2011).  Bakhare (2010) notes avoidance is typically used by those with high fear and low confidence.  Susanj & Jakopec (2012) recommend managers utilize positive vision in order to inspire problem-solving.  SL on the organizational level has the power to heal from within in a way that promotes conflict resolution even beyond the organizational boundaries (Soye, 2011).  Thus it does not appear a SL would avoid conflict:

H2:  Servant leadership is negatively correlated with avoidance CMS.

The collaborative CMS is characterized by active listening and identifying concerns (Bakhare, 2010), which Spears (1998) identifies listening and empathy as key SL attributes.  Gelfand, et al (2012) found collaborative conflict cultures to be highly conducive to team potency, along with several other viability factors.  Likewise, Hu and Liden (2011) found SL to raise team potency levels.  Collaboration is the best CMS when aiming to gain commitment and improve relationships (Bakhare, 2010).  Employee commitment has been shown to be a positive mediator between SL and OCB (Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010), thus it is reasonable to predict:      

H3:  Servant leadership is positively correlated with collaborative CMS.

Putting others first by placing personal needs to the side, acts of selflessness, and obeying orders are all typical skills in the accommodating mode of conflict management (Bakhare, 2010).  “Servant first” is Greenleaf’s (1970) motto for the servant leadership movement.  Walumbwa, Hartnell, and Oke (2010) found training in SL skills increased willingness to do things for others, especially OCBs.  Therefore:

H4:  Servant leadership is positively correlated with accommodating CMS.

Bakhare (2010) notes compromise as the typical CMS among individuals of equal power.  The ideal model of SL is not a hierarchical one, but similar to a flat plate with an unobtrusive bump in the center (Greenleaf, 1977/2002), an organization of equals.  In order to work effectively amongst equals, a SL demonstrates humility.  Gibbs, Rosenfeld, and Javidi (1994) noted employees working alongside SL would use the OCBs of sportsmanship (humility) and conscientiousness (empathy) when resolving conflicts with other coworkers.  Because of the willingness of the servant leader to engage in “give and take” behaviors in the interest of the common good it is plausible that:

H5:  Servant leadership is positively correlated with compromising CMS.

Methods Section

Participants

Participants for the experiment were recruited around a small, private university campus.  While the survey sample was random and demographic information was not collected, it is assumed the subject population resembled the demographics surrounding the campus community in terms of age, ethnicity and gender. 

Participants were spontaneously approached by the researchers with paper surveys to complete on the spot, taking about 12 minutes to complete.

Instruments

The Interpersonal Conflict Scale (Hocker & Wilmot, 2014) was used to assess the subject’s personal conflict management style.  A total of 25 items were presented in a Likert-type format with a scale ranging from (1 = never) to (5 = always).  Five items measured avoidance (e. g., “I like to avoid being “put on the spot”; I keep conflicts to myself.”), five items measured compromise (e. g., “I negotiate with the other to reach a compromise.”), five items measured competition (e. g., “I sometimes use my power to win.”), five items measured collaboration (e. g., “I try to integrate my ideas with the other’s to come up with a decision jointly.”), and five items measured accommodation (e. g., “I usually accommodate the other’s wishes.”)

The Servant Leadership Attitudes Inventory was used to assess the participant’s propensity to servant leader attitudes (SLAI; Preiss, 2012).  A total of 36 items were presented in a Likert-type format with a scale ranging from (1 = strongly agree) to (5 = strongly disagree).  Six items measured “community service and stewardship” (e. g., “I would like to work for a leader who encourages me to have a community spirit in the workplace.”), six items measured “authenticity/trust” (e. g., “I would like to work for a boss who considers the opinions of others as a basis for making appropriate decisions.”), six measured “humility/accepts others” (e. g., “I would like to work for a boss who is courteous and respectful.”), six items measured “helps subordinates succeed while standing back” (e. g., “I would like to work for a boss who stands aside and lets me do my best work.”), six items measured “conceptual skills, vision, and accountability” (e. g., “I would like to work for a manager who admits his or her mistakes and improves performance by learning from errors.”), and six items measured “behaves ethically and courageously” (e. g., “I would like to work for a boss who is willing to make personal sacrifices when ethical principles are at stake.”) .

Data analysis involved conducting a reliability analysis for each instrument, computing composite scores for each instrument, and computing a correlation matrix for all instruments.

Results

Ninety-two of 94 responses to our survey utilizing the Servant Leadership Attitudes Inventory and the Interpersonal Conflict Scale were used.  Two surveys were incomplete and not included in some calculations. Examination of frequency statistics indicated that both surveys performed as expected and were found to be reliable. The measure of central tendency and dispersion for the Servant Leadership Attitudes Inventory (SLAI) (M = 152.61; SD = 14.96) and the Interpersonal Conflict Scale (ICS) for competition (M = 13.53; SD = 3.07), avoidance (M = 16.1; SD = 3.4), collaboration (M = 19.43; SD = 2.83), accommodation (M = 16.63; SD = 2.86), and compromise (M = 17.68; SD = 2.91) were consistent with earlier studies using these scales. The reliabilities of the instruments were satisfactory (SLAI alpha was .91; ICS alphas  =  competition (.68), avoidance (.76), collaboration (.77), accommodation (.76), and compromise (.75).  All of which are above the minimum alpha of .70 except for competition. This led us to be cautious about the finding in regards to the competition variable.

The test of our first hypothesis, servant leadership is negatively related to competitive conflict management strategies (CMS), involved correlating the SLAI and the ICS.  The result supported the hypothesis of a negative relationship with the correlation of r = -.19, p = .04, n = 92. However with r being so small and the reliability only being .68, we hesitate to readily accept this result and are cautious in its consideration.

Our second hypothesis’ testing, servant leadership is negatively related to avoidance CMS, involved correlating the SLAI and the ICS. Contrary to the hypothesis, the scores on the two questionnaires were not significantly associated. This correlation was r = .03, p = .38, n = 92.

The third hypothesis’ test, servant leadership is positively related to collaboration type CMS, involved correlating the SLAI and the ICS. This correlation was r = .46, p = .00, n = 92 supporting the hypothesis and showing a highly significant positive relationship between servant leadership and collaborative behaviors.

Testing of our fourth hypothesis, servant leadership is positively related to accommodation CMS, involved correlating the SLAI and the ICS. Contrary to our hypothesis, there was no statistical significance and it does not support the hypothesis. The correlation was r = .11, p = .14, n = 92.

The testing of our final hypothesis, servant leadership is positively related to compromising CMS, involved correlating the SLAI and the ICS. As hypothesized, the scores on the two questionnaires were significantly related showing a positive relationship. The correlation was r = .47, p = .00, n = 90.

Discussion

Conflict exists in all types of organizations and is something every leader needs to manage on a daily basis to some extent.  Depending on how conflict is managed, it can have positive and negative impacts on individuals and the institution as a whole.  This study was undertaken to increase the empirical data on the relationship between servant leadership and conflict management strategies.  There is no existing research investigating correlations between either individual servant leaders or servant leader organizations and their preferred style of conflict management in the literature to date.  This study appears to be the first attempt to validate certain assumptions as to how servant leaders operate in organizations with conflict.  We will begin with a discussion of the findings on how servant leadership relates to each of the five conflict management styles.  Limitations of the study will be identified and put into context.  Finally, recommendations for future research in this area will be made.

A significant finding from the study showed servant leadership to be positively correlated with compromise, the conflict management style typically used between equals (Bakhare, 2010).  Greenleaf (1977/2002) emphasized the concept of a community of equals, as well as the idea that everyone is called to be a servant leader, in his writings on servant led institutions.  The concept of equality is fundamental to both servant leadership and compromise, so it is to be expected in a power relationship where each individual has the opportunity to be leader and follower concurrently, that these individuals would use compromise in solving conflict because of its give and take nature.

The study findings also revealed that servant leadership has a highly significant influence on collaboration being used in conflict management. This result was expected, as servant leaders tend to listen to others’ points of view and seek to understand it, thereby being more apt to use or incorporate others’ ideas (Spears, 1998) and collaboration is characterized by these attributes according to Bakhare’s (2010) definition of the style.  Studies showed a positive correlation between both servant leadership and collaborative conflict management to team potency (Gelfand, et al., 2012; Hu & Liden, 2011).  The high significance of the correlation was not surprising because collaboration epitomizes the servant leader value of interpersonal relationship.

The research tentatively confirmed the hypothesis that competition between coworkers is not typical in servant led organizations.  While a significant negative correlation was identified, the measure only approached reliability indicating the results should be considered carefully.  This being noted, building community and commitment to the common good are hallmarks of servant leadership (Spears, 1998) with positive interpersonal relationships and teamwork dynamics emphasized within servant led organizations (Soieb, et al., 2013), all behaviors that are not typically associated with competition.  Considering this, and the fact the measure very nearly approached reliability, these findings can be seen in a preliminary fashion with further testing necessary to fully validate.

Surprisingly, there was no significant relationship found between servant leadership and conflict avoidance.  A negative correlation had been predicted as interpersonal communication is highly emphasized in servant leadership training and techniques in order to raise team confidence levels (Hu & Liden, 2011).  Servant leaders communicate their vision to team members in a persuasive fashion in order to inspire problem-solving in the face of conflict (Spears, 1998; Susanj & Jakopec, 2012).  Avoidance of conflict is antithetical to these qualities.  The results may be explained by the fact that avoidance can be used in positive ways depending on the situation, for example, when the conflict is of minimal importance in the big picture or as a tactic when trying to gain time in order to address the conflict in a more appropriate environment (Bakhare, 2010).  Servant leaders may use avoidance in a situational context as opposed to a preferred style.

Another surprising finding was that there was no significant relationship between servant leadership and accommodation.  Accommodation is embodied by selflessness and placing others’ needs first, all attributes that are strongly identified with servant leadership (Bakhare, 2010; Greenleaf, 1970).  Walumbwa, Hartnell, and Oke (2010) had found servant leadership skills increased employee willingness to accommodate others by way of OCB.  However the hypothesis that accommodation would be a frequently used conflict management style by servant leaders was left unsupported by the current study.  A possible explanation for this inconsistency between theory and empirical data is because of servant leaders’ strong propensity for compromise (win-a-bit/lose-a-bit) and collaboration (win/win) there is rare occasion to enter into a conflict management style where there is a clear winner and loser in the interaction, especially when the issues are highly important or essential.

There were several limitations to this study because of its small scale, classroom-oriented nature, and limited time frame.  The participant sample was small and completely random in its demographics.  All of the people surveyed were from around the Viterbo University campus, an institution known for its servant leadership emphasis in curriculum and culture. It is likely the sample, though random, possessed above average knowledge and practice of servant leadership behaviors.  This knowledge of servant leadership may have also enhanced the study reliability because participants put these concepts into practice on a regular basis as a natural part of the culture and not just a theory.  The time allotted to collect the samples was extremely limited, from the end of one class day until the beginning of the next class day, and during summer evening hours when campus activity is limited and transient. This potentially had an adverse affect on the quantity of the samples as many participants were interrupted in their end of day activities.  Future studies should allow for more time to gather a larger sample. It should also be considered whether or not a completely random selection of participants is best or whether participants should be more uniform in background.

Future studies are needed to gain better understanding into the relationships between servant leadership and conflict management as this is an emerging area for research.  Modifications can be made to the current study to make it more rigorous.  There is a need to address the reliability issue with the competition component of the tool.  A more exhaustive study including essay questions and follow up interviews, along with the Likert-type questions would give additional information and insight into the responses, potentially filling in some gaps in the data.  Subsequent investigations into why servant leadership does not correlate to avoidance and accommodation would provide further clarity.

Potential questions for further study of servant leadership and conflict management include: is there less perceived conflict in servant led organizations as opposed to other organizations; what formal conflict resolution processes are utilized by servant led institutions; what type of disciplinary measures do servant leaders typically use in the workplace?

Conclusion

Each individual will encounter conflict at some point when working with others.  Servant leaders have the unique ability to look at the world through the lens of equality, humility, and community-focus, vastly different qualities from other leader contemporaries.  Many of the attributes typically associated with servant leadership lend them to prefer various conflict management styles over others.  Servant leaders tend to utilize compromise and collaboration, and avoid competition, when managing conflict in their organizations.  They value opportunities to work alongside others in solving differences, and navigate away from situations where more conflict may be generated.


 

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Dr. Barbara Mae Gayle and Dr. Ray Preiss for their invaluable help with this study.  Dr. Gayle was instrumental in outlining the writing format for this article, and Dr. Preiss lead us through the IRB process, developed one of our tools, analyzed the data, and contributed to the overall rationale for conducting this research.

 

 

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Instrument Appendix

 

 

Think of a situation where you have had a conflict, disagreement, argument, or disappointment with someone. Examples might be someone you live with or a work associate. Then, use the following five point scale to respond to each question.

1=Never        2=Seldom             3=Sometimes 4=Often                 5=Always

We would like to know how you deal with a conflicts involving the other person. There are no right or wrong answers, so work quickly and provide your first impression. 

____1)   I like to avoid being “put on the spot”; I keep conflicts to myself.
____2)   I like to use influence to get my ideas accepted.
____3)   I usually try to “split the difference” in order to resolve an issue.
____4)   I usually try to satisfy the other’s needs.
____5)   I usually try to investigate an issue to find a solution acceptable to us.
____6)   I like to avoid open discussion of my differences with the other.
____7)   I like to use my authority to make a decision in my favor.
____8)   I usually try to find the middle course to resolve an impasse.
____9)   I usually accommodate the other’s wishes.
____10)  I try to integrate my ideas with the other’s to come up with a decision jointly.
____11)  I try to stay away from disagreement with the other.
____12)  I try to use my expertise to make a decision that favors me.
____13)  I propose a middle ground for breaking deadlocks.
____14)  I give in to other’s wishes.
____15)  I try to work with the other to find solutions that satisfy both our expectations.
____16)  I try to keep my disagreements to myself in order to avoid hard feelings.
____17)  I usually pursue my side of an issue.
____18)  I negotiate with the other to reach a compromise.
____19)  I often go with the other’s suggestions.
____20)  I exchange accurate information with the other so we can solve a problem together.

____21)  I try to avoid unpleasant exchanges with the other.
____22)  I sometimes use my power to win.
____23)  I use “give and take” so that a compromise can be made.
____24)  I try to satisfy the other’s expectations.
____25)  I try to bring all our concerns out in the open so that the issues can be solved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Directions:  We are examining the preferences people have for various styles of business leadership.  We are interested in the qualities people would like to see in their employers. Please consider each of the statements in this scale and select the number that corresponds to how you feel about each statement.  Mark a “5” if you extremely disagree with the statement.  Write a “4” in the blank if you disagree with the statement.  If you are neutral, write a “3” in the blank.  If you agree with the statement, write a “2” in the blank.  If you strongly agree with the statement, mark a “1”.

 

    Strongly                        Agree                         Neutral              Disagree              Strongly

    Agree                                                                                                            Disagree

         1                     2                                  3                             4                         5

Community Service and Stewardship

_____1. I would not want to work for a boss who is always talking about the company’s potential to contribute to society.

_____2. I would like to work for a leader that encourages me to have a community spirit in the workplace.

_____3. It makes no sense to work hard for a boss that believes the organization needs to play a moral role in society.

_____4. I would like to work for a leader that is always preparing the organization to make a positive difference in the future.

_____5. I would like to work for a boss who is committed to serving coworkers, the organization, and society.

_____6. I would like to work for a boss who responds to the needs of individuals who live in today’s modern workplace.

 

  


 

Strongly                  Agree                        Neutral              Disagree              Strongly

    Agree                                                                                                            Disagree

         1                      2                                3                             4                         5

Authenticity/Trust

_____1. I would like to work for a boss who is assertive and supports others’ decisions.

_____2. I don’t think it would be wise to work for a leader who lets me know exactly where he or she stands.

_____3. I would like to work for a boss who I can trust to sacrifice his or her time for the benefit of the company.

_____4. I would like to work for a leader who is honest enough to consult others in the organization when he or she does not have all the answers.

 _____5. I would like to work for a boss who considers the opinions of others as a basis for making appropriate decisions.

_____6. I would not like to work for a boss who is authentic and reliable.

 

   Strongly                   Agree                         Neutral             Disagree               Strongly

    Agree                                                                                                            Disagree

         1                      2                                  3                            4                         5

Humility/Accept others

_____1. I would NOT like to work for a leader who is humble and accessible.

_____2. I would feel uncomfortable if my superior appeared to be genuinely interested in me as a person.

_____3. I would work hard for a leader who does not call attention on his or her own accomplishments.

_____4. I would like to work for a boss who is courteous and respectful.

_____5. I would like to work for a boss who engages with and accepts others for who they are.

_____6. I would like to work for a boss who treats all people equality and with dignity.

 

  


 

Strongly                Agree                         Neutral             Disagree               Strongly

    Agree                                                                                                            Disagree

         1                      2                                  3                            4                         5

Help subordinates succeed while standing back

_____1. I would like to work for someone who enables me to solve problems on my own.

_____2. I would enjoy working for an employer who gives me the training and opportunities to do my best work.

_____3. I would like to work for a boss who provides opportunities for learning and growth.

_____4. I would question the judgment of a leader who remains in the background and gives credit to others.

_____5. I would be suspicious of a boss who tries to helps me grow on the job and be a better person in all aspects of my life.

_____6. I would like to work for a boss who stands aside and lets me do my best work.

   Strongly             Agree                         Neutral             Disagree               Strongly

    Agree                                                                                                            Disagree

         1                      2                                  3                            4                         5

Conceptual skills, vision, and accountability

_____1. I would like to work for a boss that seeks my commitment concerning the shared vision of our company.

_____2. I would feel manipulated if a leader tried to include my vision into the firm’s goals and objectives.

_____3. I would like to work for a manager who admits his or her mistakes and improves performance by learning from errors.

_____4. I would like to work for a boss that has a clear and concise vision of what the company wants to become in ten or twenty years.

_____5. I would like to work for a boss who has the ability to conceive new ideas, to re-think current procedures, and to guide the company to new levels of success.

_____6. I would NOT be motivated by a leader that encourages me to dream big and makes my vision part of the organization’s vision.

 

   Strongly             Agree                         Neutral              Disagree              Strongly

    Agree                                                                                                            Disagree

         1                      2                                  3                            4                         5

 

Behave ethically and courageously

_____1. I would work for a leader who creates a culture that fosters high standards that are based upon clear ethical principles.

_____2. I would like to work for an employer who is a role model of good moral principles in his or her actions and words.

_____3. I would feel uncomfortable working for a boss who has the courage to take action for moral reasons that may have risky consequences.

 _____4. I would like to work for a boss who uses ends and means that are are morally legitimate, thoughtfully reasoned, and ethically justified.

_____5. It is NOT a good idea to work for a leader who adheres to moral and ethical principles.

_____6. I would like to work for a boss who is willing to make personal sacrifices when ethical principles are at stake.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

I have decided to post my weekly progress on my colloquium project towards an MA in Servant Leadership in this forum in order to get community feedback.  I want to this project to bubble from the grassroots as much as possible, and hope people of interest will weigh in for the benefit of the ReNEW Neighborhood Project.  At this point I am looking for help in defining a clear research question and for peer-reviewed articles from the servant leadership literature that will help me to further clarify my research question in regards to this topic.  I welcome suggestions for good research questions and scholarly articles.

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Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda Acklin, executive director of Habitat for Humanity and the ReNEW neighborhood housing project, at the Servant Leadership Conversation hosted by Viterbo University.  Through our conversations it was clear the ReNEW project paralleled the housing work I had coordinated previously as an Americorps VISTA.  We met a week later to brainstorm, and determined my colloquium project could be of service to ReNEW.  The program is currently in a holding pattern because of lack of funding and human resources to coordinate.  To prevent this program from fading away, it must reach its next step of garnering grant funding and financial backing from the community.

My focus would be to harvest servant leader stories from the residents of the ReNEW neighborhoods as my colloquium project.  The greater La Crosse community stigmatizes these neighborhoods as harboring drug dealers, prostitutes, and people from out-of-state here to take advantage of the welfare system; thus demolition and redevelopment are often seen as the best solutions for these areas, i.e. gentrification.  From my experience of living in a stigmatized neighborhood in Minnesota, I understand there are more residents and families who have contributed positively for the good of the greater community, however their stories are not told in the media, only the criminal behaviors of the few.  As a student of servant leadership I understand we are all called to be servant leaders, even those who have no voice due to various types of societal oppression and judgment.  A reaping of these servant leader stories would demonstrate the value these neighborhoods have for the La Crosse community, and could be used to generate both financial and human support for the ReNEW efforts.

I would gather these servant leader stories through video recorded one-on-one interviews that would be woven together in a narrated film documentary format.  Clips from the documentary along with commentary would be used for the public colloquium presentation, while the documentary as a whole could be used by ReNEW in public relations and grant writing efforts.

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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.

Credibility

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 Education.com, 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.

References

Adair, B. (2011, May 1). Politifact: In 2008, obama vowed to kill osama bin laden. Retrieved from http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2011/may/01/obama-vowed-kill-osama-bin-laden/

Buechner, F. (2012). Goodreads: Frederick buechner quotes. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/19982.Frederick_Buechner

CNN. (2012, November). America’s choice 2012: Election center exit polls. Retrieved from http://blackboard.viterbo.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_id=_2_1&url=/webapps/blackboard/execute/launcher?type=Course&id=_20429_1&url=

Drummond, T. (2008, September 4). Barack obama, harvard law review editor, march 19, 1990. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2008/09/barack-obama-ha.html

Espo, D. (2012, December 5). Obama and boehner discuss fiscal cliff by phone. Retrieved from http://news.yahoo.com/obama-boehner-discuss-fiscal-cliff-phone-232751898.html

Gibson, J. (2011, April 5). A brief look at candidate obama’s 2008 campaign promises. Retrieved from http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2011/04/05/brief-look-candidate-obamas-2008-campaign-promises

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 http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2001/09/what_war_powers_does_the_president_have.html

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).Presidentialrhetoric.com. Retrieved from http://www.presidentialrhetoric.com/campaign2008/obama/11.04.08.html

Obama, B.H. (2012, November 7). Transcript of president obama’s election night speech. The New York Times.  Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/07/us/politics/transcript-of-president-obamas-election-night-speech.html?pagewanted=all

Sorrentino, J. (2012). Barack obama on education. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Barack_Obama/

Weber, M. (1919). Politics as a vocation. Retrieved from http://blackboard.viterbo.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_id=_2_1&url=/webapps/blackboard/execute/launcher?type=Course&id=_20429_1&url=

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Introduction

       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.  Dictionary.com (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.

 

Conclusion

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.

 

References

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

Dictionary.com. (2012). Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/integrity

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

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Introduction

According to Robert K. Greenleaf (2002) “the great leader is seen as servant first, and that simple fact is the key to his greatness” (p. 21).  This is the servant leader, the natural servant whose care and compassion for others attracts followers until he naturally becomes the leader (Greenleaf, 2002, p. 24).  It may sound simple, but this leadership style is one that requires much personal and interpersonal work in order to be sustainable. It is a leadership style that involves managing life more that it does managing people.  It is a way of life, an ongoing process of transformation.  This is my emerging servant leader story.

 

What Does It Mean to Become a Servant Leader?

We are all called to become servant leaders through our baptism.  We are called to become “priest, prophet, and king” in a new way as we go about the work of building the Kingdom.  I take this call very seriously, and I believe if more people would consciously reflect upon their baptismal calling the Kingdom would manifest here and now on earth.

Jesus preached servant leadership.  He existed in a time marked by great rulers of vast kingdoms who used their power to oppress and dominate.  When Jesus spoke of his Father’s Kingdom, he was not talking about God coming down to take over lands and accumulate wealth and subjects, who Jesus and his disciples would rule over.  Although many of his followers believed, and hoped, this was the sort of kingdom Jesus spoke of, he was really preaching a new order, a new way of living and relating to one another that would result in peace.  I would define this new order as a culture of servant leadership.

I am committed to developing myself into a servant leader because of my baptismal call.  I see the first step on this journey as developing my True Self, getting to know my authentic being.  Hayes & Comer (2010) referred to this self as the authentic core, a place from which “the authentic leader responds, almost instinctively, to various outside stimuli (such as conflict, criticism, and speech) and displays certain humble behaviors in these responses” (p. 21).  I need to strip away the layers of who I think I am, and who others have told me that I am, until I arrive at who I AM.  This is the “priest, prophet, king”, True Self, the authentic core – the servant leader.

The next step is discovering my Purpose – my distinct, God-given calling as servant leader in the Kingdom.  It is in fulfilling my Purpose that I help manifest the Kingdom.  This process requires a community of servant leaders, the Body of Christ, coworkers in the vineyard (USCCB, 2005), fulfilling our Purposes in tandem through authentic relationship, that the work of building the Kingdom happens. The ongoing process of developing and nurturing these relationships as we work our Purpose together is the end goal in becoming a servant leader.  It is the journey into the center of the whole.  According to Whyte (1996):

…the gravitational weight of God’s presence, pull[s] us to a center of absolute silence and pure simple beingness.  At that center we work because we love our work, and we love our work because we have chosen the right work, the work to which we belong (p. 241).

We find ourselves at that center when there is a balance in body, mind, and spirit. True Self is revealed as one discovers this balance in being and a desire for just living results.  Purpose is identified when it resonates fully with all three aspects of the True Self, and the work of justice is accomplished.  Finally, right relationship is developed when the body, mind, and spirit of all participants are honored and a just society flourishes.  The transformation into servant leader is an inside-out process (Cashman, 2008) that has far-reaching effects.

 

Where Have I Been?

 “Like water flowing from an underground spring, human creativity is the wellspring greening the desert of toil and effort, and much of what stifles us in the workplace is the immense unconscious effort on the part of individuals and organizations alike to dam its flow” (Whyte, 1996, p. 21).

I have been to the desert and back.  Parched and weary I sought to find the garden where I could refresh my soul.  I have been in the process of becoming a servant leader my entire life and it has been an arduous adventure.  I came to recognize this as a participant in the Viterbo University Servant Leadership Learning Community, and desired to formally enter the process in the hopes a more focused effort would support, deepen, and renew my transformation.

After college graduation I was feeling extreme confusion about who I was called to be in this world.  The layers of who I thought I was and what others were telling me had grown thick.  I thought I was a professional actress and director headed for Broadway.  My college professors left me with the notion that I might amount to being a mediocre performer, or perhaps a jazz singer or the odd variety act.  Others thought I should be a lawyer, or just saw me as a party girl.  Even if I had understood the fact that my authentic being was waiting for discovery, I was too tired and confused to do the work.  It didn’t seem like I had the time or the energy to work on my body, mind, or spirit.

I also did not understand at that time that God had given me a distinct Purpose in life.  Life was moving from gig to gig trying to eke out a living and partying it up when I wasn’t working. Volunteering, ministry, God, and prayer were things that sounded appealing, but I didn’t have time for such things.  And the more that I didn’t have time for these things the less important they became until they were non-existent in my life.  I moved through life hoping I didn’t harm others too much along the way.

Building relationship and community was something I did well at this time, although the relationships rarely went to a deeper level of authenticity, staying comfortably superficial.  The people I surrounded myself with were there for support, in my career, in the place where we lived, to keep me distracted from what really mattered.

It was in the realm of career where I began to learn what it means to be a part of a servant leadership culture and to develop the habits of a servant leader.  The theatre companies I worked for emphasized the value and importance of each member.  Any one person’s absence from the company was significant – not insurmountable, these were the times the team pulled together – but definitely a challenge to fill the hole left behind by the missing teammate.  I also learned the importance of being friends with the people you work with while part of the theatre community.  Creativity flows from the power of friendship and mishaps are repaired much more easily when your friends are counting on you.

It wasn’t until I began working on the balance of my body, mind, and spirit as part of the discernment process in becoming a covenant affiliate of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration that servant leadership practice began to enter all aspects of my life.  Hindsight shows me how this process was a catalyst for my initial servant leader transformation.

The FSPA affiliate discernment process is broken down into three phases:  prayer, community, and ministry.  Prayer is the work of the spirit.  It is through contemplation and silent reflection where one encounters True Self.  I began to reintroduce prayer into my life by saying morning and evening prayer.  Prayer soon became a habit bringing great peace and clarity to my life.

Living a prayer-filled life allows you to consider how to be in authentic relationship with others.  You begin to discern how you can best support everyone in becoming their authentic selves, and in doing so the Body of Christ is formed in right relationship.  Various FSPA sisters and affiliates became my closest friends during this time.  The women of my companion community were a huge support to me in navigating life, and I in turn walked with them along their journeys.  The relationships I have formed with my FSPA family are oftentimes more profoundly close than any other relationship I have yet experienced.  They have taught me how honesty, trust, and respect are essential to meeting the challenges any group of people are faced with together.  They have taught me how wonderful it is to be with others whom you share love, and the amazing possibilities that come from such relationships.

When there is a balance of body, mind, and spirit, purposeful ministry is naturally expressed by the mind.  Our baptismal calling becomes clearer, and the trinity of being is effortless in enacting Purpose.  “Ministry” comes from the Latin word “ministerium” meaning service (Harper, 2001-2012).  Ministry is what a servant leader does, regardless if that service is in a religious or secular context.  My greatest revelation was the idea my ministry didn’t have to be grand or going to “save the world”.  I needed to serve someone else from the source of my joy, and in so doing I would be supporting everyone in “saving the world” in their own little ways.  According to Tutu (2011), “When we attend to our deepest yearnings, our very nature, our life changes forever, and, person by person, so does our world” (p. 8).

It was this understanding that made me realize how incredibly important I was, and every living being on this planet.  The veil was lowered and I began to see how everything was connected.  I was called to serve by facilitating people in achieving common goals.  I was called to be a servant leader.

 

What is the Next Step on my Journey?

Now that I have come to understand my baptismal calling, and have embraced my value as an essential part of God’s plan, I need to invest in building up my servant leader toolbox so I can gracefully fulfill my Purpose.  I have just begun the next step in my servant leader journey as a graduate student.

The first question I get from people when they find out that I am returning to school to study servant leadership is, “So what are you going to do with that degree?”  My standard response has become, “I don’t know exactly, but I’m pretty sure I’ll have an idea by the time I graduate.”  What I do know is now is my time to attend class, read the textbooks, reflect upon my experiences, and begin to put into action what I am learning.  I am confident that this process will allow the servant leader to continue to emerge from within me as I refine the balance of body, mind, and spirit.

I do have an idea of how I am called to serve others as I build upon the gifts and talents I already possess.  I can see myself as a consultant to organizations who are interested in building a servant leadership culture.  I am comfortable presenting in front of groups of all sizes and have experience as an educator.  I would enjoy facilitating leadership development training and conflict resolution processes.  I especially enjoy developing one-on-one relationships, and would be honored to share my passion for Purpose and balance with others as a wholeness coach.  I have a gift for recognizing the giftedness of others, especially those talents they do not recognize in themselves.  Research conducted by Gallup shows that developing strengths is the most effective way to develop leaders because people have a more difficult time changing their weaknesses (Hayes & Comer, 2010, p. 25).  I am excited to explore further God’s purposes for me.

 

How Does Your Commitment to Servant Leadership Contribute to the Common Good in Your Organization or Community?

The experience of moving from West Central Minnesota back to La Crosse after 15 years has shown me how much time and work is involved in developing community.  Even though I am a La Crosse native I have much work to do in building the sort of community relationships I had developed back on the prairie.  Even so, I am a part of many communities in La Crosse and there are numerous ways that my commitment to servant leadership can contribute to their common good.

My husband and I have both our families living in the area and they are very interested in this thing called “servant leadership” for which I am going to school.  My father works at Bakalars Bros. Sausage Co. as plant manager and is interested in improving what he perceives as a lack of work ethic in anyone under the age of 50.  He is hoping this “servant leadership thing” will fix it.  I’m interested in seeing what unfolds when a leadership development program is introduced.  My in-laws are retired after many years of climbing the corporate ladder and self-employment. I am hopeful our servant leadership conversations inspire them to use the freedom of their retirement to contribute to the common good.

Our family is a part of the Catholic Church.  We belong to Mary, Mother of the Church parish and our son attends Aquinas Catholic Schools.  I am an affiliate of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.  I envision developing a parish leadership training program that involves the entire parish community, and hope that MMOC would allow me to pilot the program.  I also have plans to offer servant leadership training as part of the Big Window business program at Blessed Sacrament this coming school year.  FSPA Affiliation has expressed a need for ongoing discernment opportunities for our members, and I can see how servant leadership training could be incorporated into the covenant renewal process.

 

Conclusion

I am so full of hope and joy when I think about all the human potential that lies just beneath the surface, waiting to be coaxed forth to bloom and grow.  As the servant leader is emerging in me I become increasingly aware I am called to cultivate other emerging servant leaders as well.  I am deeply grateful for everything the Universe has placed before me that has lead to this understanding.  I ask God for the grace and humility to remain open to the goodness for which I have been designed (Tutu, 2011, p. viii).  I thank God for walking with me as I journey into the center of the whole.

References

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

Publishers Inc.

Greenleaf, R. K. (2002). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power & greatness. (25th. anniversary ed., pp.

21-61). New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Harper, D. (2001-2012). Online etymology dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=ministry

Hayes, M. A., & Comer, M. D. (2010). Start with humility: Lessons from america’s quiet ceo’s on how to build trust and inspire

     followers. Westfield, IN: The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

 

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

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2005, November). In W.P. Fay (Chair). Co-workers in the vineyard of the lord: A

     resource for guiding the development of lay ecclesial ministry . Document approved by the full body of bishops at 2005 general

assembly, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/upload/co-workers-vineyard-lay-ecclesial-ministry-2005.pdf

Whyte, D. (1996). The heart aroused: Poetry and the preservation of the soul in corporate america. New York, N.Y.: Bantam

Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc.

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