Skip to main content


Who is the Enemy?
(From Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf (c) 1970-1991

(I may not have written it, but I certainly have pondered it)…Love to get your comments. How does this affect you? How can you step up and be and/or follow the Servant Leader. (If you haven’t been exposed to Robert Greenleaf’s work on “Servant Leadership” well worth checking it out, that is if quality leadership for our society is important to you)

Who is the enemy? Who is holding back more rapid movement to the better society that is reasonable and possible with available resources? Who is responsible for the mediocre performance of so many of our institutions? Who is standing in the way of a larger consensus on the definition of the better society and paths to reaching it?

Not evil people. Not stupid people. Not apathetic people. Not the “system.” Not the protesters, the disrupters, the revolutionaries, the reactionaries.

Granting that fewer evil, stupid or apathetic people or a better “system” might make the job easier, their removal would not change matters, not for long.
The better society will come, if it comes, with plenty of evil, stupid, apathetic people around and with an imperfect, ponderous, inertia-charged “system” as the vehicle for change.
Liquidate the offending people, radically alter or destroy the system, and in less than a generation they will all be back.
It is not the nature of things that society can be cleaned up once and for all according to an ideal plan. And even if it were possible, who would want to live in an aseptic world?
Evil, stupidity, apathy, the “system” are not the enemy even though society building forces will be contending with them all the time.
The healthy society, like the healthy body, is not the one that has taken the most medicine. It is the one in which the internal health building forces are in the best shape.

The real enemy is fuzzy thinking on the part of good, intelligent vital people, and their failure to lead, and to follow servants as leaders. (bold, Errol)
Too many settle for being critics and experts. There is too much intellectual wheel spinning, too much retreating into “research,” too little preparation for and willingness to undertake the hard and high risk tasks of building better institutions in an imperfect world, too little disposition to see “the problem” as residing in here and not out there.

In short, the enemy is strong natural servants who have the potential to lead but do not lead, or who choose to follow a non-servant. (bold, Errol) They suffer. Society suffers. And so it may be in the future.

One response to “WHO IS THE ENEMY?

  1. Thanks much, Errol, for this post which prompted me to pull off the bookshelf my 38 year old copy of Servant Leadership– a book which significantly changed my life trajectory. In my edition (Paulist Press, 1977), your cited passage is found on pp 44-45.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *