Howard Schultz and Servant Leadership

Posted on Thursday, August 6th, 2015

My friend and colleague Jon Bergstrom alerted me to an OpEd piece by Seattle’s Howard Schultz in today’s New York Times. It’s thoughtful, well written, provocative, and sound. I think everyone should read this, share it further, and talk about it widely. What do you think?

Among others, I’ve also shared this with my First Wednesday Conversation group. We met yesterday afternoon and thus weren’t aware of this essay by Mr. Schultz. Instead, we talked about the difference between showing up as a Knower vs. showing up as a Learner. The source material was a book by another friend of mine, Brian Hinken, titled “The Learner’s Path: Practices for Recovering Knowers,” and in particular an exercise designed to help one assess an unhelpful or difficult conversation. Reflecting this morning on yesterday’s conversation and insights about what it means to assume the stance of  Learner, and then reading Schultz’s essay, I’m stuck by how much we as voters seem to prefer Knowers to Learners.

For me, and Brian, the stance of a Knower means being afraid to acknowledge one’s error or ignorance and being unwilling to be influenced; closed, not open to new information or different perspectives. Someone in the stance of a Learner, on the other hand, is willing to be influenced, is curious about different ways of seeing a situation, is able to learn from mistakes. A participant yesterday also suggested humility as characteristic of a Learner stance. Here’s a little flow chart Brian shared with me to help you find your way. The Learner’s Path

Of course, we all do know things. How could we not, at our age! This is about our stance, how we show up in a difficult situation or challenging circumstances. So, when we choose leaders we want knowledgeable people, but how do we want them to show up as leaders? I’d prefer a Learner.