Servant leadership is a term that is often bandied about but in many quarters it exists more as a goal and aspiration than as a standard mode of behavior or actual way of life. The phrase was initiated by Robert K. Greenleaf, who authored several essays on defining what a servant leader is all about and considered the founder of the movement in the United States. Greenleaf defines it in this manner: “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first…caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built.” The goal, according to Greenleaf is to make the world a better place. Hawaii resident Kent Keith, who served as the CEO of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership in Indiana in his book, The Case For Servant Leadership, puts it this way: “A servant leader loves people and wants to help them. The mission of the servant leader is therefore to identify and meet the needs of others. Loving and helping others gives a servant leader meaning and satisfaction in life.”
I recently read another excellent new book on the importance of ethics and morals in shaping one’s personality and outlook titled The Road To Character by New York Times columnist and author David Brooks. To develop a good character, Brooks urges us to follow the admonition of a person he refers to as Adam II who is all about sacrificing “self in the service of others. He not only wants to do good but to be good. His motto is charity, love and redemption.” Adam I is the complete antithesis—he is consumed with personal achievement, worldly praise and reward and his motto is success, oftentimes at the expense of others.
I couldn’t help but reflect on the hundreds of good deeds and community service being done during the last several weeks to help the people of CNMI recover from one of the worst typhoons to hit this region in a long time. Certainly to their credit government agencies, relief organizations, businesses, and churches have stepped up big time to render aid. And it was heartwarming to see assistance come readily and willingly from friends, family, and loved ones who reside in places like Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, among others. To see the countless acts of kindness emanating from within was extraordinary, commendable, and worth noting for it would have been expected and excusable for most of the citizenry to take time out to tend exclusively to their personal needs. They could have cited fatigue, weariness, and depression to refrain from soldiering for the cause and to simply pass the buck to someone else to be that servant leader. But that definitely was not the case from what I gathered and observed on Saipan. I know Keith and Brooks (Greenleaf has passed away) would be impressed by the number of Adam II types that have burst onto the scene “who want to serve” and “meet the needs of others” to make the Northern Marianas “a better place.”
I point to the actions of the two classes of Pacific Century Fellows, a group of young servant leaders, as a microcosm of what’s been happening all over the Commonwealth. The 2015 Fellows mastered the art of collaboration by partnering with key organizations and agencies to transport to Saipan four 20-40 foot containers filled with food, water, equipment, and supplies and took the lead in making sure these precious and vital items and materials were delivered on a timely basis to the villages. They were quick to dispense kudos and acknowledgments to their fellow collaborators; the Ayuda Foundation Guam, Department of Education Guam, United Airlines, Salvation Army, Guam Memorial Hospital Pink Ladies, TakeCare Guam, BankPacific, Staywell Insurance, Matson Navigation, CMS, CTSI Logistics, Saipan Shipping, Seabridge, the Filipino Community in Guam, the Commonwealth Health Center’s Home Visit Program and the scores of Guamanians who have provided non-stop support for Saipan’s desires and needs. In the spirit of reciprocity, Ed Arriola, a PCF 2015 member who organized the four shipments, vows to “give back to Guam in any way we can.” A beautiful video capturing this exemplary collaboration can be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B1CXK5Wb4Q&sns=em
A further example of collaboration was the joint effort with the 2014 PCF class to support the inaugural Pacific Century Fellows – Marianas Chapter 5K Run recently to raise funds to help Project Ayudu. The same pattern of collaboration was followed with numerous sponsors coming forward to donate some quality gifts and merchandise. Over 300 individuals participated, which exceeded expectations and prompted Jackie Che, a PCF 2014 alumna, to remark: “We hope to continue this every year and contribute to the community.” It also drew an immediate gracious response from Tan Holdings and Tan Siu Lin Foundation executive Jerry Tan, who started Project Ayudu with a goal of raising $150,000 to revitalize and restore homes and lives that were obliterated by the recent typhoon through the sale of artfully designed T-shirts. According to Tan, three-fourths of the 10,000 shirts have already been sold with the prospect of selling the shirts in Guam and Hawaii to help take them over the top. Knowing Tan and his reputation of always getting the job done, it will not surprise me to see him surpass his goal.
Time and space will not permit me to extoll and elaborate on other examples of servant leadership, such as the Raise the Roof fundraiser, initiatives stemming from groups like CNMI CARE, the hospitality industry or from the Chamber and business community at large, the ongoing assistance of Gov. Calvo and GovGuam, actions by other young leaders like the Marianas Young Professionals, and Congressman Kilili Sablan’s yeoman efforts to identify every source of federal funds from Washington.
The net effect of all these acts of “good character” is that there is a great deal of admiration and respect that has emerged that will benefit the Commonwealth in more ways than one going forward. I subscribe to a religious doctrine that suggests sometimes we are tested in such a way that our humility through the grace of God helps turn our weaknesses into strengths. Gov. Eloy S. Inos describes this conviction aptly: “Pole by pole, brick by brick, we will be stronger than we were yesterday, and together, stand as a community prepared for any and every calamity in our way.” (Mufi Hannemann)