Friends or Servant leader

Fr Frederick Nkwasibwe Business Courage talks about being “friends”. I understand what he is talking about, but I think what he means stops a little short of being “friends”. I don’t know, maybe I’m being a little too rigid, but in business, seems like you maintain a bit of an “arms length” attitude towards those you work with, especially if they work for you, that goes for the military and I also see that as being a pastor. I have friends from many walks of my life, even in my short time as a pastor, there are people who will always be friends, but they are the exception. So you tell me, people who are “associates”, yea I can see them being friends, but people you work for or who work for you, sure it’s possible, but it’s going to be the exception.
As I said, I understand what Fr Nkwasibwe when he says being “friends”, but he hyphenates that with servant and that I think is the much better description:
“A great leader as a friend-servant also demonstrates a courage and virtue of patience and longanimity [a disposition to bear injuries patiently – yes I had to look it up, but even the blog-site has it as incorrect] Riaud (1992) quoting St Thomas Aquinas refers to longanimity as ‘the supernatural virtue which makes us wait for the realization in us of God’s designs of mercy and sanctification with respect to our souls, with equanimity, that is, without complaint or bitterness’ (p 110). Such a leader is able to embrace, accept and endure workplace suffering, which may be caused by egotistical and self-seeking behavior, jealous co-workers; and risk-laden nature of work. It may also be caused by disobedient and stubborn followers; dissatisfied employees; global economic downturn that leads to downsizing and or cutting wages, benefits and jobs; hostile business risks; loss of sanity and ethics; and mistakes of poor judgment among others.
Business courage is also concerned with true and righteous leaders who recognize that there is no better secret technique that motivates, inspires and empowers followers than treating them as friends…
…a leader filled with courage and virtue not only treats the workforce as friends but also assumes a challenging duty of protecting them against the faces of oppression, which include exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence (Cf Adams, et all. 2000, p 44)” (Business Courage pp 410, 411)
Remembering that Father is from Africa, not a native English speaker I do understand what he’s saying. I wouldn’t put it in terms of being “friends”, I would use the word servants. Now Father Nkwasibwe can certainly make a Christian case for saying “friend” though: “ESV John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus certainly could expect to continue to think of the disciples as “students”, just as we would think of our students, employees as subordinates vs friends. We should certainly let these kinds of relationships evolve. I’ve lived that myself. It’s kind of interesting in my relationship with people I served with in the Coast Guard. I spent 29 years in the reserves, liked what I did and was happy to remain right in the middle of the enlisted grades. A lot of the guys I worked with advanced to more senior levels, but frankly they moved behind desks and I just wasn’t interested. Especially after retirement though,these relationships became as a friend after our Coast Guard careers ended. I was friends with these guys, but there was a distance and there should have been. Afterwards I talk with all of them as an old friend, as we should. As a leader you have a higher duty as a servant. As a servant you have different duties, to your management, to investors, customers, to do what is in the best interests of your employees, but remembering you do have other constituencies. Often you have to do things that may not seem “friendly”, but are serving the ultimate best interests. What if you do have to discharge a “friend”, or otherwise discipline him/her? What is in the best interests of all involved? Can you still be friends? One guy in particular, he was a great friend. But he was also determined to get the best out of me, sometime it felt that he was just busting my cookies a little, but he wanted me to push harder and I was better for it. But he has been one of my best friends since we were BM3s and since we’ve both retired we’ve become closer. But while we served it was about the mission.

Having “friends” can cause workplace dissension, creating the conditions that Father Nkwasibwe warns against. When those you work with realize that you are serving everyone’s best interests, but doing it in a way that isn’t hamhanded, bullying there will be a servant driven environment.
We are back on Wednesdays 10am at First St Johns 140 W King St, park behind the back. We are about half way through Dr Gene Veith’s book. See you there.

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