Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Servant, by James C. Hunter

I first wrote this abstract/review of the book The Servant for my Construction Practice class this semester. As a future engineer and a leader in the mission of the Gospel I learned a lot from Hunter's message. Our class defined leadership as "the art of influencing human behavior" which is more a learned skill than it is a gift you are born with. Leaders' lives are highly relational and I feel if you can be a servant in all your relationships then you will be very successful guiding people toward a common goal.

In The Servant, James C. Hunter recalls a turning point in his life where he discovered a new way of leading his employees while a manager at a glass making plant. He argues the essence of leadership is found in relationships, both how they are built and how they are maintained. Respect is a powerful commodity and is only given by others not taken by force. It is only by investing in those being led that rewards can really be reaped in a company or organization.
Hunter defines leadership as “the skill of influencing people to work enthusiastically toward goals identified as being for the common good” (Hunter, 28). A leader may accomplish tasks by making others conform to their will just because of their position of power. However, to gain the enthusiasm of those being led, a person's leadership must come from authority rather than their seat of importance. The necessary authority isn't easy to gain. In order to build it, a leader must earn the respect and trust of those they lead. It is important to note that the author's definition refers to the common good. When someone influences another to get what they want it is called manipulation. Everyone in an organization is there because they believe in the same purpose: pleasing the client by providing a service or product. Yet the the attitudes of the leadership in an organization can hinder that purpose.
The leadership model developed in the book demands a paradigm shift: the old attitude of running a business acts like a “top-down” approach with the clients or customers at the bottom. Hunter claims this attitude won't work since the employees are constantly looking upward out of fear from those in supervisory positions, taking their attention away from those with whom the company wishes to do business. When this is turned upside-down, the attention of the supervisors and CEOs becomes focused upon serving the employees they supervise; everyone is looking “upward” and working toward the1 common goal of providing a high quality product or service.
The new paradigm emphasizes the need for leaders to serve those they lead, providing for their needs as best they can. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs emphasizes that fact that human behavior is driven by need, whether it's for food and shelter, companionship, or self-esteem. Relationally, a leader can serve their employees by developing “relational bank accounts” that are never overdrawn. The author borrows this metaphor from the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People where deposits are made during positive interactions such as being trustworthy or a good listener but withdrawals are made during negative interactions like breaking promises or acting arrogantly. If a leader shows they can be level headed, respect their employees, and not hold onto lingering resentment it creates the proper environment for success. Everything boils down to the relationships one has with their coworkers or those they lead.
Hunter spends quite a bit of time defining the word love and how it fits into leadership. It is described as a word of action and behavior rather than feelings and emotion. Love means putting others' needs before your own. Some concrete examples of how to show love are being “fully present” when listening to someone (Hunter, 105), not being late or otherwise disrespecting others' time, and “treating people like they are important...because they are important” (114). This must be done even when a leader doesn't feel like it or doesn't even care for the individual person. Serving and loving others while in a leadership position is important enough to allow leaders to behave positively toward their staff until that behavior changes the way they feel about them, a process referred to as praxis (149).
Hunter recognizes that being this type of leader will demand a lot of time and effort. However, the rewards far outweigh any potential difficulties. By leading as a servant, meeting the needs of others, and making regular deposits in relational bank accounts, a leader can build influence with those who are being led, resulting in further progress toward a united goal. Having a mission or purpose like that is a reward in and of itself; a vision can begin to define who we are and give excitement to life. Finally, when someone is able to give up being self-centered the author claims they are able to find true joy: “inner satisfaction and the conviction of knowing that you are truly aligned with the deep and unchanging principles of life” (Hunter, 178-79).
Leading as a servant can be very hard work: it takes a lot of effort to be purposeful about the relationships we have with those we are leading, putting their needs above our own, and investing our time and effort into ensuring they have the best work environment possible. Yet everyone has a choice of how they will live their life and how they will lead others. I would recommend to any aspiring leader that they should follow James Hunter's advice and lead as a servant. After all, some of the oldest and greatest advice ever given was to love your neighbor as yourself, sage advice for anyone, leaders and followers alike.  

Father's Day on the Mountain

A beautiful sunrise on the upper Kahiltna.

Journal Entry No. 4
Location: 9500 foot Camp, writing after our cache-and-carry day up to this elevation. It was a big day to haul all of our gear up here, even stashing some of it around 10,000 feet. In the rest of the journal I'm going to talk a lot about food. We bought our food through a service called Exposure Alaska and they put together 20 days worth of food packaged in five-day bags. They have been providing their service for quite a while now and through the feedback they get from clients have dialed in their quantities and a variety of meals that are easy to prepare and are pretty tasty. I was excited about going through them to get a “taste” of what expedition food is like and know in the future what to prepare and how much of it. My family has never really enjoyed “gourmet” food while even car camping let alone while backpacking or climbing. The preparation is certainly more than boiling water and pouring into a freeze dried meal bag, but it's almost a nice chore to get to do other than sitting around in the tent waiting for the next morning. Even at home I like to cook and preparing good food while out on a glacier is a particular pleasure. Thankfully Dad is a willing guinea pig and will pretty much eat anything that I put in front of him. He's also a great sous chef and is more than helpful in our kitchen.
Hauling loads in our sleds for the second trip up to
9500 feet. 
June 19th—Happy Father's Day!
Since the last time I wrote we've eaten a lot of food, and because I wanted to document the meals that we've eaten on this expedition I'll try to catch up.
Dinner Saturday: Salmon Carbonari Pasta
Dessert: Reese's Stix
Breakfast Sunday (at 9500 ft camp): Power Oatmeal! (3 packets, powdered milk, nuts, raisins, granola, butter...)
Dinner Sunday: Pasta w/ soup mix, cream cheese and cracker apps
Dessert: chocolate pudding

Today was a big day. We got up early and shuttle half our food and some gear up to about 9800 ft. Our intention was to cache it at our camp location but we misjudged the distance and blew by it. We'll just have that weight that much further along for tomorrow. After the cache, Dad and I skied roped-up back down to our tent at Camp 1. It was the most amazing ski run of my life. Not because the snow was incredible (it was hard and stiff but relatively easy) but the exposure and the view for miles and miles down the Kahiltna Glacier was breath-taking! Just that ski run (down “Ski Hill” mind you...) made the whole trip worthwhile, and we still have a possible two weeks more!
Dad is all smiles at 9500 feet!
After that, shaking and giddy with excitement, we broke camp and hauled the rest of our gear up to 9500' “Camp 2.” We've had a really nice exchange with a guided group through RMI. Mike, lead guide, is the friendliest guide we've run into yet. The whole group is interested in chatting and learning names and exchanging jokes. Our camp is right next to theirs tonight and I am pleased. It will be fun climbing the rest of the mountain with them.
Posing with our mascots while enjoying the amazing views
of the Kahiltna Glacier, snaking its way for miles into the
valley below.
Speaking of food...we have so much! We've gorged ourselves today and are still finding food and drink mixes in our first food bag. It's good though: we need the calories to stay strong for the rest of the climb.'s fun to cook. We're already scheming about a cheesecake to celebrate the Summer Solstice!

I have two favorite memories from this camp. First, I was trying to film a “tour” of our camp for documentation and 'K', one of the RMI climbers came over and literally demanded that I film him. While I was frustrated at the time that he in effect ruined my tour video clip, what he said regarding Father's Day and being able to spend an expedition like that with my dad still rings in my ears. It is an incredible honor to be sharing a tent on a glacier on North America's highest peak with my best friend, who also happens to be my dad.

Second memory: the sky was clear all day and the sun was particularly brutal. At some point, I think I was whipping up the pudding for dessert, I heard Dad say something about being hot. The next time I turned around he was gone, nowhere to be found, until I spotted him stripped to his scivys sprawled out in the tent. Temperature management was a difficult thing to deal with the whole trip. We were warned by some friends too, but it's different experiencing it first hand: when the sun is out you can stand around in 5 degree weather in a light shirt, but when it goes behind a cloud it gets frigid and we have to scramble to get another layer on.

Dinner is served!