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Everyday ethics: Stop, look and listen

The ancient wisdom teachers knew well that learning how best to live could be summarized in a simple rule: Stop, look and listen.

Stop being busy long enough to reflect on life. Look at what’s around you. And listen to your own heart.

Stop, look and listen is a rule not only to be memorized but practiced every day until it becomes a way of life.

Yesterday as I went outside, I heard the honking of geese overhead and looked up to watch them flying in a V formation heading south.

Some years ago, while I was directing an organization, I observed a flock overhead and got to thinking why they flew in such a formation. Little did I realize until I read and thought more, that the geese offered me much guidance about leadership.

Geese fly in V formation because it enables them to fly greater distances by conserving their energy, thus reducing wind resistance. One bird flies in front, only falling back when tired and is then replaced by another. And when they honk, they are sending messages of support to the leader.

I compared this pattern of leadership to that which often rules today.  Leaders who move out front and only want to be praised, who care for others only for what they can offer, who honk to criticize but not to support the team.

I learned about a different model called servant leadership, described by Robert Greenleaf, a corporate executive who for more than 30 years worked at AT&T before retiring to teach and write.

Greenleaf’s essay “The Servant as Leader” was published in 1970. In it, he argued the best leaders were servants first, not leading by telling others what to do or bullying them, but seeking to serve them. The best leaders embodied listening and persuasion skills. They led as much by who they were as what they told others to do.

That simple act of stopping long enough to look and listen to the geese overhead offered me more insight than I received from most of the management training courses I had taken.

I also learned that the same lesson applied to my life. I needed to stop from time to time to consider who and where I was, to take stock of things. It was the first lesson of philosophy: Know thyself.

I also grew to understand that sometimes all one need do is be aware of yourself and your surroundings It’s another early philosophical lesson: Wake up!

And finally, I learned to listen to myself, the inner voice which tends to be drowned out in the clutter and confusion of life.

Stop, look and listen.  It’s the beginning of learning how to live deeply.

John C. Morgan is a teacher and writer who also directed nonprofit organizations. He can be contacted at drjohncmorgan@yahoo.com


Source: Berkshire mont

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