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The Humble Leader - Explore the transformative power of Servant Leadership with author Suzanne Harman Munson

The Humble Leader - Explore the transformative power of Servant Leadership with author Suzanne Harman Munson
The Humble Leader - Explore the transformative power of Servant LeadeThe Humble Leader - Explore the transformative power of Servant Leadership with author Suzanne Harman Munsonrship with author Suzanne Harman Munson

“Cultivating humility is essential, distinct from being humiliated. We should all strive to be servants, assisting our fellow humans,  adopting humility and a willingness to set aside our egos.” Suzanne Harman Munson

Historian Suzanne Harman Munson discusses her book Jefferson's Godfather: The Man Behind the Man, revealing the significance of servant leadership exemplified by George Wythe, a lesser-known Founding Father. Suzanne offers valuable insights essential for navigating contemporary challenges, emphasizing the importance of individual impact, critical thinking, kindness, and humility.

Stephen Matini: Did you delve into writing and history after retirement?

Suzanne Harman Munson: Absolutely. During my working years, I lacked time for book writing, juggling career and household duties, especially raising children. After my husband's passing and retirement, I embarked on a diverse journey, exploring various genres and penning books.

SM: Why writing and history specifically?

SHM: My parents, especially my father, had a deep love for history. He immersed himself in Civil War narratives, a subject not quite my preference. Nevertheless, our family often recounted stories of our ancestors and their immigration to the country. Although my academic focus was in English, it greatly benefited my writing pursuits in history.

SM: Your family has deep roots, spanning generations?

SHM: Yes, tracing back to the earliest days of American settlement in the United States.

SM: Regarding the Founding Fathers, your focus is on Jefferson, but did you explore others as well?

SHM: Indeed, I'm currently immersed in a substantial book on Benjamin Franklin, who played a crucial role in winning the Revolutionary War.

I also find the stories of John Adams and Abigail Adams fascinating. However, my writing spotlights two Founding Fathers: Thomas Jefferson and his mentor, George Wythe.

Wythe, often labeled the forgotten founding father, captured my interest during my research. Realizing the lack of recognition for his contributions, I felt compelled to share his story in the 21st century.

The decision to write about him crystallized after leaving the corporate world. It took five years to complete the book, as I found it challenging to concentrate at home. I sought refuge in writers' and spiritual retreats, dedicating 48 hours or even a week at a time to intense focus on my work.

SM: The writing process is a spiritual journey, delving deep within. What insights have you gained about yourself exploring the world of writing?

SHM: I see myself as a teacher, sharing profound lessons, especially about the integrity of our founding fathers. There's a pressing need for greater integrity in our government, conveyed through over three dozen lectures and online interviews.

After my husband's passing, I embarked on a spiritual quest to understand his journey and the nature of life beyond the physical form. This exploration involved traditional historical research and a metaphysical journey into the afterlife, resulting in books in both genres.

SM: Did you have a clear goal from the start, or did curiosity and openness guide you?

SHM: For my first book, "Jefferson's Godfather," focused on George Wythe, I wanted to share his story, feeling its relevance in the 21st century. 

In my latest work, "Of Loss and Love: A Journey of the Heart," which took a decade to write, I  engaged in a “journey of the heart” from my husband's death to my remarriage. The memoir concludes positively as I embraced online dating and found my current husband.

SM: How does history provide solace for you?

SHM: The courage and vision of our Founding Fathers in creating the United States deeply inspire me. Their revolutionary idea aimed to empower the people and establish a lasting democratic republic—a unique concept in history.

The hope was to establish a meritocracy, where the best individuals would lead, chosen periodically by the people. The peaceful transition of power, a strong ideal for the Founding Fathers, contrasts sharply with historical norms.

The Founding Fathers' ideals, such as the peaceful transition of power, stand in stark contrast to events like January 6th, which would have horrified them. In our time, revisiting these ideals becomes crucial.

SM: Democracy is a profound responsibility. If the Founding Fathers returned today, what do you think they'd advise?

SHM: In my book, "The Metaphysical Thomas Jefferson," I explore what Jefferson might say about our current state. He would express concern about our apathy, the erosion of freedoms, and the lack of critical thinking. 

Jefferson would stress the need for a populace educated in critical thinking and universal education for all. He envisioned leaders with integrity and encouraged more individuals of integrity to step into public office.

The decline in investigative reporting concerns the Founding Fathers, as it obscures government actions and fosters corruption. Exposing such issues is vital to maintaining a government that serves the people's interests.

SM: What contributed to the Founding Fathers’ emphasis on integrity, and why is it a struggle for us today?

SHM: In my biography "Jefferson's Godfather" about George Wythe, I highlight the power of one individual to shape the destiny of a nation. His integrity influenced key figures, setting a high standard.

Despite challenges, the Founding Fathers had an opportunity to shape a better future. Over time, corruption and partisanship crept in, and today, the influence of big money poses new challenges, creating more temptations for corruption in our government.

SM: How would you define servant leadership in your own words?

SHM: Servant leadership involves prioritizing the public's interest over personal gain, maintaining balance, and avoiding unchecked self-interest and ego—especially crucial in the current Washington climate.

In "Jefferson's Godfather," George Wythe, a founding father, exemplifies seven key leadership qualities:

  1. Strong Ethical Foundation: Known as the “only honest lawyer,” emphasizing ethical integrity.

  2. Mentorship: Generously mentoring around 200 future leaders, including Thomas Jefferson and Chief Justice John Marshall.

  3. Advisorship: Offering advice to those in higher authority, acting as a role model.

  4. Scholarship and Preparation: Despite a lack of formal education, Wythe became a self-taught scholar, emphasizing thorough preparation in his legal career.

  5. Emotional Intelligence (EQ): Recognizing the importance of EQ alongside IQ, being a friend to both high and low-born individuals.

  6. Humanitarian Values: Opposing slavery and contributing to the establishment of the first mental hospital in North America.

  7. Humility: Reflecting modesty in dress and speech, influencing leaders like Chief Justice John Marshall, and shaping the demeanor of the United States Supreme Court.

These qualities define servant leadership, emphasizing ethical conduct, mentorship, preparedness, emotional intelligence, humanitarian values, and humility.

SM: The word "humbleness" resonated with me as you spoke.

SHM: Cultivating humility is essential, distinct from being humiliated. We should all strive to be servants, assisting our fellow humans, adopting humility and a willingness to set aside our egos.

SM: Maintaining a humble perspective is crucial, acknowledging our impermanence. What's the first step to cultivate humility?

SHM: Adversity or tragedy can humble us, prompting a necessary shift in perspective. Personally, this awareness deepened after my husband's passing, leading to significant personal growth in my later years.

Engaging in meaningful volunteer work, teaching classes, and contributing to aid organizations addressing global issues reflect a commitment to humility. Happiness lies in shifting focus from oneself to others and contributing to those in need.

SM: Life's richness unfolds with age, offering a different understanding. How do you define freedom, and what responsibilities accompany it?

SHM: Freedom of speech shouldn't extend to hate speech, which is rightly being addressed. A revolution of integrity and kindness is needed. Striving for thoughtfulness and consideration can counteract hate speech, improving our discourse.

Better role models and a reduction in hate speech can improve our discourse. Staying informed is crucial, but limiting exposure to negativity is essential for emotional well-being.

SM: Is there a key takeaway you consider vital for our readers?

SHM: Jefferson and Wythe advocate for increased critical thinking. Strive for positive thinking, healthy living, and critical thinking. Avoid one-sided perspectives and seek diverse viewpoints in the media. Embrace better literature and TV choices, fostering a culture of kindness and generosity. Be a critical thinker and try to live kindly and practice forgiveness.

🎧  Listen on your favorite platform: Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to the Pity Party Over podcast.

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