From the Director, October 2013

Jan Levy, 04/07/2014

Recently, I was speaking to a colleague who was moaning and groaning about her volunteers - how they never followed through on their commitments. She was trying to come up with a strategy for "managing" them.
Jan's pictureRecently, I was speaking to a colleague who was moaning and groaning about her volunteers - how they never followed through on their commitments. She was trying to come up with a strategy for "managing" them. I told her that in my opinion, you couldn't "manage" volunteers - after all, you don't pay them. Instead, she might think about how best "serve" them, making sure their priorities were being met first, and that they had the tools they needed for the job at hand. Some of you will recognize this as the definition of what it means to be a Servant Leader - something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

Like everyone else, I was fairly upset with the recent fight in Congress over passing a budget and extending the debt ceiling. I kept thinking about how nice it would be if our elected officials embraced the qualities of Servant Leaders rather than get so locked into advocating for their own position. Now that we're in the midst of the election season, I long for politicians who don't just pay lip service to having the desire to serve, but actually do just that!

Servant Leadership is defined as coming to leadership out of the desire to serve, not the desire to lead. Servant Leaders are those leaders who make sure other people's highest priority needs are being served first. Often, these leaders set aside their personal agendas to ensure that others' needs are getting their attention, be they customers, clients, employees, board members, volunteers, etc.

It's always been interesting to me that people equate Servant Leadership with a "softer" style of leadership practiced by non-profits. The truth is that you will find a large number of servant-lead companies within the private sector - companies like Southwest Airlines, TD Industries, the Men's Warehouse and our own Starbucks Coffee Company, to name a few. People are surprised when they hear this, but in fact, Servant Leadership is really all about how you treat people. Robert Greenleaf said it best when he described "the best test" for servant leadership as follows: "Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? "

Leadership Tomorrow is full of Servant Leaders who put our region's needs ahead of their own. People who take the time to mentor others and help them grow to be more than they ever thought possible. People who give their time to something or someone, not because of the recognition they'll get, but because of their desire to serve. Who are the Servant Leaders in your life? Who are the people who have helped you grow, stretch, and become more than you thought you could be? As I think about those special "servants" in my life, I encourage you to do the same, and take the time in this season of giving, to say thank you, and tell them how much they have meant to you.