by Monica R. Peterson
Community Volunteer; Former Staff – Present Member
Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership
Thursday, March 27, 2014
So what about the community of servant leadership? Does it bring civic leaders together to spearhead a city-wide day of service? Or does it rally a family’s entire list of friends and neighbors to honor the final wish of a loved one? Or still yet, does it draw townsfolk to compassionate service through a much-needed fundraiser? I believe it is all these things and so much more.
I often think about how a community—of any type—empowers others to serve for a cause, a crisis, a family in need, or to celebrate. One of the main tenants of a servant-leader is to help create a sense of community among people. Why is this important and why now? The answers lie in the genuine belief that people thrive in community, and that when they serve collectively, the impact is significant.
I have spent the past 10 years of my professional career working with individuals who believe in the power of community and have demonstrated servant leadership through their gifts of time, talent, and treasure. Some bear well-known names in our community, and in yours, and some are people whose names no one would recognize—they prefer it that way. These individuals mentor students in after school programs. They support programs that provide ex-offenders with opportunities for viable and meaningful work. They provide training for service dogs that assist people with disabilities. They give homeless young people a place to be nurtured, loved, and encouraged to make the most of their lives today—despite troubled beginnings and questionable futures. And, in certain neighborhoods, these servant-leaders have held prayerful peace vigils with the relatives of loved ones lost in senseless gun violence.
I know some of you can think of several people or organizations that embrace the community of servant leadership; and, if it puts a smile on your face or brings a tear to your eye, you are not alone. You know how it feels when you are a part of something “bigger than yourself.” You also know how you feel when others are empowered to step up and lead because you have been an example. Your influence made a difference and they want to make a difference, too.
A sense of community is important now because people need to know there are still individuals who care in spite of challenges faced and problems yet to be solved. They need to know that servant leadership is taking place everywhere, in all types of communities and by all types of people. John Maxwell writes in his book The 360 Degree Leader that “only 360-degree leaders influence people at every level of the organization, and by helping others, they help themselves.”
I think this is true not just in organizations, but in our communities. The community of servant leadership needs you; if you are not actively involved now, consider finding your place. Your contribution will be transformational for you and for those blessed by your service.