Servant leadership was first coined in the 1970’s by Robert K. Greenleaf in “The Servant as Leader”. In his essay he writes “A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible”.
Over the course of the summer, I have observed strong to absent servant-leadership and I am beginning to understand that the Naramata magic happens at its best when servant-leadership exists – the power of “co-creating community” as one Board member said.
However, in moving to a more developed staff model have we in fact lost sight of the importance of that type of leadership?
We experienced just over a 7% drop in our overall program participation this summer over last summer but only ~ a 3.4% decrease in the number of people on site. While we had more people on site this year not participating in programming, we did widen our circle of influence.
Our trends are reflective of the changing climate and, given the feedback received from participants, the uncertainty which still exists as to the success of our future. This circles back to Servant Leadership. We have employees, members, participants and a Board of Directors. Each group has a different voice of leadership. Our members exercise leadership through their vote at the annual meeting. Each opportunity to vote is an opportunity to ask, are we putting the needs of our future community ahead of our own? Our Board of Directors sets the overall strategic direction for the Centre. I have seen them in action and their decisions are guided by our mission and that question. Our employees are new - we are dedicated to our success, invested in our mission and eager to ensure that our participants leave the Centre wanting to come back. We are finding our balance between guest hospitality and co-partnership experiences. At our Sunday night Welcome Circle we say “we have created the space and it is up to you to create the experience” – you as the weekly participants become the leaders.
The success of participant leadership changed from week to week. During music week I observed this type of leadership more than any other week during the summer. Our music week participants co-created community within their group. Our staff provided support and guidance where needed. However together we are still searching for consistency in the magic which can be found in leading together. In other words finding space for the Naramata staff and participants to share the responsibility for creating the magic.
During the month of August, I started “conversations with Susan” on Friday afternoons. I talked about our vision of community, our vision of being a Centre which leaves the definition of seeking spirituality to the seeker, and most importantly how living our mission of Inspiring individual and collective transformation in a safe, inclusive, sacred space can only happen when staff, participants, members and the Board of Directors are Servant Leaders.
With the summer behind us, we are already beginning our plans for next summer, incorporating lessons learned, advice received and today’s successes. So, my call to action is to ask you to pro-actively participate right now. Read our newsletter, forward our newsletter and find a place that speaks to you - Hearts and Hands volunteer month, Fall programming, Naramata Roots, or simply show your ongoing support through feedback, membership and donations. Where can you lead?
Next month will feature our quarterly Board Report – so stay tuned!