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What Leaders are Learning

Leaders Build Community

Leaders Build Community

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. This past week, our adult class focused on governance in the community. The servant leadership characteristic of the day was building community. Of note, building community is one characteristic that is unique to servant leadership. Many of the characteristics are shared among different leadership theories. Vision for example is common among most theories. However, Larry Spears captures the uniqueness of building community writing in his June 2013 article The 10 Gifts of a Servant Leader: “The servant-leader senses that much has been lost in recent human history as a result of the shift from local communities to large institutions as the primary shaper of human lives. This awareness causes the servant-leader to seek to identify some means for building community among those who work within a given institution. Servant-leadership suggests that true community can be created among those who work in businesses and other institutions. Robert Greenleaf said: “All that is needed to rebuild community as a viable life form for large numbers of people is for enough servant-leaders to show the way, not by mass movements, but by each servant-leader demonstrating his own unlimited liability for a quite specific community-related group.”
Servant leadership is comprehensive, looking for more than teamwork as an end state. In aspiring to serve first, servant leaders do look to build relationships. Greenleaf believes that institutions are usually “people-using” rather than “people-building.” Communities help propagate relationships. Dr. Jean Freed in her article, Leaders Build Community writes: “It is easy for leaders to forget the power of culture, relationships, and community. Leaders need to create spaces where people want to work. As architects, leaders need to focus on facilitating the process of people getting to know one another because it is difficult to trust someone you don’t know. And it starts with letting people know the leader: What do you stand for and believe in?”
How do leaders help build these relationships? First, they listen to their followers to build the trust necessary to draw each other together. Second, servant leaders look to enrich relationships to grow the community family. Last November, our region experienced a horrible windstorm. The reactions of so many institutions and individuals to the crisis were remarkable and brought us together as a community. Even in the devastation and destruction, we actually built our community. Gift cards sent by Avista for groceries to assist with Thanksgiving is emblematic of the kindness that pulled us all together during the tragic events.
Our Class of 2017 leaders are determined to build community, to build relationships and to build trust. We can answer the question: “What do we believe in?” We believe in Spokane…that is what binds us. I am fond of the story of our founding fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They became bitter rivals in their later years even to the point of Vice President Jefferson resigning from serving President Adams and then coming back and running against Adams to become the next President. A decade later, Adams and Jefferson resumed communicating to each other and soon became fast friends. What allowed them to see past their differences? They each realized they believed in something greater than themselves, they believed in American freedom which they both made a possibility for the nation. Ironically, they passed away on the same day, 50 years later to the day from when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Servant Leaders see the big picture and understand the “why.” In doing so, they look for a means to foster relationships. Servant leaders do go for the home run. Leaders build community.
“People always want to know something about the person doing the leading before they’re going to become the people doing the following.” ~ Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner