True Servant Leaders

There is that expression, “like tennis, nothing happens in life, until someone steps up to serve.”

Earlier this month, I was privileged to offer The Leadership Challenge Workshop to a number of leaders from various non-profit organizations in the greater Cincinnati area. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. They enjoyed and benefited from the opportunity to come together with many of their brethren, and to focus on themselves, as individuals and leaders, for a few days. I was inspired from meeting them and having the opportunity to work with people who unselfishly give so much of themselves in the service of others.  They are the true role models of servant leadership.

Non-profits encounter the same leadership challenges as all other organizations.  They have difficult issues to resolve, never enough funding to fulfill their missions, and leadership succession issues. They use most of their money to provide needed services to those in need, as that is the primary focus. You can understand why formal leadership development for them is often more of a wish than a reality.

There is one leadership issue, different in their world, that most other kinds of organizations do not face. Often times, many of their workers are volunteers. These non-profit leaders have no formal authority over this group of workers. For example, they cannot cut their pay, if the volunteers are not performing. Nor can they simply manage them. Rather they have to lead their volunteers, in order to inspire them to do their best work, and to stay. Volunteers can somewhat easily take their talents elsewhere, if they are not happy. And with continually rising customer expectations, no organization can survive with an unstable workforce that is constantly turning over.

We have frequently asked corporate people to think about this question.  If you did not have employees, to whom you paid a salary, 0ffered benefits, and provided all the trimmings – if your workforce was entirely volunteers – what would you have to do to mobilize them to want to come in everyday to work their hearts out for you and those you serve? I encourage you to give that question more than a passing thought. And I believe you will find the answer points you to providing more and better leadership. The true test of a leader is that others are with you because they want to be, not because they have to be. Never forget this.

To all those who attended this session, thank you so much for your service to our community. May your Leadership Challenge experience continue to inspire you, and provide you new avenues for achieving extraordinary results.


  1. Thank you again Steve for sharing your talents with all of us so we can have broader impact on the community. The program was a catalyst to new invaluable relationships. We are stronger as a group as we experience many of the same challenges and can learn best practices from one and other.

    Thanks again.

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