As a Leader Advancement Scholar at Central Michigan University, I have to follow a specific protocol to ensure my scholarship is renewed each year. Part of the protocol is to volunteer in at least one community service activity. I believe service is essential in leadership because it displays the importance of community, and inspires others to step up as leaders and give back to the community. Some of the service work I have done throughout the course of my freshman year have been: contributing in the making of tie blankets for a children’s hospital, volunteering for Program Board to ensure events on campus run effectively and smoothly, making cards for veterans, visiting my adopted grandparent at her assisted living home, and taking a service trip to Detroit with my LAS cohort.
Through the service I have done to satisfy the LAS protocol, I have witnessed servant leadership in not only myself, but others as well. According to the 7th edition of Leadership: Theory and Practice, by Peter G. Northouse, servant leadership “emphasizes that leaders be attentive to the concerns of their followers, empathize with them, and nurture them. Servant leaders put followers first, empower them, and help them develop their full personal capacities.” There are ten characteristics of a servant leader and I am going to touch on a few that I have seen a few of them in myself, and a few of my friends.
Me – When I visit my adopted grandmother, we always communicate with each other. Communication is a two way road: speaking and listening. Even after visiting her multiple times, I always leave with new knowledge acquired from my visit.
Josh Geary – Although it was not community service for our protocol, I have seen Josh display the listening characteristic of a servant leader when I was having a hard time one night. He sat there and listened to me ramble on about whatever I was sad about at three in the morning when he could have easily told me he was tired and wanted to go to bed. True leaders are there to listen to others no matter what.
Me – There was a girl I saw eating alone in the cafeteria almost every day my first semester at college. I pictured her as myself and wondered how I would feel if I never had anyone to sit with and converse with about my day. One day I rounded up all of my food and took it over to her table and asked if I could eat with her. She said yes and I had a wonderful meal sitting there and talking to a new friend. It’s important to place ourselves in other people’s shoes to see what we would want. After that, we must work to make it happen.
Rachel Kremm – Rachel always goes out of her way to make sure people feel welcomed and appreciated. Also, her passion for veganism is so inspiring. She is so concerned with the treatment of animals and expresses the need for change. It is very obvious that she feels empathy for animals and would never want to be treated the way that they are before they are produce.
Me – I have worked in group projects where not everyone got along great. Collaboration is not only essential for receiving a good grade, but also for overall happiness. It was important for me to get everyone on the same level and see that we all had a common goal and that everyone was needed in the group for a reason. When those two things were realized, the group members actually started to get along and have fun working together, they just needed a mediator to help them realize it.
Gunther DeDamos – Gunther never fails to break any awkwardness that ever arises in a group of people. His energy and optimism are infectious and he has the potential to get any group of people to collaborate and work together. Gunther always makes sure people feel recognized and included, and invites anyone into his group to get to know those that he is around.
Introduction to Leadership was taken my second semester at CMU with Jesi Ekonen as the professor. This class was my first 3 hour class and my first night class in college, but it was still enjoyable to attend every week because the energy of my professor, the teacher’s assistants, and the rest of my cohort was infectious. In this class, I learned about the different leadership theories and styles and how different ones evolve over time. My class was split up into groups and we taught each other the different leadership theories and styles through workshops. My workshop group covered Servant Leadership and made sure we taught it to our classmates with the best of our abilities. The class was split into groups again so everyone could facilitate a leadership activity. Towards the end of the semester, my class also took a service trip to Detroit to volunteer with the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy and CASS Community Social Services.
From LDR 200L, my facilitating skills increased immensely. Before, I never knew what facilitating was, let alone that effective facilitators debrief at the end of their sessions. That term was completely foreign to me. I would just jump right into an activity and jump right out, but now I know how to properly introduce an activity and bring meaning to it at the end by tying it all together. I also learned about different leadership theories and styles, for example the Trait Approach says leaders are born and not made while the Skill Approach says the opposite. While each theory might be true, it is important to understand both and why they were each developed.
It is important to know the different theories and styles to understand different leaders and see why they act the way they do. Knowing about each of them also shows everyone the different skills and weaknesses they have. Different approaches work in different scenarios. Followers are essential to leaders so it is vital to understanding when to act in certain ways. From doing my workshop on Servant Leadership, I can now be conscious if I am genuinely acting like a leader. When I am doing community service, I can ask myself am I just doing service for attention, or am I actually displaying the 10 characteristics of a servant leader (listening, empathy, healing, etc.). I will also carry my facilitation skills with me and can apply them everywhere: in group projects, work, and activities I have been instructed to lead. Effective facilitation is important because it brings a group together and helps get creative thoughts to flow between members.
Normally when I visit Detroit I go to see a concert or to cheer on the Tigers. I have never ventured to Detroit to volunteer, but on April 1st, 2016 I traveled there with my Leader Advancement Scholar cohort to volunteer at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy
and CASS Community Social Services. With the Jalen Rose students, we all split up into groups and rotated to different service projects. My group started off making cards for veterans, then moved to another room to de-fuzz material for a nonprofit in Detroit called Arts & Scraps. After that, my group made door signs for the Special Olympics Summer Games, which are going to be held at Central Michigan University this summer. The signs were made for individual people to greet them as they come to stay in the dorms. The last rotation was very heart touching as we saw a presentation on OK2SAY, which is a program where students and other people can submit anonymous tips when they feel unsafe. After eating at PizzaPapalis, we went to see beautiful art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. At the end of the night, we stayed and did a debrief of the day at the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center. In the morning when we all woke up, we set off to work at CASS Community Social Services. Some people went to shred paper, some went to work in the soup kitchen, and others went to make mud mats. I started off at the soup kitchen sweeping all of the floors, but when I was done I was sent over to mud mat making with a few other people. Mud mat making was a little bit different from what most people would expect. The mats are made from illegally dumped tires in Detroit. Homeless men are employed to make them, and the money goes back to CASS to help with other programs. After working with CASS, my cohort had completed our service trip and returned to Mount Pleasant.
I loved going to Detroit and volunteering because the service we did was different from what I was used to. The most impactful part of the trip for me was when I went to the soup kitchen and talked with some of the people who were homeless. They were so grateful for us being there to help, but they did not look at us any differently than they did their friends. When one of my friends was mopping, she told a man to be careful because it was slippery and he smiled really big and acted like he was sliding on the floor. He was joking around with us and I thought that was really cool because even though we were there to do service work, the people we were helping treated us like friends. Before we left, one man came up to our group and told us that if we ever have any trouble to let him know and he will always be there for us. After he said that, it really showed me that we were there for him and made a difference in his life. Volunteering should not be done for the sake of a picture to post on Instagram, but it should be done to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Sometimes service done does not even get credited, but it still betters the lives of others. When we all went to the Detroit Institute of Arts, there were so many statues that were made by unknown sculptors. Even though these amazing sculptors did not get credit for their work, they still created something beautiful. Service does not always have to be recognized. It is perfectly fine to let your stamp on the world be unknown, as long as it helped someone else have a better life.
Another part of the trip that I really enjoyed was partnering with the students at Jalen Rose to show them that service is fun. We showed them different types of service projects that they can do on their own time without us and they really enjoyed that. Because they partook in service projects they could do without us, I feel like they will be more likely to do them again. You could really tell that they enjoyed their day, and I really enjoyed my day too. The kids were so excited at the end of the day when they heard how many lives we had all touched through our 4 hours of service. Service really is an amazing thing and I truly believe everyone should try to reach out and donate an hour of their time to any cause at least once a week. It does not have to take much time to volunteer and it is such a rewarding feeling to know you have made a positive impact on someone else’s life.
I have been going to Detroit for Tigers games since I have been in 4th grade. The experience has always been amazing for me by seeing the big buildings, walking in crowds of people who are just as excited as I am, watching baseball, and spending time with my family. I had always been aware of the homelessness in Detroit from seeing people on the streets before and after the games, but it never felt real to me until I was leaving the Quick Lane Bowl Game this winter. As I was trying to exit the city in my dad’s car, I saw people huddling on the sidewalk for warmth under tarps when it was pouring down rain. I realized that not everyone is fortunate enough to lie down in their own bed at night in a warm home. We should all be thankful for what we have.
The service trip that I am going on to Detroit relates to the purpose and vision of the Leadership Institute because I am going to learn hands-on how to make a difference in student’s lives at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy by taking on a leadership role and facilitating volunteer work for them. I will also provide service through Cass Community Social Services and actively help the community of Detroit by improving the quality of life and the state of economy there by doing whatever is asked of me with eagerness and willingness.
I think the service trip will help me grow as an individual by taking me to places in Detroit where I have never been before. There, I will see things I typically do not see on a day-to-day basis. I grew up in a small town with a small community and I am not used to seeing what life is like living in urban areas. I will be able to extend a helping hand to those who need a little boost, and I will get to see the impact I make on the lives of the students at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. I will not be serving alone, but I will be helping with 50 other servant leaders; I already know that seeing others helping and caring will make the trip that much more meaningful to me.
Have you ever had a dream that someone told you was impossible to achieve? Did you stand there and agree with them or disagree? Leading starts with creating your own path and doing what others do not do themselves. To be a leader one must differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd by standing up for what they believe in. When someone says “This is how things are going to be done,” a leader fights back by saying “No!” Good things happen for those who put themselves out there and make them happen.
Rosa Parks never got up from her bus seat and said, “Yes, you are right, I should move.”
Christopher Columbus did not say, “Yeah, it is silly of me to think I could sail around the world.”
These people said no and pushed for their goals because they truly wanted to achieve them. Being a leader is more than just a title, it’s speaking up and pursuing a dream. Leaders stand out by exploring an undiscovered route, not adding to the multiple footprints walked on a nicely paved road.
There are people in this world who truly love what they do and do what they love. The Fred Factor is a book written by Mark Sanborn about his mailman, Fred, who brought joy to his work, and to others. The four principles that Mark goes into about Fred are: everyone makes a difference, everything is built on relationships, you must continually create values for others, and you can reinvent yourself regularly. In my Introduction to Leadership class, we created a project where we represented these four principles and documented our work. My group set up a table and had people passing by write how they were going to leave their stamp on the world. They were to take that sticky note with them and keep it as a reminder how they were going to positively impact the world using the four principles. From this project, I learned that it is never too late to recreate yourself and that small acts of kindness and encouragement can completely turn a person’s day around.