By Jeff Becraft
A couple of years ago I went to a workshop on experiential learning. It was on a college campus in one of the training rooms in one of their main buildings.
The seats were set up theater style with about 5-6 seats per row with an aisle running down the middle of the room dividing the seats up into two sections. I sat in the second row right next to the middle aisle on the right side.
Right before the workshop got started, a woman walks in and sits in my row a couple of seats down. We introduce ourselves to one another and start talking about various things. She is bright and cheery and smiling and it was a friendly start to the evening.
I turn my head for a few moments to notice something in the room and the next thing I know, this woman is up front and welcoming everyone to the workshop. She is the president of the college!
When she introduced herself to me, she never said anything like, “I’m Dr. so-and-so” or “I’m President so-and-so” or anything. She didn’t even have a name tag on. You know, the gold plated professional looking ones that no one can read… there you are bending down, squinting… trying to pick up what their name is (which, what is the point of even having a name tag if you can’t read it?). Or you are standing there smiling and waving like the Madagascar penguins because you have no idea what the person’s name is who you are talking to but they know your name and you are pretty sure you are supposed to know theirs. You are spinning through possibilities in your head… and wondering if you can buy a vowel.
This person acted like she was my neighbor and had lived next to me for the last 30 years. Or that she had heard there might be snacks and simply wandered in to see what was going on. She was not pretentious at all.
As a friend of mine says, “Having a title no more makes you a leader than sticking your head in an oven makes you a biscuit.”
There are all kinds of different leadership styles and some different situations demand a certain style of leadership. For instance, some situations demand a very authoritative style of leadership. But as I was part of the activities for that evening, I admired this person’s leadership style and thought, “That’s the kind of leader I want to be.” She wasn’t caught up in titles or being recognized or anything. She acted like she was just glad to be there and glad that you were there as part of what was going on.
There are a lot of characteristics to great leaders and humility is one of them. The workshop was great and I took a lot of notes… but it was this person who had the biggest impact on me that evening.
Jeff Becraft is the Director Emeritus for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives. Youth Corps is a life-changing leadership development experience that inspires high school students to be leaders in the Midlands and beyond. You can connect with Jeff at [email protected].