At Your Service: July 8, 2009

by Maggie Inge
One broadcast during the holiday weekend posted pictures of Jefferson, Franklin and Adams and asked the question, “What would they think of today’s leaders?” My own answer to the question is that they would be quite proud of our leaders; they would be equally embarrassed by those in positions of leadership who abuse the privilege.
Leadership is a set of qualities and skills that enables a person to inspire others to action. It is often confused with, but is not synonymous with, power and it is completely unrelated to position. Many leaders fill positions that put them in the limelight and come with inherent power, but leaders can also be found behind the scenes in jobs that carry no clout at all. Leaders emerge in response to a need; then we find the ordinary person achieving extraordinary things.
When times are tough, the quality of leadership seems to grow in direct proportion to the need. Hence, the American colonies during the mid to late 1700s saw a significant number of leaders rise up who had powerful visions, military prowess and the ability to sustain action over a long period of years. Each, in their own way, contributed to the whole by leading in their own sphere at the critical moment.
The nature of the leadership role corresponds to the challenges being faced. Here at the beginning of the 21st Century when we recognize that we are linked to everyone else on the planet, there is a need to meet global challenges. Global challenges can only be addressed by handling local issues in every corner of the world. The challenges facing us here in Delaware County may be different than, but are no less important than, what must be addressed in Darfur or Washington, or even Albany.
The qualities and skills needed by leaders hinge on the challenges their community faces. The skills can be learned, qualities nurtured and an understanding of the issues can be developed. The desire to contribute to one’s community and commitment to follow through with action must come from within. Leadership Delaware is a program created to support people in fulfilling local leadership roles.
Leadership Delaware is a 10-month program designed to strengthen leadership skills, critical thinking skills, reveal key issues that impact the local community, and encourage civic entrepreneurship. Participants meet monthly in full-day sessions to address issues surrounding such topics as agriculture; arts and culture; tourism; economy and economic development; education; government process and the judicial system; health and human services; and local history. Meeting locations move around the county according to the issues being discussed and include conversations with experts and enthusiasts on the subject. The 2009 program begins in September and is currently accepting applications.
Those who are considering taking a leadership role locally or want to develop the skills they already use would do well to consider participation in this program. Past participants rave about the way that the program expanded their understanding and appreciation of local issues and enabled them to expand their network to include people and organizations throughout the county.
If you have a sincere commitment, motivation and interest in serving the community, and particularly if you have demonstrated that commitment by previous community service, I encourage you to take your experience to a new level by contacting Glenda Roberts, director of the Center for Business and Community Services at SUNY Delhi who manages the Leadership Delaware program at 607 746-4548 or robertgv@delhi.edu.
This dynamic program also needs the organizations that benefit from such leadership. Sponsoring a participant by paying the tuition fee is one way of contributing to the program and officers are encouraged to be among the speakers at the sessions.
We remember the names of leaders long after their work has been done. Jefferson, Franklin, Adams are names we remember because these men evoked something special from the people of their time. Many powerful people came and went, but the impact of a leader is eternal. You don’t have to be powerful to be a leader, but you do have to be committed. More than anything else, we need those of you willing to lead to step forward and do just that.