If You Are, I Am

August 22, 2017



Written By: Jason Fry

By Jason Fry

Each August, the Donor By Design team meets in Chicago to participate in the Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit (GLS). Being the new guy at DBD, this was my first experience and I was blown away.

The GLS is essentially keynote after keynote speaker for two full days focused entirely on leadership. About 10,000 people attend the main stage sessions in Chicago while nearly 200,000 additional people worldwide join via satellite. The tickets sell out in under 10 minutes. Why go through all the hassle and expense to bring a team together for such an undertaking? Because DBD’s president Bruce Berglund understands and lives by the principle:

If you are successful, then so am I.

Investing in leadership generates one of the best returns an organization can make.

I recently met with a scholar who studies leadership development. She asked me, “What do you think the most important aspect of leadership is?” I thought for a moment and responded with, “Communication.” I had just come from a meeting with executive-level leaders where there were many unspoken words, and a feeling of unfinished business. I realized this is a state-dependent answer. If she had asked me that question at the end of the Leadership Summit, I would have said, “Courage.” Listening to the speakers who were battling the challenges of human trafficking, slavery, death of a spouse, child abuse and others – I couldn’t help but feel like their common theme was action in the face of fear.

Later in our conversation together, I asked her for another shot at answering the question. I said, “A willingness to grow.” I believe great leaders know that there’s more to know. Knowledge turns to wisdom through study and practice. Great leaders will invest in others because they know that growing the team will make the organization stronger all around.

This doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of formal leadership training or programs. Here are some things to consider:

  • How do you start your team meetings? Do you dive right into an operating topic (i.e. how can we save money on printing costs)? Or do you challenge the group with a topic like, “What’s something you’ve wished we would do but haven’t yet tried? What’s a major concern you have?” or, “What conflicts have gone unresolved in our organization?”
  • Pick a book to read together. Don’t just read it, but process each section together. Some of the DBD favorites include The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni, Tribes by Seth Godin, or Switch by Chip and Dan Heath.
  • Ask community leaders to come to your meetings and give a 20-minute talk. Not only is it great to have a different voice at the table, this is also a great way to cultivate a key relationship with a donor, board member or someone new to your organization.

I know there are countless tasks begging our attention. But, if you commit to the principle of developing leaders around you, I assure you that you will be successful, because you’ve invested in making sure they are too.

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2 responses to “If You Are, I Am”

  1. John Alexander says:

    Great comments, Jason. I also enjoyed the GLS and the many facets of leadership that were presented.