The tables inside The Browne Center were mostly full when I rushed in, but fortunately, the organizers had saved me a seat near the door, so I didn’t have to wander about, exposing my tardiness any further. I had been looking forward to this day with great anticipation. Still, as with any new experience, I awoke that morning feeling uncertain, a mixture of first day of school, driver’s ed, and prom night anxiety all rolled into one.
The group was gathered together for the first of six sessions of Leadership Seacoast. I am fortunate to have been selected as a member of the Class of 2020, along with 37 of my peers. We are the 32nd cohort to go through this rigorous leadership training since its inception in 1988. Over the past few years, I have been actively building new professional and personal connections in the Seacoast area. This group offers the promise of new relationships, along with a unique opportunity to learn about the characteristics of this beautiful and complex geographic region.
Leadership Seacoast leans heavily on the principles illustrated in the book, The Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf. According to Greenleaf, "the servant-leader is servant first." By that, the author means that the desire to serve, what he calls the "servant's heart" is a fundamental characteristic of a servant-leader. It is not about being servile; it is about wanting to help others. It is about identifying and meeting the needs of one’s colleagues, customers, and communities.
Servant leadership requires deep introspection and a willingness to expose one’s vulnerabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. I’ll admit that throughout this first strenuous day at The Browne Center, as we were introduced to this new set of beliefs, I wasn’t really sure how they would fit into my daily life. I questioned where my indoctrination to servant leadership would take me. I’m sure my perceptions will evolve as the classes proceed, and I further reflect on the pillars of servant leadership.
There’s something quite daunting about being asked to solve a wooden puzzle in under two minutes with a group of eight others you just met an hour earlier. So how’d it go? Quite well, actually! We had to trust, listen, follow, and fail, not necessarily in that order, before we completed our task successfully. In retrospect, the puzzle challenge was my Eureka moment when I realized I belonged with this group. Jumping into the fray with my team was scary and exhilarating, humbling and rewarding, and ultimately, just what I had hoped it would be.
At the end of the day, we assembled for a fascinating talk about the demographics of the Seacoast region, delivered by a charming octogenarian who’d spent his career researching city planning and available housing for working families in and around southern New Hampshire. Thanks to his work, I am more aware of the dynamics at play related to population growth around the region.
Next month our class will visit New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services. Judging from the intensity of the program thus far, I’m sure it’s going to be another eye-opening and deeply meaningful day.