I was greatly inspired by this article on servant leadership twelve years ago. Written by the National Vice Chief of the Order of the Arrow, I happened upon it again today and it resonated as deeply now as it did years ago. I’m sharing this inspirational article in full in hopes that others may find it as meaningful as I do.
TTHOUGHTS ON SERVANT LEADERS AND THE GREAT OUTDOORS
By David Dowty, 2004 National Vice Chief
The vast forests, fields, oceans, and mountains of the United States have become our most vital resources in the Boy Scouts of America and the Order of the Arrow; they are, for us the staging grounds to learn life’s most precious lessons for every scout and scouter. As an Arrowman, one of our central obligations is to be mindful of our duty to the outdoors, to not only preserve them but also to interpret the deeper messages that nature leaves behind.
We are charged to be servant leaders and as such must strive toward leaving an everlasting legacy of cheerful service. In doing so, each of us defines what our own dreams are and with every breath drawn and every mile tread come closer to the ultimate pinnacle. The domain of our leadership though, is the future. It begins as a single spark within and becomes a roaring flame so intense that all around are enveloped by it. However, we must keep in mind that as we dream and look toward the future, a fire must be built in steps.
There is a natural progression of life around us, soaring through the air, rushing through the rivers and rising from the earth. Every great achievement by our natural surroundings has taken time to develop and grow from its own modest beginnings to an awe inspiring presence. The giant redwoods of Sequoia National Park, the deep gorges of the Grand Canyon, the breadth and power of the Mississippi River and the eloquent beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains took millions of years to become some of the most beloved natural treasurers within our nation’s borders. Each built upon past successes and accomplishments because the natural world we live in knows that great undertakings take time. It is from this simple observation, that we can learn a valuable lesson.
Leaders are meant to be authors of great ideas and wild dreams, taking a simple problem and applying a unique form of creativity to imagine the possibilities. As the dream takes shape, a leader must also determine and define for themselves and for their group how success will be measured. If we only defined success as achieved after we had reached and perfected our dreams, no one would ever feel that deep sense of accomplishment. Never knowing the taste of victory can demoralize and dishearten those you serve. Within little goals and aspirations can a group find the will and energy to continue serving their ultimate purpose; it is through those “baby steps” that Mother Nature perfected the natural world and that we will come closer to reaching our own summits.
As a leader, celebrate victories often. Always seek out and learn to identify the building blocks that become the foundation of a truly great achievement and with every block placed, have a party. Observe the world around you and see that even the largest tree in a forest was once a sapling, the deepest canyon, a shallow hole, the widest river, a trickling stream and the oldest mountains, a modest hill. A servant leader can look beyond the horizon of tomorrow and believe that although what they do today may seem small and insignificant, they too will someday realize their ultimate dream.