Leadership and Courage When it Really Matters
Leadership and courage are traits that are hard to come by in individuals and even harder in groups. Further, leadership and courage are even more difficult to find when times are hard and these two traits are more in need than ever. The organization I have the privilege of leading from a staff perspective, Beyond Housing, just held our annual strategic planning session on Saturday, September 12th. Our mission is to strengthen neighborhoods, one family at a time and this already difficult task has gotten that much harder due to the recent economic downturn. More and more families come to us each and everyday asking for our help in finding a place to live, help to prevent them from losing their home due to foreclosure, help to repair their existing home, help to provide support in the daily struggle to live with the weight of poverty on their shoulders. The sad irony of this increased need for our mission delivery comes at time, due to the economic downturn, when we are anticipating a 30% decrease in charitable giving in 2009 from 2008. This 30% equates to around $300,000.
In the context of this challenging time, we held our strategic planning session. In the context of this challenging time, we gathered on a Saturday to discuss our future as an organization and our mission. In the context of this challenging time, our Board of Directors can choose safe and cautious or bold and decisive. I am so proud to report that my bosses, the Board of Directors of Beyond Housing, chose bold and decisive.
Bold and decisive in the simplest language is stating that we refuse to wilt under the challenges of the day because those we serve need us now more than ever. Bold and decisive means that we collectively, board and staff, will be unwavering in our commitment to delivering our mission and running our business in the best way possible. It means, as board chair Rich Ryffel stated, “We just need to do ordinary tasks in support of our mission day in and day out, nothing extraordinary.” It also means, as chair of the planning committee Benjamin Akande stated, “I believe that courage is the most important leadership competency. Those who have it will own the future. I believe we have it.”
We spent five hours of incredibly exciting, challenging and motivating discussion on how we will move our organization forward and create transformational change with all those we serve. We spent five hours reaffirming our collective task of making a difference. We spent five hours looking in each others eyes and seeing the commitment that all of us had for this task. We spent five hours working through a whole host of mission-delivery tasks and ended with a new vision.
Our new vision is to alleviate the consequences of poverty in the communities and families we serve. Having courage and leadership means addressing those issues that are hard (such as poverty) and not being afraid. Having courage and leadership means, as Benjamin Akande stated, “creating an emotionally arresting strategy”. So again, the vision of Beyond Housing is to alleviate the consequences of poverty in the communities and families we serve.
My heartfelt thanks go out the entire Board of Directors of Beyond Housing for their willingness to lead and their true courage to be bold and decisive. As board member Michael Williams said, “let’s act like failure is just not an option”.