A Natural Leader – The Girl Next Door
This is a story about exemplary leadership from someone who does not fit the stereotype most often created for leaders. My story is about a woman named Barrita.
Barrita owns a small chocolate shop in a small community in Western Canada. She has had her own business for a few years and has one or two employees at the most. She belongs to the local Rotary club, which is how I know her. Barrita is soft spoken, and even a little shy. She rarely says anything at our Rotary meetings and actually does not attend meetings on a regular basis. She is always upbeat and positive, and appears to have a lot of friends.
I had known Barrita for only a few months before I encountered an opportunity to observe her in a leadership role. It was not until I reflected upon her performance in pulling off a successful fund raising event, that I realized the strength of her leadership skills. Barrita was able to motivate a large group of people to help her orchestrate an event which raised approximately $10,000 and was attended by at least 300 people.
Her success story actually started long before she developed the idea for the fund raiser. Barrita is seen as a very caring and generous individual, and is someone who people trust. Given that she is trusted and respected, she exemplifies behaviour that positions her for successful leadership.
The second key ingredient in her success was her passion for her cause, which was to raise money to help a friend with severe health problems. As Barrita moved through her community of friends, seeking support for her cause, her passion was transferred to the people she approached, which made it easy for them to share in the vision of providing support for someone in dire need. Barrita had never done anything like this before, which would usually impede one’s ability to lead a project of this size, but her inexperience and her style were actually an asset in this case. Barrita approached people with not much more than a vision and a goal, and asked them to help in any way they could. By approaching people in this manner, the volunteers who agreed to help typically volunteered to help in an area where they had skills and experience. By choosing their tasks, as opposed to being assigned or delegated tasks, they had more enthusiasm and commitment to their role. As Barrita assembled her team, she was able to bring together a team of highly motivated very enthusiastic people who felt empowered.
As I watched the event unfold, I was amazed to see Barrita calmly move among her team and her guests. I couldn’t help but marvel at how relaxed she appeared to be, having seen others in similar roles coming apart at the seams as the clock ticked down. She trusted the people on her team and that trust made it much easier for everyone to do their jobs. The people on her team were able to focus on doing the best job they knew how without the fear of making a mistake.
The final component of this leadership picture was the genuine appreciation Barrita expressed towards the people who contributed, regardless of the size of their contribution. My wife gave of her time to bake some deserts for the guests. Barrita still thanks her for her effort, and praises the quality of the contribution every time she sees my wife.