Leadership as a Service, Not a Position

By Kimberly Brown | BN360 Spotlight Professional for December 2019

As a professional, my goal has always been to invest in myself in order to effectively lead, motivate and influence those around me to reach their full potential. This spark was lit at a young age and I have never looked back.

When the opportunity to lead and manage others was presented to me early in my professional career, it seemed to be a natural progression.

My thoughts and attitudes surrounding leadership started when I was 17 and working at a Wendy’s restaurant in downtown Buffalo. My manager asked me to hold onto the drawer key and to assist my co-workers, many of whom were my senior, with managing the front counter.

I felt a great since of pride being chosen and acknowledged for my diligence in providing exceptional customer service and teamwork. I did not know at the time how instrumental this would be in setting my course toward leadership because it turned out that my time leading was spent in service, not only to my customers, but also to my colleagues.

Servant leadership is the philosophy that a leader is to serve. A leader is not the one who sits behind the desk and bark orders, but rather, is someone who works hand-in-hand with the team to coach, guide and support. A servant leader shares power, putting the needs of the employees first and helping people develop their individual or shared talents so that they can perform to their maximum potential.

Throughout my career, I have been acknowledged for team building capacity and customer service.  During a performance appraisal, a former manager once said, “I had a knack for learning what makes my staff tick and utilizing it in a productive way”. The role of a leader should be to first serve their employees so that they can best serve the client, patient or customer.  This requires being in tune with the needs of your workforce, providing access to professional development, coaching beyond performance challenges and always celebrating wins, whether they be big or small.

I have spent the bulk of my career working in the human service field.  I have come to realize that I am doing exactly what I am destined to do, which is lead people to their fullest potential to serve underprivileged and marginalized communities.

As an executive of a non-profit organization, you are tasked with upholding the organizations mission. As a leader, I find it fitting for to also have a personal mission statement, mine is:

“To become a person who leads and influences others by exhibiting integrity and respect for all”.

Kimberly Brown is the BN360 Spotlight Professional for December 2019. BN360 is the young professional engagement and development program of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.