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Viewpoint: It’s important to lead with passion

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By Dana McConnell

Leadership doesn’t happen with a title. 

It happens through the passion of an individual.  No matter who you are, where you come from, where you work, or what position you hold, you can help lead our Upstate.

Throughout my work in the non-profit sector, I see so many passionate people willing to give up their time and resources to move our community forward. They show up when asked, recruit others when needed, and leverage their contacts to multiply the impact. These are the leaders, with or without an official title, who make a difference.

McConnell

Need some examples?

Hannah Carter, a workforce coordinator at Bon Secours St. Francis, connects individuals with disabilities to employment opportunities within the health system. Her passion and energy for serving others is fueling Project Search, a collaboration with the Greenville County School District and Bon Secours St. Francis to identify high school seniors who may be eligible for an internship. 

Chris Robinson, a commercial banker with South State Bank, serves as a volunteer on the board of directors at the Center for Developmental Services. Whether the organization is contemplating a new program, reviewing financial statements, or developing a strategic plan, he is actively engaged to ensure that the integrity and stability of the non-profit remains strong.

For Tim Herron, volunteering has become a family affair with the Cancer Survivors Park Alliance. To help offset the organization’s small staff size, Tim serves on two of their committees, mobilizes other volunteers when needed, and is a CSPA advocate at multiple events throughout the year. His wife, Carla, and their two sons, Ben and Ryan, provide extra hands with clean-up projects, small administrative tasks, and running errands. 

These individuals live their passion and show that you don’t have to be the CEO, an executive director, or a partner at a firm to be a leader. You just have to be willing to get involved in your community. 

You could start out through a network group like the Junior League, Rotary or Kiwanis who incorporate service projects into their mission. For those wanting to be a voice for others, you could join advocacy efforts on behalf of our youth, veterans, rescued animals, or join patient advisory councils at a local hospital.  If you enjoy social events, the Upstate is full of activities to benefit charities. Just check the media outlets and on-line calendars for ones that match your availability with your specific interests. 

If you’re a parent, you could get involved in your child’s school by helping with traffic flow in the morning, chaperoning on a field trip, or working the concession stand during an athletic event. If you live in a neighborhood, help organize a yard sale or a clean-up day to improve the appearance of your streets. If you attend a worship service, sign up to be a greeter or to visit those who are sick.  Involvement can be what you want it to be. 

For a more long-term impact, I challenge you to look into our community for pockets of disparity, areas of inequities, or places you feel are unsafe. It only requires one person to create an idea and take the initiative to act. That initiative will require some grunt work, collaboration, respectful communication, and compromise to see real change, but never stop moving forward. You’ll need to be engaged for the long haul and be committed to sustainable results.

We can all help lead our community, the place we call home. Passionate leadership is the driving force behind any great achievement. If you allow your passions to follow the needs of the community, accomplishments are limitless. Our economic and cultural viability depends on passionate leaders.

Dana McConnell is the executive director of the Center for Developmental Services in Greenville. She can be reached at Dana.McConnell@cdservices.org.

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