As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
We all have those people in our lives, from our past, who really made us who we are today. I am sure you all have that teacher, or club leader, or aunt that really took a hold on you and saw something special in you. I am no different and many times I say a special prayer of thanksgiving for one person in particular.
I started a leadership program that lasts almost two years and has 60 days of programming. For the first session, we had to prepare by reading a cliff notes version of Servant Leader. While I was reading the book, I was thinking about servant leaders I had encountered in my life, and I kept coming back to the same person.
When I was in college, I worked for the Illinois 4-H office on campus at the U of I. I got the gig to the misfortune of one of my buddies from FarmHouse who came down with mono before a big event the 4-H office was putting on at a home football game. I had been in 4-H for 10 years and had worked a couple of summers at the Extension office in my home county, so I wasn’t going in blind. However, what I got out of the next three years was so much more than I expected.
Since I started in the eleventh hour of event planning, I truly got baptism by fire. I was put on the marketing student team which was led by Sharon. I was intimidated at first by her direct, get it done approach. I wasn’t sure I could do a good enough job for her. What I quickly learned, was that Sharon wasn’t going to let anyone not do good enough. She would take the time to coach, mold, edit, critique, and then credit all those who worked with her.
The event, I am sure went smoothly, every event did. But, what had bigger impact is how Sharon deflected all compliments and good jobs to her team. She took no credit for the event and publicly gave all the credit to her full-time and student team members. I was amazed and humbled by her gratitude.
Over the next three years, I saw lots of red ink on press releases, went through literally thousands of large post-it notes that we used across her bank of cabinets to plan timelines, spent countless meals at buffets, and went through countless pairs of nylons as most events would require professional dress. I worked closely with people in high ranking roles. I spent hours with power tools building displays. We collected thousands of pounds of food and distributed that food all across Illinois. We promoted 4-H at football games, the state house and fairs. We laughed, we cried, we shared.
I spent weekends, holiday, evenings, summers working long hours. I recruited my friends to come work with us. I stayed not because the pay was great or the hours were great, because those both sucked. I stayed because I could feel myself growing and developing under Sharon. I stayed because I knew she truly cared enough about me to help me become better. I stayed because I felt like I was truly making a difference. I stayed because I was inspired.
At the end of my senior year, I was honored with an award that Sharon had nominated me for unbeknownst to me. I was given the Humanitarian of the Year award for all my work that I had for the 4-H CAN Make a Difference Food Drive. I felt like Sharon should be getting the award, not me. After all, it was her brain child. I just did the heavy lifting.
I changed my career goals. I changed my priorities. I changed my outlook on life. I learned that the best leaders are just that because it isn’t about them, it is about those they effect.
I hope someday, my daughter has the opportunity to have a woman inspire, believe, and change her. I hope someday I do the same for those women in my life.
I tore my photos apart looking for a photo of Sharon to now avail. I guess she was queen of eluding the camera as well.