As everyone knows the United States of America is in the midst of a major transition in leadership and a vision of leadership itself. I could not help but reflect on the major transition of leadership and the vision of leadership reflected in SVDP CEO Dave Barringer’s recent column “From Your Servant Leader.” Now that is in itself quite a thought – a servant leader.

The Society has been blessed with the talents and vision of Presidents Sheila Gilbert, Ralph Middlecamp and their CEO Dave Barringer. What struck me immediately was both the sense of continuity of the vision of leadership and some discontinuity in the process of passing the gavel so to speak.

In the Vincentian Family there are many styles of leadership and leadership transition. I suspect we can all profit from reading this reflection about the transition from Sheila Gilbert to Ralph Middlecamp.

Among the things that caught my eye was the following…

The president-elect was elected this Monday but won’t take office until October 1, 2017 (a month after National Assembly). This was an intentional change to allow the president-elect to have time to consider options about roles and skills on the next board of directors. He can have more time to learn the current status of the many varied objectives and actions presently underway. He can also have more time to get to know you.

Some groups accomplish the same by having someone observe as a Vice-President who then moves to President.

His description of consultative leadership in the Society is also very valuable.

He concludes,

We will all rely on the Holy Spirit for our direction and the resources we need. We know that our work is really not about us, but rather our being part of God’s plan. What is he asking of us, alone or together as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul? With the election of a new national president, I hope we will all take some time to discern our forward path and how we can continue to contribute our ideas, time and talents.

The full column…

“From Your Servant Leader” January 26, 2017

For the first time that anyone can remember, the National Council has elected its next national president months before he will take office. The president-elect was elected this Monday but won’t take office until October 1, 2017 (a month after National Assembly). This was an intentional change to allow the president-elect to have time to consider options about roles and skills on the next board of directors. He can have more time to learn the current status of the many varied objectives and actions presently underway. He can also have more time to get to know you.

Any national Society leader will be many miles and experiences away from most of his/her constituency. Fortunately for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, we have regions and corresponding regional vice presidents who are “closer to the customer” to know how things are working – or not – in our many Councils and Conferences. The national staff is another resource where members share their activities and thoughts. We have regional meetings where national leaders might attend and meet people firsthand. And more recently, the national Council can take increasing advantage of better communications and databases to survey its members and to hear from them across many issues and concerns. If you have something to share, we have many ways you can use to get your message across.

Despite all this, any newly-elected or appointed leader brings his/her own ideas, perspectives based on local experience, plus some degree of independent thought. All of this is an advantage to a Society with rotating board membership, committee participation and other representative leadership. We depend on new ideas to grow, to meet new needs and to improve our relevance to people in need and the systems that purport to help them. We blend this new thinking with another national blessing, the years of experience we have from Vincentians who have “been there, done that” over many years of perhaps similar challenges and past successes.

The current national president, Sheila Gilbert, and the current national board of directors, will continue to work hard on your behalf for the remaining eight months of their terms of office. As this group nears the end of its strategic plan period, I promise we have big results ahead! Meanwhile, a new group of Vincentians will be recruited to build upon the successes of those who have served previously. We can all be helpful through earnest prayer for our leaders’ efforts, and in contributing ideas on improving an already great Society and the methods we use to serve our neighbors in need.

Whether you serve exclusively at the Conference level, in a special work, or at a Council, regional or national level you likely have some ideas. Please write them down now and be ready to share in the days and months ahead.

We will all rely on the Holy Spirit for our direction and the resources we need. We know that our work is really not about us, but rather our being part of God’s plan. What is he asking of us, alone or together as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul? With the election of a new national president, I hope we will all take some time to discern our forward path and how we can continue to contribute our ideas, time and talents.

Yours in Christ,
Dave

May God bless Ralph and all the other servant leaders in a special way!


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