Webster defines the verb “delegate” as “to entrust to another.” It seems simple enough but isn’t always so when human nature intrudes.
Delegating is a core principle of sound management and our Rule expects Vincentian leaders to practice it. Yet we frequently hear stories of Conferences and Councils unable to function effectively because presidents want to do everything their way and don’t delegate even basic responsibilities. We also hear about leaders stepping down because they were “burned out” from placing undue and unwise burdens on themselves. Sadly, fulfilling our mission is often short-circuited by such misguided ideas of how to lead and manage those who share a vocation of service to God and His beloved poor.
Strong collaborative leadership is essential to making our Society a more effective source of help to the needy. It brings fresh ideas into the operation of Conferences and Councils and moves us forward by promoting our Rule, forming members, and advancing goals and objectives.
Our Rule (3:11) tells us that “Following Christ’s example, the presidents at all levels of the Society endeavor to be servant leaders. They provide an encouraging atmosphere in which the talents, capacities and spiritual charism of the members are identified, developed and put to the service of the poor and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.” Such a focus on personal development also can provide a significant boost to a Conference’s or Council’s succession planning efforts.
There is abundant evidence that without effective leadership our service to the poor suffers and the viability of individual Conferences and Councils becomes a concern. It is a time-tested truth that leadership is as important to the service of the poor as any other role in our Society.
Among the concerns expressed for not stepping into leadership by running for Conference or Council president is that it is too time-consuming. That can be the case if leaders do not depend on others to assist them. As a first among equals and as a servant leader, presidents should help others grow into leadership roles by appointing officers, board members and committee chairs – and using them – so it becomes a team effort. Delegating duties to officers and making use of committees shares a Conference’s workload and enables others to become vital parts of the leadership team. Presidents do not need to attend all committee meetings. Committee chairs report back to them and to the membership. Committees also provide an opportunity to identify and develop capable candidates to move into leadership positions.
Some key points to ponder:
- Leaders are not expected to act alone – leadership is inherently a collaborative effort.
- Our Rule recognizes that family and job responsibilities come first.
- Leadership is not a personal mission but a team mission and God’s mission.
- There is a need to build a leadership team – officers and committee heads.
- The basic idea is to spread the work around – let others report to the president.
- Leaders need to put their trust in God and not lose sight of the spirituality of our mission.
- Leaders must use the God-given talents of others.
Our mission calls us to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to the poor and needy in the tradition of our founder, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul. Serving as the president of a Council or Conference provides an ideal platform from which to enhance one’s own spiritual life. A great privilege of leadership is the priceless opportunity to nurture the spirituality of fellow Vincentians while inspiring them to be ambassadors of the mission of St. Vincent de Paul in our communities by bringing the love and mercy of Christ to His suffering children.
Since our founding, Vincentians have been bolstered by an unwavering trust in the providence of God who has demonstrated during the past 189 years that He attaches a high priority to the success of our Society. We have, after all, said “yes” to His call. He wants us to succeed, whatever role we play in His plan for our personal ministry of love and compassion.