This week I wanted to turn back to the charity side of me and share with you all something I recently experienced. I am heavily involved with Relay for Life, an organization dedicated to raising money and awareness for all types of cancers. The Relay that I am involved is actually ranked as the 4thlargest in the World (Kessler, 2012)! It is a massive 24-hour event where participants walk around the track in return for sponsorships (dollar amount per lap or per mile).
Other fundraising events, such as bake sales, throughout the year also raise money for this event. Our Relay raised nearly $1,000,000 last year, which goes to research and support for those affected by cancer.
The experience that I had involves our staff partner, Susan, who works for the American Cancer Society (the company that sponsors Relay for Life). I was able to sit down and have a discussion with her on what Relay is truly about, as part of a documentary I am working on with a friend. It was quite coincidental that we happened to be learning about authentic leadership in this course at the time because she proved to be a perfect of George’s five dimensions as describe in Northouse (2013).
Authentic leadership can be defined by three main qualities: interpersonal, intrapersonal and developmental (PSU, 2012). The interpersonal quality focuses on the relationship between leaders and followers directly. Intrapersonal is all about what is going on in the leader’s head and developmental looks at the idea that authentic leadership can be learned (PSU, 2012). With Susan, I noticed interpersonal and intrapersonal more than anything else. These relate nicely to Authentic Leadership Approach presented by George (Northouse, 2013). That approach focuses on five dimensions of leadership. These include purpose, value, relationships, self-discipline, and heart (PSU, 2012). I would say that purpose, value, self-discipline, and heart are intrapersonal. Relationships are obviously interpersonal.
Anyway, to get back to the story, Susan is perfect representation of what George is saying. Her job entails working with hundreds of volunteers for each Relay that she is responsible for. With my local relay being the fourth largest in the World, I will go as far as to say that she has her plate incredibly full. I always thought of her position as just another job, but I found out it is more than that. Here is the breakdown of how she fits George’s five dimensions:
Purpose – She lives for Relay, and for the volunteers that run it (her followers).
Value – During our conversation, she actually couldn’t even describe how near and dear Relay is to her.
Relationships – She repeatedly said to me “The volunteers are what make this happen, I just have the pleasure of guiding them,” clearly showing confidence in the relationships she has and in her skills.
Self-discipline – With five Relays throughout the year that are her responsibility, I don’t know how she stays on top of everything. However, this is reflected through how she leads because she demands organization.
Heart – She receives little pay for her position. Everything she does is driven by the passion deep inside of her and I respect that incredibly.
It should be now be obvious to all of you why I feel Susan fits the authentic leadership role. I was inspired to write this because of her and to show everyone that reads this that those who get paid for non-profit work deserve what they are getting. People have actually asked me, “Why does she get paid?” to which I respond, “Do what she does for one week and you’ll know why.” To end this simply, they make just enough to get by, so those that do it are involved because they care about the cause, not the money. Remember to thank those in positions like Susan’s.
Kessler, B. (2012, June 2). Hundreds join pottstown relay for life to fight cancer. The Pottstown Mercury. Retrieved from http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20120602/NEWS01/120609877/hundreds-join-pottstown-relay-for-life-to-fight-cancer
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Pennsylvania State University. (2012). Authentic Leadership. Retrieved from: https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/fa12/psych485/001/content/12_lesson/01_page.html