Leadership learned through experience, guidance

Jim Lee: Local columnist

On Saturday, I became a past president of the Kiwanis Club of Portales. It was the first day of our club’s new administrative year, and officers serve a one-year term.

Elwyn Hulett became our new president. Elwyn will do a great job, and I’ll be able to take a break now. He has an abundance of administrative experience, and is a person of dedication and highest integrity. The club will greatly benefit from his leadership.

We like to kid around saying we got elected when we were absent, nobody else would do it, etc. The truth is, though, I feel very honored to have been so highly regarded by fellow members. As I am sure it is in other service organizations, such as Rotary, Altrusa, and Lions, leading a local club is a very enriching experience.

It was exhilarating to take office and a relief to leave office, both of these intended as positive observations. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of running the club (with lots of help and guidance), and I look forward to a highly enhanced appreciation of my club membership now that it’s someone else’s turn.

I took office with some big ideas and some pet projects. Then I gradually learned that eagerness for progress must be tempered by emphasis on what is practically sensible.

Experience teaches that in learning to lead one must partner with reality. This does not mean shunning progress or pulling back from promoting one’s principles, but it does mean one should emphasize what can be done.

Principles are great — they’re even greater when they can be implemented. In other words, good thinking must replace wishful thinking. I’m still trying to get this solidly into my brain.

I did learn some very useful and memorable leadership and administrative skills. To be brutally honest, though, the first thing I learned was that I had a lot to learn.

More experienced members gave me great guidance, especially Bill Wood. He tirelessly and patiently gave of himself for my benefit. Bill, with far more experience than I as a club member and officer, was always willing to help.
He became my mentor. He gave me an education during that year I will appreciate and use the rest of my life.

Among the most valuable lessons I take with me from my term as president of an organization of volunteers is a greatly expanded appreciation of my membership. The position required more hands-on involvement because I was responsible for overall operation. It taught me that a person in a service organization has much more than an obligation to serve the community as a volunteer — that person has the privilege to serve.

This privilege returns far more than it takes, and it makes each of us an increasingly valuable member of the local and global community. Life can’t get any better than that.

I hope everyone gets involved in making life better for others because it also makes life better for the givers. Giving gives back far more it demands from anybody.

A person doesn’t have to join a service organization to volunteer in the community and make it an even better place to live, but it does combine our efforts with others who feel the same way and leads to enriching friendships we otherwise may not experience. I urge everyone to become involved with a service organization, or at least do some volunteer work. Trust me, you’ll get a lot more out it than you put into it.

Make somebody smile every day — it will brighten your life.