Positivity in Leadership: Celebrating MLK with Service

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Leaders are always needed to create a change.  Sometimes those leaders need to be in the trenches, like the incomparable Dr. King. Sometimes they must leverage their unique advantage to inspire change, like Al Gore’s pivot from politics to climate activism.  And sometimes the place of a leader is on the sidelines, cheering on those doing the work.

Today, to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, some representatives from the Net Impact Graduate and Undergraduate chapters joined forces with Duck Corp, UO’s community service organization, to gussy up Eugene’s Willamette High School.  Our team was assigned to paint a studio theater classroom; it felt great to get a paintbrush back in my hands.

I was quite struck by one of the volunteer leaders.  She came into the studio we were painting and instantly took command.  She stood in the center of the room, and in a clear, upbeat voice, she thanked all of us for our attendance and hard work.  She spoke mainly about how fantastic the results of today’s event were, how dramatically it would impact the students (Willamette High has the lowest income student population in Eugene), and specifically how excellent a job we were all doing.  She provided clear directions (“Let’s wait 15 more minutes for the primer to dry.”) in between her compliments, and cheerfully provided additional resources after listening to a few comments from volunteers.

This woman was a great leader: she made us all feel valued and corrected any organizational confusion that is typical of volunteering events.  She was genuine and overwhelmingly positive, and her presence was a wonderful motivator.   Our group accomplished a lot, and though she didn’t lift a paintbrush, her role was incredibly important for the success of the project.  While there is plenty to make me feel great about Net Impact’s involvement in today’s volunteer event, I am especially appreciative of the reminder of how positivity and great leadership are essential to creating positive change in the world.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Written by Center for Sustainable Business Practices

The Center for Sustainable Business Practices teaches tomorrow's leaders to balance social, environmental and financial responsibilities and empowers them to change "business as usual".