Giving Back

Giving Back by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

Janice has cancer. She is not expected to live long. … Though she has every “right” (according to the media and society) to be angry, Janice is a “giver.” She gives back to her community. She takes in foster kids, takes food to people in various local shelters, and collects blankets/coats for those trying to make it through the winter on the street.

Janice is giving back. During the day, Janice is a safety professional for a Fortune 100 corporation. At night, on the weekend, and during vacation, Janice is an angel. She gives back to her community in many ways. Some might view Janice’s “obsession” with giving back as a way of dealing with her own cancer. They would be WRONG. She has been through chemo, has lost her hair, and endured several operations. Yes, Janice has a lot to “deal with.” Yet this is NOT why Janice is a GIVER. Janice gave to those around her years before she was diagnosed with cancer. It’s part of her nature. It’s part of who she is as a leader.

Leaders, true leaders anyway, give back. They help with local agencies. They are attuned to the needs of others. They make a difference. They get involved. They are engaged. … Janice is not on the sidelines. She’s in the game. She takes risks on behalf of people. Like the time she took in a young baby abandoned by her parents. You see, Janice has a reputation. She’s not only known as a great safety professional, she’s known as a great person. A great leader. One who would take in an abandoned baby – left on her doorstep.

I love Janice. She’s my opposite in many ways. I’m a white dude. She’s a black lady. I’ve enjoyed good health. Janice struggles with cancer. Janice grew up on the streets. I grew up in the burbs. Janice worked her way through college. My parents paid for me to attend college (thank you!). Yet Janice and I share a common bond. As leaders, we love people. We recognize that being a leader is about service. About giving back.

When I returned from a trip to Kenya, Janice was thrilled to hear me talk about the ways in which I was blessed as I served others. … One day, after returning from an extended work absence (due to surgery), Janice came by my office and asked if she could have a minute. “Robert,” she said. “You don’t look good. Everything OK? I’m concerned about you? Mind if I pray for you?” … Caught! Guilty! Janice had clearly seen that I was under stress. Had come by my office to “serve” me. Though she was still recovering from her latest surgery and had lost her hair (well, we did have THAT in common!), she wanted to know how I was doing. Wanted to know how she could pray for me. Wanted to know what she could do for me. Wanted me to know that others were concerned about me. Wow! That’s leadership. That’s service. That’s giving back!

Yes, leaders need to get results. You know, “the bottom line!” Leaders are in the trenches. Taking action. Making things happen. Achieving goals. Reaching targets. AND! AND leaders are giving back. They’re giving back to those around them. Giving back to their families. Giving back to the community. Giving back to the world.

Janice is a leader. She’s making a difference in safety at work. She’s making a difference in the lives of others, by giving back, at work, in the community, and in the world.

Want to become a better leader? Start by giving back. Serve others. Make a difference.

How have you seen others giving back? What about YOU? I’d love to hear your thoughts. The floor is ALWAYS open.

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