Leadership Testimony

Post date: Nov 12, 2016 5:47:8 PM


AGM October 2016



From 1966 until about 1979 I served as a Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts, when I was in my 20's and 30's.  I don't have that energy level today!

One incident I recall vividly was during an overnight canoe trip.  I instructed the Senior Patrol Leader to have my tent pitched in a specific area.  He did not follow my instructions, but I decided not to question his decision.  That night, we were awoken with a loud crack, and the crash of a hefty tree hitting the ground.  We all exited our tents, and investigated.  A tree had fallen in the very spot where I had told the Senior Patrol Leader to pitch my tent.  I would have been a dead man.  I thanked him, and asked him why he had my tent pitched in the other area.  He told me that the site I selected didn't look right to him.  I am here today because of the clear thinking of a teenager in a role of leadership.


I've been a member of my church for most of my life.  Years ago, I volunteered for several church leadership roles, and was turned down, because the elders of the church thought I was too young (in my 20's and early 30's).  And in one case, they refused my offer of leadership because I wasn't married!  Since then, they have asked me to do more; ironically, now that I am not as physically able as I was when they turned me down.  Since I turned 40, I have held most of the leadership roles in my church, and am currently church treasurer.


I began my relationship with GROW  in February 1992.  Jerome, our field worker, convinced me to be Recorder in a new group in Cicero.  I have participated in that group since that time.  I was then Organizer there for over 10 years, and am currently serving as Recorder.  Years ago, I attended the O&R Training in Peoria.  I learned much about GROW leadership from that training program.


One challenge I experienced in the group was trying the handle the incessant talker.  They love having an audience to talk about themselves and their problems.  On many an occasion, I had to use a watch to limit their time, and hold them to it.  Some Growers will talk on like a broken record, and they must be held into account.  A good leader makes these corrections gently, with loving care.  We need to keep the group in mind when we make these corrections.  Remember, the group is greater than the sum of its' parts. 


One mistake I made was with a first-time prospective Grower.  One of the readings in the Brown Book was perfect for his situation, and that was the reading I selected.  After the meeting, he accused me of targeting him.  I told him that was not the intent, but to this day I regret my decision.  He never came back.


In 2004 or 2005, I volunteered to be a member of the GROW Management team, as well as a Board member of GROW in Illinois.  I continue to serve in that position, and try to be a positive influence there, especially now that we are in a difficult financial position.


A number of years back, Carol (then the GROW President) asked me to chair the AGM, as she was having eye problems.  I volunteered without hesitation, and I think that meeting went well.


I wrote my personal testimony a number of years ago.  It starts on page 78 of the testimony book that GROW published in 2010:

“The Brighter Side of Life: Testimonies of Recovery Through GROW”

I am now dealing with what I call my “activity addiction”.  It causes me to avoid doing what I need to do in my personal life; mainly, clearing the hoarded clutter in my house, catching up with my financial and end of life planning matters, and continuing to deal with my current health challenges. 


Some members in GROW say that they are not interested in leadership.  Others pay it “lip-service”, and don't follow through.  We need to encourage them, and point out to them that it is in their best interest to ‘step up’.  Everyone has leadership skills; and, if you haven’t already discovered them, the surest way to find them is to be in leadership.


Following are a few observations I've had about GROW during the 24 years I've been a member: 


We need to prevent leadership burnout.  I experienced this after being the Organizer for the Cicero Group for over 10 years, with no one willing to step up.  I stepped out of the role, but continued doing the work of Organizer a few more years, until another Grower stepped up.  Those of us who have been in leadership for several years need to give enough space for others to experience being a leader.  It may be in having rotating leadership roles.  It may mean that some long-time leaders step aside and take a role in supporting new leadership.  In some GROW groups, leadership opportunities can be discouraged by Organizers or Recorders who insist on staying in their roles.  Thus, new leaders are unable to step up.  This kind of thinking needs to end.  For a leader to be in a position for more than several years is unfair to the leader, and unfair to the other members of the group.  Only through bringing fresh leadership in our GROW groups periodically, will our groups be able to prosper & grow into maturity.


When encouraging new leadership, the best time to ask someone to step up is during private conversation.  That way the person is not put “on the spot”.  The common practice is to bring up the subject during the meeting.  This can be effective, as long as no members are targeted.


I recommend this reading on leadership from the Brown Book:

“Sharing What You Have Learned”, page 208.


Remember: a leader knows the way, goes the way & shows the way!


Gar Hale

October, 2016