A few people have said to me, "It seems a little strange." A few have asked the question, "What would make the CEO/Executive Director of a local United Way walk for 50 consecutive days around her county while carrying a 35-40 pound backpack and sleeping outside each night- rain or snow- in her tent?" My answer, "I wanted to live out my beliefs and inspire others to do the same." My beliefs call me to “Live United” by sharing the life I have been gifted for the sake of others and the greater good.
As a CEO/Executive Director I think one of the greatest leadership strengths that I can offer to my local community is to truly "believe" in the mission of our United Way, and to prioritize and embody that mission through the gift of my own life. As a leader, we must first live out the example that we would call others to live out in their own lives. In Licking County, United Way’s mission has been “uniting the community to improve people’s lives” and like most United Ways, we have struggled in recent years to make the shift from being seen as a “community chest” to now being seen as a convener and leader of collective impact with a “call to action” for everyone to unite together and make a difference in the areas that matter the most.
Each CEO/Executive Director is unique and has been gifted with their own set of talents and abilities beyond those that are typically lifted up as leadership qualities. I have always believed that the best we can offer is what makes us uniquely us. For me this 50 day journey was a way that I could uniquely offer myself as a gift to serve others and the greater good. Walking, talking, listening, and connecting was a living, breathing journey of uniting our community. I walked over 470 miles, spent two days in each township (25 in all) listening and sharing the results of our recently completed needs assessment while inviting others to join in. Along the way I received comments about my backpack. “That’s a heavy load.” “That’s got to be tough carrying that.” I would simply remind them that this a visible load that I carry by choice, but each day many individuals and communities carry loads much heavier not by choice. Some are visible, but many are not and each of us can do something to help lighten the load.