Leadership Lessons from Summer Camp #3
Yesterday this guy was out in the bush cutting trails with a chainsaw. This morning he painted a couple of signs outside the Dining Hall. He’s also the Executive Director of this camp bustling with over 200 people all summer long. His name is Bruce Dunning. It is surprising that Bruce is able and eager to take on these minor maintenance tasks when there are so many things going on all around for which he is ultimately responsible. Having known him for nearly 18 years it just makes sense to me. It’s a demonstration of the way he leads and has grown this organization. Bruce started here for more than thirty years. He’s personally developed the vision of this place and directly trained and mentored the permanent staff for years. He’s seen them become the standard bearers for what Medeba is, and trusts them as they pass the dream and practice on to all the summer staff. During camp he has a low profile, but everything that happens reflects his influence. I don’t think this can happen in organizations where leaders change frequently. It takes years to establish a culture deeply enough that it can be maintained without constant prodding from the top. The level of trust Bruce has in the team here takes years of consistent, compassionate, and very intentional development. I’ve watched with enormous respect as he’s made that happen. I know the trend in the corporate world and in many churches and charities is for leadewrship terms of five years and less. The theory is that you need a new emphasis and skill set that frequently to avoid getting stuck. At times it does seem to work; but ultimately its a reactionary strategy that lends itself to immaturity in both leaders and organizations. I will continue to be an advocate for long term leadership that can grow with an organization, build deep trust, and develop people and culture strong enough to sustain momentum while the leader is cutting new trails or touching up the signs that let people know where they are.