I have sat down with some of the greatest minds in leadership and David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation, is certainly among that group. During our discussion, he shared some of the most valuable insights he’s gained from his life and political career (including his role in Barack Obama’s administration as the White House Director of Political Affairs), and what struck me most was his understanding of servant leadership.
Below are five of the biggest lessons that I took away from that conversation:
We represent more than ourselves
Thinking that we are only a representative for ourselves is a naive approach when in reality, we represent many different communities. In order to best represent ourselves and each of those entities, we need to begin by respecting ourselves. To serve as a positive representative, we must consistently and persistently behave in a way that shows respect for ourselves, our family, and our community.
Remember that citizenship is about more than legal paperwork
Democracies work best when the people participate and are engaged. We need to be focused on adding value beyond activities that are expected, like paying taxes and serving jury duty. We cannot become entitled and must remember that we owe a responsibility to our communities to leave them better than we find them.
Understand the nexus of liberty and union
The ability to have liberty and personal freedom is a key part of the human experience, but so is a sense of belonging. We can create change and make an impact as an individual, but the truth will always be that we have the most power when we are part of a group that is aligned and united by a common purpose.
Know the basic tools for community organizing
Bringing a group of people together takes a combination of approaches. We must be able to take an asset inventory, determining the resources we can apply to solve a given problem. We must also use power mapping, to understand the decision-making process, as well as issue mapping, understanding an issue’s personal importance to help ourselves (and others) become inspired. Finally, the use of narrative storytelling allows us to bring people together for the same cause.
Don’t forget to pay it forward
Mentoring, coaching, and empowering the next generation is what will help us to scale our impact most effectively. Sharing the lessons learned from our greatest successes and greatest failures will help prepare our youth for the challenges that they’ll face in their lives. Don’t limit the positivity you create, spread it wherever possible.