Last week our high school soccer team went to help the flood victims in the Clendenin, WV area. The devastation was incredible. When we got there the State Police woman, Mallow, who was in charge said, “Park your cars and come back here, just tell someone you are ready to work.” It didn’t take long until everyone was loading and unloading vehicles or stacking the many donations they had received on pallets under tents we set up so they wouldn’t be destroyed if it rained.
When I had a chance to stop and look around I was surprised that there were really only two people actually running the relief center. One was Mallow and the other was a man running around with an orange vest, a cell phone and a two way radio who was coordinating where workers and aid were needed. There were easily 100 or more volunteers. People assumed leadership positions for segments of the project work as necessary. One lady explained to us how we needed to organize the supplies. She worked with my group for a little while and then disappeared. When new volunteers showed up and jumped in to help I trained them and when we had to move to another area they took over and became the leaders. I was surprised how smoothly everything went and how much we accomplished. How did this happen? Is there a truth we can apply to other projects and organizations?
I believe that the key is a leader with a vision. The police woman, Mallow, was experienced and knew how everything needed to be organized. She knew how to communicate her vision. She then personally trained the first set of leaders and they trained their replacements. Mallow clearly was able to influence people and develop people. She was fortunate to have motivated volunteers. We had driven 25 miles to get there but I worked with one woman that had driven in from Cleveland. One group was there from Florida. People had come there to help and just needed to be directed to where they could start.
Mallow wasn’t the commander or the boss she was the leader. The most challenging group for any leader is volunteers. If they think that the leader is rude, or a jerk or doesn’t appreciate them, they can leave at any time then the job doesn’t get done. Mallow, treated everyone with respect and appreciation. She led by example and her example was followed by the volunteer leaders. When it was all put together the result was positive. The work got done and volunteers left feeling fulfilled. The volunteers continue to return. Mallow knew how to keep people motivated with her appreciation. We could also see the appreciation in the victims we assisted. We knew that what we were doing was important. The police woman knew that no one needed commanded, just influenced. We followed her example and attitude.
It is all about leadership. What works in Clendenin would work everywhere. Thoughts to ponder.