Leadership comes in many shapes and sizes.
Whether you are talking about community, government, military or academia, nothing is accomplished without people of vision, energy and action.
One of the most effective styles of leadership was first written about by the well-known corporate leadership researcher Robert Greenleaf, who coined the phrase “servant leadership.” In an essay he penned in 1970 he talked about how “The servant-leader is a servant first… it begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.”
In our modern society where so much emphasis is placed upon achievement and recognition the concept of leaders who serve is not only refreshing, it has the potential to change the entire leadership paradigm.
Looking back upon my days as an undergraduate student at High Point College, I once knew a beautiful young woman, mostly from afar, who would, one day, become one of the most effective servant leaders I have ever encountered. Ironically, this shy, young coed who was on a pre-med academic track had half of my soccer team scrambling to figure out why she never dated. It seems even then, she was influencing and impacting others with her grace and enigmatic ways.
Years later, I finally learned that she was, in fact, already betrothed to a man who would one day play the pivotal role in the remarkable resurgence at High Point University. Yes, I am talking about Dr. Nido Qubein and the mystery coed was indeed his future wife, Mariana Qubein, High Point University’s First Lady.
For those who know Mariana’s commitment to both our community and HPU it will come as no surprise that she does in so many ways epitomize the quiet strength, humility and effectiveness of a true servant leader. When you watch her with the students at the University, it is immediately obvious that she views her role as equal parts nurturer, encourager and exhorter who calls those young people to more academically, morally and spiritually. Like many of you, I have often wondered how Nido can possibly spend the incredible amount of time and energy he does every single day at HPU and the answer is clear, he has a secret weapon in his partner and teammate, Mariana, who serves as a strong, supportive presence in his life.
In addition to this, the First Lady has carved out a unique leadership role as the founder and visionary for the University’s Arboretum and its 24 gardens. In her role as chairperson of the school’s Arbor Day events, she has brought HPU national attention by creating a strikingly beautiful campus which has recently led to the school being recognized as a recipient of the Campus USA Award, an award that only went to six universities this past year.
Mariana also has a long history of hands-on community leadership with numerous nonprofit organizations in the area including; Family Services of the Piedmont Foundation Board, the North Carolina School of the Arts, the High Point Community Foundation, the United Way’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society, the Wesley Memorial Church Victoria Qubein Fund and the High Point Junior League. She has always understood that being a part of a community and a university is a privilege that must be earned every day with one’s time, energy, compassion and resources.
Committed servant leaders can and do transform communities by contributing in ways that lift up others through nurturing and developing human capital. They accomplish things quietly, without fanfare, expectation of reward, or personal acknowledgement because their motivations are transparent and their intentions are good, true and just.
Lest we forget, at the end of our life journey, our truest legacy will be that which we have invested in others… Let us all strive to be leaders who seek first to serve.
Paul Lessard 5/19/15