The Difference in Leadership

Somebody asked me the other day what the difference was between all the other AmeriCorps programs that I have served with and the Emergency Response Team.  The list goes on and on, but as I stood there thinking for a politically correct answer, I kept on coming back to the same thought: The difference comes down to the leadership of the program.

Don’t get me wrong, I have loved every moment of my time in AmeriCorps.  Each program has both it’s strengths and weaknesses.  I had amazing supervisors and leaders while with NCCC and FEMA Corps, but there is something different about how the ERT is set up.

In NCCC, teams are set up with a Team Leader (TL) and Corps Members (CMs).  There are different titles.  Differences in pay.  Differences in training.  Mindsets.  Attitudes.  The system allows for it.  Supports it.  The TL has more responsibility.  They are in charge of the finances and reports, enforcing the rules and maintaining team integrity, and maintaining communication with project sponsors and support staff back on campus.

The difference with the ERT is that we are all on the same, level playing field.  We each bring out experiences to the table, but nobody is truly above the rest.  With the exception of the Fellows who help to run the office (and are on their 3rd or higher  year), that is the only difference.  Experience.

Yes, we have second years, but they work side by side with us (as with most of the Fellows), passing on their knowledge and experience out in the field.  We first years work alongside them, learning from them and passing our knowledge on to them as well.

That is the power of leadership.  It’s not in a position or title, it is found within the humility to serve and teach, to watch and listen, and (many times) to step back and allow others to make mistakes.  No one was born a leader, despite what some may claim, but we learn to lead through following, then stepping up to work beside one another.  In very few cases do leaders ever put themselves ahead of others.

I once believed I knew what leadership was after leading my team through their year of FEMA Corps, but I have come to realize that I still have much to learn from those that work beside me and share their experiences, just as I share my own.

God Bless and PEACE


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