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The leadership of long-term vision

Stan Soderstrom | Jul 08, 2019

Stan Soderstrom

Last month I wrote about the difference between service and impact — and my preference for Kiwanis to be known as a “community impact organization” rather than a place for people to do the kind of service that merely moves them from task to task.  

For me, leadership requires clarity about this distinction. That’s because a focus on impact also brings clarity about what people do and why it matters. And when you have that, you have a sense of what an organization is capable of.  

Whenever I think about leadership like this, my mind turns to Wil Blechman. In the 1990-91 Kiwanis year, he was president of Kiwanis International. The Kiwanis presidency is a one-year position for a volunteer member of our organization. It’s a distinguished position — and as you can imagine, it inspires each person who fills it to pack a lot of initiative into 12 months.  

Wil BlechmanDr. Blechman was no different. But in his year, he was also driven by an overarching vision: a Kiwanis that was united around a common theme that inspired members over the long term, rather than changing year to year.  

It was literally a worldwide vision. Dr. Blechman challenged Kiwanians to ask what we could achieve if we thought of ourselves as an international community of volunteers whose impact reached around the globe.

One direct result was Young Children: Priority One, an international program that focuses on children age 5 years and younger.

But in several other ways, that vision reverberates nearly 30 years later. In that time, we have helped millions of children in many countries grow up without iodine deficiency disorders — and without the developmental disabilities that can result from them. We have helped protect and save millions of lives from maternal and neonatal tetanus through The Eliminate Project.

We have become an organization that makes a world of difference because we actively seek out the larger possibilities of service and fundraising.  

It started with a leader, and a vision. And it continues. For instance, it’s visible in our motto: Serving the Children of the World. It’s also visible in the members who live by that motto.  

Over the years, our various campaigns and programs have succeeded because they inspired people whose own leadership was a necessary ingredient. In that manner, people like Wil Blechman fulfill yet another of the crucial, long-term functions of any good leader: to create more leaders.

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