Recently, UCC-related Orion Family Services in Madison, Wis., published this article in its newsletter. Orion — a private, nonprofit CHHSM member that serves children, adolescents and families throughout Wisconsin — wanted to share the experiences of four of its staff members who have completed the Nollau Leadership Institute and become consecrated as Diakonal Ministers. Orion’s most recent graduate, Fern Kanitz, was part of the class of 2019. Thank you, Orion, for allowing CHHSM to reprint the article below.
Over the past few years, Orion leadership has participated in an innovative leadership-training program provided by CHHSM’s Nollau Leadership Institute. The Nollau Institute is named after the Rev. Louis Edward Nollau, a 19th-century missionary, preacher and founder of several CHHSM ministries.
Nollau is an adult education leadership program; however, it goes beyond that. The Institute examines the larger question of what it takes to be a leader with faith as the foundation for work and leadership. Participants explore the process of leadership formation, the development of integrated leadership skills and practices of leadership (such as “Appreciative Inquiries,” which are a regular component of Orion meetings). The training explores many topics, including the role of spirituality and theology in leadership, the importance of using God-given gifts, and how to follow a journey of faith.
The training is an interactive year-long process that includes three retreats lasting two-and-a-half days each, online and telephone communication, peer mentoring and participation in the CHHSM annual meeting.
Samantha Clevenger, Fern Kanitz, Jennifer Hawley and Stacey Parke have completed the training. They shared their thoughts:
Samantha Clevenger, Community Services Supervisor: “I was strengthened and emboldened to work with the foundation of a servant leader. I do not have an ego or power trip to fulfill when my role is a servant first. This changed the focus of leadership from getting my staff to do tasks, to getting my staff what they need to complete tasks …This training got me to reevaluate the way I view an organization or business. This helped me take a step back and look at things holistically and as active and forever changing pieces. It also taught me that in order to make improvements, we have to be humble and willing to change and let go. The best way to kill progress is to say ‘but we’ve always done thing this way’.”
Fern Kanitz, Psychotherapist and Continuous Quality Improvement Manager: “I think what I have found to be most valuable in the training is the opportunity to hear about the experiences of other participants in the training and observe the ways they interact. Most of them are directors or administrators of programs or have had years of experience in leadership positions in organizations, rather than participating in a nonprofit agency in a direct service capacity … The benefit of the training is that we get to examine the components and the ‘working out’ of servant leadership in a ‘secular’ environment. I think I am gaining some confidence in my ability to lead, and to be accepted as a leader.”
Jennifer Hawley, Senior Clinical Supervisor: “Nollau has really pushed me to take a deeper look into my mission as a servant leader. It challenged me to think about my role and how I want to support the people I lead. It asked the question, ‘what is my purpose.” I discovered that my role in this organization is to help others see their potential. I want to help people be confident in their abilities and try things that push them beyond their comfort. I want to help them see the benefit in their work at Orion and be dedicated to the mission we follow. I learned that organizations cannot be led by individuals, but instead it takes a group of people to work in the same direction. I am so grateful for this experience and I took away more than I would have imagined.”
Executive Director Stacey Parke: “Servant Leadership training provided me with a new model of leadership. Leadership that is not founded in a traditional “top down” model, but rather, a leadership style that turns traditional thinking upside down. With Jesus as an example of the consummate servant leader, the servant leadership model teaches “leadership through service to others.” A servant leader focuses on working for agency staff rather than agency staff working for the leader. A servant leader attends to staff development and empowerment in order to enhance their work, the life and work of the organization and — in an organization like Orion — the lives of the children, youth and families we serve. Additionally, the year-long training program offered me a chance to connect with and learn from leaders in other CHHSM agencies across the country (many of those connections I still maintain and they serve as supports and mentors for me) and an opportunity for personal and professional reflection about my personal values, mission and purpose in life, and my work at Orion. It was an invaluable and life-changing experience and I am forever grateful to work for an organization that offered me such training.”
The valuable insights, new approaches to leadership and skills gained by Samantha, Fern, Jennifer and Stacey will continue to have a positive impact not only on these talented leaders but also on the people they supervise and serve at Orion.
Learn more about the Nollau Institute.