Photo: Don Bowman and the 2023/24 TPF Fellows

Fueling the Passion for Servant Leadership

Posted on August 25, 2023 by Donald R. Bowman, ED. D., Advancing Philanthropic Leadership

The underlying focus of The Patterson Foundation (TPF) is to create evolving futures through initiatives that strengthen and engage people, all types of organizations, and communities to address mutual aspirations.

Providing collaborative platforms that provide wide, diverse participation that build a culture of trust to visualize shared aspirations that percolate tenants of change is a tall task. It requires leaders who empower others and steward relationships.

In 2018, TPF entered into an articulation agreement with Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (LFSOP) – the world's first higher education school dedicated solely to the study and teaching of philanthropy – which led to the development of TPF's Advancing Philanthropic Leadership (APL) initiative. Although several facets are embedded in this collaborative venture, the Fellows Program provides graduates of the LFSOP Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies with a year-long career-building opportunity to immerse in innovative TPF philanthropic principles while working on a wide range of activities. Through the Fellows Program, TPF aspires to create a network of future leaders aligned in their innovative approach to philanthropy and, simultaneously, invest in and enhance its own leadership base.

In December last year, I continued my professional journey and joined the TPF-APL program as lead for this exciting initiative. I was fortunate to have been able to experience Joni Steinberg's nurturing and encouraging leadership as I moved into my new role. Months later, I continue to experience that through TPF's values, its strategies to accelerate progress towards shared aspirations and possibilities (CLSES), and its daily attention to its 5 Cs key actions – Caring, Connecting, Collaborating, Contributing, and Creating – that we are profoundly fostering in tomorrow's next generation of servant leaders.

Underlying The Five Cs is the concept of servant leadership. A servant leader's focus must be primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong and serve. Encouraging a diversity of thought and creating a culture of trust are principles upon how servant leaders guide people, organizations, and communities toward positive outcomes. What better learning environment than TPF to witness and build these leadership muscles.

Three of the most essential core characteristics of a servant leader must be the ability to be an active listener, practice empathy, and embrace feedback. I have learned this from personal experience in multiple settings in the communities where I have had the privilege to serve as both a leader and a volunteer. From decades in college student development administration to roles within church settings, as well as nonprofit organization leadership and volunteer roles, I have found it necessary to build all three of these skills in myself in order to foster positive outcomes. Imagine my excitement to have the opportunity to work with tomorrow's servant leaders, having had the experiences I have had so far in my own life!

I particularly value how TPF reinforces servant leadership's core values in demonstrating that "one does not arrive with the answer" while facilitating initiatives. Joyful leadership is a hallmark of both TPF leadership and all effective servant leaders. From my vantage point, investing in nonprofit leadership development through the APL initiative is a critical opportunity to impact next-generation leaders to observe, acquire, and ignite change toward a promising future. How fortunate are we to have such an important role in fueling the passion for tomorrow's servant leaders!

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