On February 11th, a small group of student leaders gathered in the West Lounge to hear from Jamie Haddon, the President and CEO of the United Way of Bucks County. Prior to his current position, Jamie, who is also a passionate volunteer firefighter, had successfully turned around several organizations . Under Jamie’s leadership, the United Way of Bucks County has undergone a total transformation. Not only have fundraising efforts and the company’s overall financial stability improved, but the facilities and employee morale have also been enriched. From his presentation, it is clear that he has created a sense of value purpose at the organization; this was exemplified by his recent “CEO Carwash,” where he personally washed all of his employees cars in exchange for a small donation.
Jamie’s first move as CEO was to approach his staff and ask which organizations were not happy with the manner in which the United Way had been run. Using the concept of “servant leadership” as his guide, Jamie sought to fix the company’s broken relationships by asking, “How can I help you? What can we change?” Jamie views his leadership style as similar to a coach; he uses innovative thinking to motivate and thank his donors, volunteers, and employees. He stresses the importance of saying “Thank you!” He views this as being especially important for a non-profit organization that relies on the generosity of others. Along with this, he stresses the importance of making the United Way’s participants feel special. A local elementary school collected just one box of items to donate, but Jamie created an entire event around picking it up so that the young schoolchildren would see how important their small action was to the United Way. Jamie’s decision to empower these elementary schoolers resulted in a donation of 23 boxes.
During his presentation, Jamie gave several useful analogies and examples of leadership that Villanova students can benefit from. He reminds us to work “heads up, not heads down.” “Take pride in what you’re doing,” he says, “just as the United Way takes pride in the fact that they are able to help 1 in 10 people in Bucks County.” Jamie emphasized that being enthusiastic about your purpose will create a ripple effect through your organization or community and pretty soon a movement will be on its way. Jamie showed the students a video called “Lessons from a Dancing Guy.” While it may seem like just an observers’ recording of a man dancing on the lawn at a concert, what happens in the video stresses the importance of being an early follower. Jamie emphasized the fact that you cannot always be the superstar; sometimes it is better to be a leader by example, as no movement will take off without the first follower. He also compared leadership to an iceberg; even though most of it is not seen, meaning that leadership is a lot of “behind the scenes” work, a true leader will quietly do the work without recognition.
Following Jamie’s presentation, the student leaders gathered in a small group to discuss leadership and how it is implemented at Villanova. Led by Ralph Gigliotti, Assistant Director for Leadership Programs, each attendee shared which organization they were involved with and how they defined their purpose. Most students were involved in the BRIDGE Society or Student Government. The main topic of discussion was how the ideals of “servant leadership” could be incorporated to improve these student organizations. The general consensus was that as leaders, we should be asking the members of the organizations what they want to get out of it. Everyone is so busy at Villanova that we should be making the most of the time we are able to spend with our respective groups. Following Jamie’s example of asking his partners at the United Way, student leaders should ask their members: “What can I do for you? How can we improve?” This leadership forum with Jamie Haddon helped reenergize and remind student leaders at Villanova of their purpose within their leadership positions.