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Leadership symposium focuses on leading through servanthood

Roy Hall, former Ohio State Buckeye and Indianapolis football great and co-founder of The Driven Foundation, inspired and informed as he spoke in front of a large crowd during the Pathways Toward Servant Leadership Symposium at Kent State Tuscarawas Performing Arts Center.

Dave Mast

In today’s world being a servant is not something that many people strive to achieve. Yet in a very upside-down world, taking on a servant attitude in the workplace as an owner or leader can bring about great change in a business.
That was the crux of the message during the recent Pathways Toward Servant Leadership Symposium at the Kent State Tuscarawas Performing Arts Center.
In its second year of presenting a leadership symposium, ProVia chose to explore the value of service and humbleness from the perspective of leadership.
ProVia president and CEO Brian Miller said developing an attitude of servant leadership is like fire in that it doesn’t extinguish when one candle is put to the next, but instead it grows and lights the world with each time it is transferred from candle to candle.
In presenting the Pathways Toward Servant Leadership Symposium, ProVia and Hartville Hardware teamed up to create an avenue for area business leaders to learn more about how a servant leadership role in the business world can create opportunities for growth in more ways than one.
The event featured the humorous and insightful gleanings of best-selling author and motivational speaker Jon Gordon, who works with professional sports teams across the United States as well as numerous Fortune 500 companies.
Despite dealing with a number of huge corporations and professional teams, Gordon focused on an aspect of life that many people would never associate with a thriving business world.
“It’s about putting love into action,” Gordon said. “A program that is built on love and building relationships drives the process. It shows people that you care more about them than you do about the bottom line. You are making an investment in your people because you care about people. Great people put caring into action. Serving others is simply putting love into action.
We have to learn how to invest in our team. We have to learn to encourage others and to be there for them, to make a commitment to them. Being a great leader is performing at a higher level while getting the people around you to perform at a higher level, and you make people around you better by being a servant leader and sacrificing and making a commitment to their well-being. People want to know you are committed to them as a leader or an owner. Show them that commitment, and they will follow.”
Bruce Hamsher, director of leadership development at ProVia, opened the symposium with a series of vignettes from area business people who have implemented servant leadership in their businesses and experienced the benefits that accompany it.
The symposium then focused on the acronym SERVANT. NewPointe Community Church of Wooster campus' pastor Dan Owalabi spoke about being Selfless, Empathetic, Responsible and Vulnerable, the first four letters.
Owalabi spoke at length on understanding how to lead and influence people by not ruling over them, but by crawling down into the trenches and working beside them.
“You’ve got to learn how to lead people without forcing and controlling them to do your will,” Owalabi said. “You have to learn how to motivate people because of who you are and the direction you’re heading is good for everyone. If you’re the right person heading in the right direction, people will automatically want to follow you because people will believe in you.”
Roy Hall, co-founder of The Driven Foundation and former Ohio State Buckeye and Indianapolis Colt football great, touched on the last three letters, using ants as his analogy to talk about how leaders must be Ambitious, Nurturing and Teachable. He noted that the various types of ants are all different and have their own unique characteristics that bring something valuable to the team.
Hall also told those in attendance that based on statistics of growing up as a black child in a poor community, he really should not be on the stage talking about servant leadership. He said he should be living in poverty, in prison or dead.
He said, however, that servant leaders arose in his life at critical times to help him grow and learn how to take responsibility and how to lead and teach others that they too have self-worth.
He noted that men of great personal strength and faith like former Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressell, former Colts head coach Tony Dungy and quarterback Peyton Manning came along to show him the true meaning of being a great leader by serving the people around them and under their charge.
“The servant leaders I had didn’t have to do what they did,” Hall said. “But they did. Now it is my time, just like it’s your time. It’s time to step up and be a servant. It is time to step up by stepping down and becoming a servant. Imagine where I would be today if even one of those servant leaders in my life didn’t step up. Imagine the lives that won’t be changed and the company values that won’t be established because we don’t show up as servant leaders. This is where you show up.”
“Over the years servant leadership has always been a culture at ProVia, although we didn’t always call it that,” said Brian Miller, president and CEO of ProVia. “We have always been very intentional about building our leaders. Other people and businesses that we have talked to over the years always get very excited, and their ears perk up when we talk about the effect of things that have worked over the years. We always get a lot of questions about how we implement the idea of servant leadership.”
Miller said that he, ProVia founder Bill Mullet and the leadership team would attend a servant leadership conference in Florida each year. After several years they began to realize they might have the ability to do the same type of thing right here in Amish Country.
“We felt that we needed to start one here in Ohio, so we started last year with a smaller version titled ‘Sustained Excellence,’ and it was hugely received, so we decided to expand because we love exporting what we have learned to other people,” Miller said.
While the idea was exciting, the committee putting together the event wasn’t sure what to expect in year one. It was a success, but preparing for massive growth and taking it to the Kent State Tuscarawas Performing Arts Center was a major step of faith. What they got was a monumental success that went beyond their wildest dreams in year two.
“We were hoping to get 500 people, which was why we picked the Performing Arts Center, and we came here, and over the last few weeks before the event, it grew from 500 to 900 people,” Miller said. “This is truly the manifestation of a practice that began many years ago.”
The speakers were elegant but simply spoke from their hearts. Their insight, wisdom and experiences have led each of them into areas of expertise that were ideally suited to highlight a servant leadership symposium.
Miller said listening to each of them share what they have lived and witnessing their willingness to be ambassadors for servant leadership in the world today is inspiring.
“This concept is nothing that we own,” Miller said. “This is something we want to share and have other people enjoy. It is like love: The more you share, the greater it grows.”

Published: November 14, 2017
New Article ID: 2017171109893