Helping Lions Club Leaders Fulfill Their Mission to Serve

The 1.3M+ members of Lions Clubs International, the largest volunteer service organization in the world, all work with one single and simple motto: We Serve.  At the end of September, 11 leaders from Lions clubs in Oregon and Northern California gathered in Redmond, Oregon for a program titled The Challenge to Lead—a 2½ day The Leadership Challenge® Workshop that provided them an opportunity  to enhance their ability to fulfill their service mission and to build, strengthen, and renew volunteer Lion relationships. 

Ten participants held district leadership positions and also had served beyond the local level as club president; the group also included the executive director from the Southern Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Center.  They gathered from three of the four corners of the state of Oregon, and one from Northern California. While some of the group knew each other, many did not, yet they share one important thing: their dedication to Lionism. To say they were motivated and committed to their personal and Lions leadership development would be an understatement!  As a Lions member and Certified-Master-in- Training of The Leadership Challenge, it gave me great pleasure to volunteer my time and to share The Leadership Challenge with fellow Lions volunteers in my home state of Oregon.



L to R: Lions Rennie Cleland, Dee Stubblefield and Chuck Blanchard work to define their personal values using the TLC Values card deck.

Thanks to a generous donation from Wiley Publishing through the Masters Give Back program, program participants were well supplied for their leadership journey. Every participant received complimentary copies of the 5th edition of The Leadership Challenge, the Participant Workbook, the Values card deck and, of course, the Leadership Practices Inventory® (LPI®). We began on Friday afternoon with group discussions and ice breakers, and went right into sharing Personal Best experiences and feedback on the LPI that each participant completed prior to the start of the program.  On Saturday, we continued our journey with exercises and discussions around the first of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, and Challenge the Process. That evening, participants worked on developing their vision statement, which they presented to the group the following day. Sunday also saw the group engage in more learning, focused on the Practices of Enable Others to Act and Encourage the Heart, and committing to keeping all of The Five Practices, 10 Commitments, and 30 behaviors at the forefront of their Lions leadership.  And finally, we ended the day and the program with each member of the group presenting a diploma to a select fellow participant and sharing how that person had inspired them during the 2½ day retreat.

Throughout the program we incorporated a number of experiential exercises culled from The Leadership Challenge® Workshop Facilitator’s Guide and the Activities Book—each that was truly an experience on its own.  The group conquered the Koosh ball challenge in about 2 seconds flat on the first try, and then 1 second on the second try.  


 L to R: Lion Bev Bridgewater expresses her true feelings about the strategy game while Chuck Blanchard and Wes King look on in happy agreement.

 The strategy game challenged these leaders in many ways, and will forever more be referred to as “the activity that we will not name!”  The discussion that followed about how that experience of trying things that do not work and not being successful after multiple attempts transfers back to their club and/or district made the learning impactful and memorable.  The blind square was learning at an even deeper level, especially given the commitment of the Lions organization to sight and hearing.

As a facilitator, an inspirational part of any Leadership Challenge experience is seeing and hearing individual participants breathe life into their vision. And this group of Lions leaders did not disappoint!  The visions shared ranged from increasing club membership to mentoring fellow Lions on their own leadership journey. One participant’s vision was to establish a resident summer camp for children with social learning and communications challenges, while others set their sights on finding ways to engage their community with their vision, and inspiring messages and themes for their upcoming year as District Governor. 

Throughout the entire retreat, these leaders were highly participative and engaged.  They clearly were all on a journey to explore exemplary leadership and to deepen their personal commitment to the mission of Lions Club International while leading their respective local or regional organizations.  It was amazing to see how many participants remained beyond the conclusion of the retreat to continue to discuss and plan their future Lion leadership strategies.  And the feedback was inspiring, reading how one participant described the program as “Truly a complete leadership experience” and another saying, “I think it will make us better leaders, not only for our districts but also our clubs and in our own lives.” 

Again, with Wiley’s generous support through the Masters Give Back Program, these Lion leaders will continue to serve and strengthen the pride of Lions members everywhere to benefit people and communities around the world.

Cheryl Johnson, a  Leadership Development Specialist for Santa Clara University (SCU),  is a member of the Cave Junction Lions Club (Cave Junction, Oregon), and a Certified Master-in-Training of The Leadership Challenge working toward certification in both facilitation and coaching. While The Challenge to Lead program with the Lions was her first experience as a solo facilitator, and the first all-volunteer group of retreat participants, she has been using The Leadership Challenge as a facilitator and coach with SCU leaders since 2008.  Cheryl can be reached at cjohnson@scu.edu.                 

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