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Leadership – Position or the Person?

Leadership  – we use this term so often but do we really know what it means? Is it the personal traits that one possesses and is a combination of skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours? Is it linked to a position of power or influence? Just Google the term and you will find thousands of references and definitions. Often we refer to leaders by the position they hold in an organization or community, such as an Executive Director, board member, or politician. What is interesting is that these describe the position they hold, but are they really leaders? This is the true question about leadership: is it the position, is it the person, or is it a combination?

Executive Directors, politicians and community leaders are in a position of influence. If we think of leadership as an ability to influence others towards a common goal, then they would clearly be in a “leadership position”. But that does not necessarily mean they are “true leaders” or “effective leaders”.  Margaret Wheatley, internationally recognized expert in organizational and leadership theory, suggests true leaders come from within and are not necessarily those in the leadership position. True leadership is not about control or power, but rather about creating environments where all members of the team are engaged in conversations and action. It is about harnessing the individual passion and desire for change in a collaborative and supportive manner. True leadership comes from a variety of sources. When Volunteer Alberta developed the ASK Leadership Assessment we asked 100 community representatives to identify leadership traits they most admire. Overwhelmingly, they said “passion” and “commitment”, and the ability to engage others in the process. Leadership come from within – the personal desire to influence change.

In a recent presentation in Edmonton Margaret Wheatley commented that, given the right set of circumstances, leaders from within any group will emerge, irrespective of position. For leadership to emerge, a set of complex factors need to be in place:

  • Organizational needs or priorities intersect with individual desires and commitment to make a difference;
  • The organizational culture supports a collaborative effort to work together; and
  • Influence and decision making is not in the hands of a few, but the responsibility of all.

Margaret Wheatley also noted that personal mastery is needed to create environments for others to engage in the conversations and decision-making processes. Leadership is about creating spaces and opportunities for all to come together to “do good work”. With this concept in mind, we see leaders in various stations within the organization or community. Leadership is not about position but rather about personal commitment and action.

“We believe that a leaders is anyone who wants to help at this time” (Margaret Wheatley 2001: Restoring Hope to the Future Through Critical Education of Leaders)

Toby Rabinovitz

Program Manager

P.S. Join Toby on November 20, from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm for a discussion about leadership at www.facebook.com/VolunteerAlberta.

SCiP Internships: Flexible & Fulfilling

When I told some friends that I was doing a SCiP internship, I got a lot of shocked reactions.

“Another job? How are you going to juggle all of that?”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, what with starting a new program and everything?”

I was just starting graduate school in Library and Information Studies, and I had a part-time job already, so I admit I had some of those doubts myself.

But when I saw the SCiP internship for a Library Policy Development Intern, I had to apply. It sounded interesting and applicable to my program, and I wanted some hands-on experience. Applying was easy: I put together my application, submitted it, and heard back about it right away.

When I met with someone from the organization, I expressed my concerns about fitting another thing into my very busy schedule. He reassured me that they would be flexible enough to make it work, and he certainly followed through!

The SCiP internship turned out to be a truly excellent experience. My organization, Volunteer Alberta, was very flexible, and I was able to easily make the internship fit around my school and work commitments. Everyone at the organization was friendly and helpful, and most importantly, I got that hands-on experience in my field that I had signed up for. The chance to develop policy for a small library helped me hone many skills, particularly my research skills, and enhanced my overall knowledge of the field and the nonprofit/voluntary sector. The $1000 bursary at the end is a major perk, but I definitely feel like the experience I gained is worth more than the money.

Now, when people ask how my internship worked out, I tell them to apply themselves! There are a ton of internships to choose from, so there’s bound to be one for anyone’s field of interest, and it’s easy to get involved. And the pay-off is huge: I was able to network with people in my field and gain valuable skills and experience for my resume for the future. Even though I was worried about fitting an internship into my schedule, I didn’t have to be. My organization recognized I was a student, and worked with me to make it a success. I loved my experience and I would highly recommend it!

For more information on SCiP internships visit joinscip.ca or call Sam at 780.482.3300 ext 225.
Alexandria Eldridge

Library Policy Development Intern, Volunteer Alberta

Helping Kids Learn How to Skate: There’s an Internship for That

Kathryn Ursel, a first year Mount Royal University nursing student, is helping children learn to skate, making connections into her community, and staying active, all while earning a $1000 bursary as the Skate Program Assistant Intern for WinSport. Kathryn says, “I help with their learn-to-skate program. Basically, I help with assisting kids that can’t stand up because there are only so many instructors and they need an extra set of hands… I really like it because I’m working with children – I love working with children – and it’s really fun and active.”

Kathryn’s internship is part of the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP), which will create internships with nonprofits for more than 500 Alberta students this year alone. Unlike traditional internships, SCiP interns are engaged meaningfully for their skills and abilities, making a real contribution to the nonprofit and its clients. At the end of each internship, the student is paid a $1000 bursary from the Government of Alberta. This is the second year of the Serving Communities Internship Program.

The Skate Program Assistant internship was a great fit for Kathryn, who says, “hockey was a big part of my life back in Manitoba, so it was a way to stay active and I didn’t really have anything to do [after moving to Calgary].. I figured I could teach kids how to skate and that I’d be a good match. I’ve been skating since I was about two years old… After I talked to the Volunteer Manager, she told me how flexible [the internship] was and that it would be good for a university student. I was kind of worried that I wouldn’t have enough time once midterms came and once I got rushed with work. But all I have to do is let them know and they’re okay if I can’t show up for a shift.”

SCiP is funded by the Government of Alberta, and is provided at no cost to nonprofit organizations and Alberta’s post-secondary students. Delivered by Volunteer Alberta, there are currently over 250 internships available, with over 3000 students signed up for the program.

For more information on SCiP visit joinscip.ca  or email Sam at skriviak@volunteeralberta.ab.ca.


Jenna Marynowski

Communications and Marketing Manager

Vital Signs Reports on the Quality of Life in ‘The Gas City’

Another year has gone by and the Community Foundation of Southeastern Alberta has reported on the quality of life in Medicine Hat and surrounding areas. The Vital Signs report and its findings were presented at the Medicine Vital Signs Lunch Event. At this year’s luncheon, Twitter played a central role in the conversation surrounding the report. The panel, made up of Medicine Hat’s social media gurus, helped lead the discussion and point out some interesting facts. The following are facts and figures from the report:

  • According to the lifestyle and recreation data, Medicine Hat spends less per capita on recreation than other municipalities in the area, which might help explain our high obesity rate of 24.2%. Medicine Hat also experiences a high rate of individuals over the age of 12 who identify themselves as smokers. These numbers are puzzling given that many clubs in Medicine Hat, like the Kinsman, offer free skating in the winter and free swimming in the summer. Across the city, you can find numerous parks, water parks and walking paths available to the public! KidsSport is another wonderful option to help keep children active, regardless of parental income. I will leave it to health professionals to explain why our community is so unhealthy overall!
  • Feel like you need a Mexican get-away to enjoy the sunshine? You may be surprised to find that Medicine Hat is among the sunniest places to live in Canada.We rank second for sunniest days, but also score in the top 5 for hottest summers, driest climate, and most days without rain! People have been known to shovel snow in t-shirts because the sun is blazing during the winter months.
  • Over the years, average income between men and women has differed greatly and this year is no exception; there is a $29,000 gap. Men are surpassing women in wages across the province, and often, even when women are doing the same jobs as men. This is something that has always bothered me.
  • Ending homelessness has been the focus of many organizations in Medicine Hat since 2009. In the first year, 270 individuals and 150 children were re-housed, or diverted away from homelessness. In the second year, 114 individuals and 40 children were lifted out of homelessness! The community members and organizations dedicated to this cause deserve an endless round of applause.

I could go on and on about the interesting facts and figures in this report! My blog would never end. Our city received no conclusive rating, but the Vital Signs report gets an A+ from me!


Amanda Liepert

Knowledge Exchange Coordinator (South Region)

Putting Research into Action in Hinton

On September 29, Volunteer Alberta, Mount Royal University, and the Alberta Rural Development Network were in Hinton presenting about ways nonprofits could take research about social enterprise, governance, and philanthropy and turn that research into action in their own organizations.

Sarah Burns wrote an article about the event, saying:

A non-profit researcher told a small group of Hinton’s non-profit organizations that just doing good work is not enough anymore.

Keith Seel, Dean of Foundational Learning at Bow Valley College and former Director of the Non-Profit Studies Institution at Mr. Royal University, laid out some realities at a Sept. 29 workshop titled So What.

“You need to demonstrate what outcomes you have had in the community you serve when you go looking for funding,” said Toby Rabinovitz, Program Manager for Volunteer Alberta, who worked with the local Volunteer and Information Centre to bring Seel and his presentation to Hinton.

“The government is being more selective about who they give money to and while you may think you are doing a good job, so does the other 10 organizations looking for the same pot of money.”

Read the full article here

Jenna Marynowski

Marketing and Communications Manager

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