Uncovering the Essence of Servant Leadership

“Will you be the next chairman of High Tech Month?” Chris asked.

Chris Coleman was the founder of a very successful marketing firm called Folio Z. In the 1990’s Chris was a big influence in moving the Atlanta technology community forward. She was also a big influence on me and my career in angel investing and community development.

At the end of October 1994, Chris, a board member of the Business & Technology Alliance (B&TA), asked me to step into leadership. Chairman of High Tech Month Atlanta was a huge personal commitment. Everyone recognized the importance of the event to our community, but no one wanted to volunteer to lead it. Here is how Chris got me to commit.

1. Confirmed my commitment to the community

Chris watched me attend all the B&TA meetings. She recognized how much I loved our community and the people in it. She then recommended me for the Board of Directors. She continued to observe my level of engagement and interest in our community.

2. Identified me as a leader

She was patient with me. I was impatient. She listened to me give my opinions on how our organization was being run and how it might improve. It annoyed some people but not Chris. She saw the passion and started coaching me without me even knowing it. She was molding me into a community leader.

3. Asked me to help in the final review meeting

At the conclusion of High Tech Month 1994, Chris asked me to attend the final review session. Since I had so many opinions, she thought it would be helpful for me to hear the inside scoop on the event. Because Chris thought I could help, I attended the meeting.

4. Used questions to see if I had a vision beyond the criticism

After the meeting, Chris asked, “Based on what you heard and observed, what would you change in 1995?” I answered with specifics which I believed would make the event bigger and more impactful for Georgia. Her questions kept coming, and so did my answers. Eventually it was clear to me, and to her, I had a vision for High Tech Month of Georgia.

Each question and each answer brought me closer to becoming the leader of High Tech Month. With each answer, the more I believed I should be the next leader.

5. Asked me to lead

Then Chris closed the deal by asking, “Will you be the next Chairman of High Tech Month of Georgia?” I could not say, “No.”

She also is the person who had the vision for the Technology Association of Georgia. She raised up the leadership team to create and build it. And she did it all without being on the leadership team herself. Chris Coleman epitomized servant-leadership.

I miss Chris. She understood branding better than anyone in our community. In fact, she wrote a book on it called The Green Banana Papers.

She demonstrated how to select, challenge and recruit new leaders with vision. This is how great communities and companies are built.

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