GUEST POST: True Leadership

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GUEST POST: True Leadership


Guest Post Author is Kimberly Love, Graduate Student at GORE Business School, Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah


Collins writes, “True leadership only exists if people follow when they have the freedom not to.” [1] So what is the secret formula for “true leadership?” Like Collins, I believe the answer lies in a study of social sector leaders who continually inspire low paid and unpaid volunteers to elevate their organization’s missions. One such leader is my mentor, Gordon Carter, founder of Charity Anywhere Foundation (CAF).

I don’t know of many 74-year olds who currently spend their retirement years driving medical and dental supplies over the Andes several times a year. Nor do I know of many individuals who possess the unique traits of what Collins calls a Level 5 Leader[2]: an unwavering resolve and a compelling modesty like Gordon Carter. In addition, he exemplifies a leader with the emotional intelligence component of empathy that has led to the success of CAF programs and its mission to forever change the minds and hearts of its volunteers for good

The mission of Charity Anywhere Foundation is reflected in Gordon’s unwavering resolve to give a life changing opportunity to ordinary people while also providing basic needs to families in developing countries. Collins (2011) describes this resolve as a “tremendous professional will” to inspire and transform (p. 128). A little over twenty years ago Gordon sought to change humanitarian service trips when he found that international service-trip organizations focused more on tourism than on service. He was determined to create an organization that would emphasize service and be a catalyst for change in the hearts and minds of the volunteers. For Gordon, the success of CAF lies with its volunteers, many who are “repeat customers.” Each time I visit with Gordon following a service trip, the briefing is focused not only on the projects that were completed but also on the changes he witnessed in the volunteers. It is this part of CAF’s mission to inspire volunteers that continues to be his driving force and that motivates others around him to follow his lead.

Another standout quality of Gordon Carter’s leadership is his compelling modesty. Collins states that a great leader demonstrates personal humility by channeling all ambition into the company and shuns public adulation (2011). I witnessed this first hand when Gordon received the 2012 BYU Alumni Distinguished Service Award. I will never forget how shocked he was that he was being recognized for his many years of service. More importantly, in his personal statement for the ceremony he ended by thanking BYU “for recognizing all the great work that Charity Anywhere has been involved in” A significant statement that demonstrated his resolve to have focus placed on CAF and not on himself.

Gordon also possesses what Goleman[3] calls the emotional intelligence component of empathy that is a “deep understanding of both the existence and the importance of cultural and ethnic differences.” More than just an understanding, empathy reflects the ability of a leader to make decisions based upon others’ feelings. I have seen how Gordon has planned programs and projects in foreign countries based on collaboration with local members of the community. He does not force his will or practices upon others, but rather he listens to the needs of others first. Goleman also asserts that empathy is particularly important to retain talent. Gordon applies this component by finding out the abilities and talents of all the volunteers prior to an excursion and then mentoring them into leadership roles over the course of the trip. In turn, the volunteers have a rich, rewarding experience of growth and become “repeat volunteers.” In my opinion, this component of leadership is one of the hallmark traits of “true leadership.”

Gordon Carter and his ability to motivate, inspire and lead others when they have the freedom choose a different path, continually inspires me. Even at 74 years old he has a tireless resolve to lead others in his quite, simple way. He is an example of “true leadership” to me because he possesses the qualities of and unwavering resolve to change the lives of volunteers, a compelling humility to further the work of CAF and a genuine empathy for others.


[1] Collins, J. (2005). Good to Great and the Social Sector (1-35). Boulder, CO.

[2] Collins, J. (2011). Level 5 Leadership (115-136). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.

[3] Goleman, D. (2011). What Makes a Leader (1-21). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Guest Post Author is Kimberly Love, Graduate Student at GORE Business School, Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah



About the Author:

Professor and award winning author, world traveler, Mom, thought leader, mentor, friend, and advocate Vicki Whiting, Ph.D. is dedicated to the facilitation of learning and the development of leaders in all walks of life.

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