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Community leadership is a job for all

Brad Field

Christmas is the season of giving, and it’s always reassuring to hear the food bank drive reached its target or to see “toy mountain” grow in the lobby of the office building. Most business leaders will plan some form of charitable endeavour to ensure the spirit of giving extends to the less fortunate. This is important and admirable. It’s also a time of year, though, to reflect on how we give back. Are we engaged in annual tokenism or are we stopping to think about our real social purpose both as businesses and as individual leaders?

For decades, Calgary has benefited from business leaders stepping up to make our city a vibrant and positive community for all citizens, and a destination for people and companies to call home. We lost several titans of the Calgary business community in 2018, including Clay Riddell, Frank King and Sherrold Moore, and a next-generation leader in Suzanne West. These individuals had an enormous impact on our city, and not only on its business community. They were deeply engaged in civic life and they gave generously to the social and cultural institutions that make this not just a great place to make a living, but a great place to live.

Those of us coming behind these great Calgarians must reflect on what we need to do to fill these very large shoes.

The standout leaders are those who give back throughout their careers, not only by making large tribute donations later in life. They also give more than money, offering time and valuable expertise that builds essential not-for-profit governance capability.

While none of us can solve every social problem or give a dollar to every worthy cause that knocks at the door, I believe we must all step up and lead the response when we see a need in the community. Entrepreneurs solve problems big and small every day in our work lives, and we have the experience and resources to do the same for the organizations that do important work throughout Calgary.

Reflecting on my own career to date as an entrepreneur, I realize my periods of greatest financial reward do not correspond with my periods of greatest personal satisfaction – quite the opposite. As I have become more engaged in supporting important social causes, I have realized not only the enormous need that exists, but also the reward that comes from addressing that need even in some small way.

When I think about the legacies of these remarkable leaders, it inspires me to step up and be more engaged with the organizations I have had the opportunity to support – like Business Fore Calgary Kids, Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter and the Terminator Foundation – and to be more active to continue the tradition of business leaders building by doing. Getting involved with a social cause broadens one’s perspective, which in turn strengthens leadership skills. I encourage all my colleagues throughout the city to do the same in 2019 and beyond.

As Christmas approaches, how companies and individuals choose to engage in the community is up to them. I hope, however, that we can collectively decide to honour the memory of the leaders who came before us by building on their remarkable legacies.