25 February, 2007

Troop Support through Entrepreneurial Leadership?

The entrepreneur is our visionary, the creator in each of us. We're born with that quality and it defines our lives as we respond to what we see, hear, feel, and experience. It is developed, nurtured, and given space to flourish or is squelched, thwarted, without air or stimulation, and dies. - Michael Gerber

In a post last week, Andi gathered a list of people involved in grassroots troop support activities of significant impact. I was surprised and honored to see Andi group me with people like Marty Horn, Patti Bader and Jim Mayer (and all the other wonderful people in that list), but it was a commenter who really got my attention.

I don't know what his involvement is in any of the programs Andi linked, but Bob "gets it." Regarding the people on Andi's list, he made two huge points that I've tried (and failed) to articulate before:

One reason why their work is so important is that they make it possible for the millions of kind-hearted Americans who are willing to help (but don't know how) to make a difference in the lives of our military and their families.

Exactly! Valour-IT taught me that there is a massive desire to help among people with no direct military connections; just give them a simple and intuitively-understood way to help and they will drown you in donations and offers of assistance. The challenge is not finding Americans who care about the troops. Rather, it's informing those millions of caring Americans about the ways to help.

Those of us who got involved in military support projects at the ground level discovered things quickly developed a life of their own due to the other people who became involved with our efforts. AnySoldier is now far, far bigger than anything Marty Horn ever imagined when he set up a site for friends and family who wanted to send care packages in the early days of the Iraq war. Patti Bader had a similar experience, but ended up in at a different place (still doing care packages, but increasingly focused on supporting families and the wounded).

The genius of what they do isn't to do it all, but to make it possible for others to do what they can. They are the classic examples of entrepreneurial leadership: making lives better, not making money....

Yes!!! This is why I so often brush aside kudos sent my way. Chuck and I didn't do it all, we merely saw a need, then imagined and set the foundation for a system that allowed others to fill that need. From milbloggers to donors, to those who offered their media connections, mentoring, and professional expertise/skills, other people stepped up to make it happen.

Now that job description is one I won't fight: Entrepreneurial Leader. And as we all know, leaders don't actually do anything, anyway... ;)

ADDENDUM: Andi is far too modest, but she belongs right up there on that list. Her leadership in the creation of the MilBlog conferences is having ripple effects of such number and magnitude that it will likely take many years to fully understand her impact.