The office of the District Governor is a coveted position in every district. The person who occupies this office represents the choice of the membership to lead the district in the matters of framing of policies and execution thereof for a particular year. The person is given due honour and recognition from the clubs of the district and the leadership of the Association. But there is a price for leadership-there is nothing called a free lunch. If you want to enjoy the glory that is generally associated with the office of a district governor, you must be prepared to make the sacrifices. A governor’s views and opinions always matter, and are often sought by the Association. However before the person reaches this position, he or she must ensure that one possesses the kind of experience and exposure that must be a pre-requisite for making studied and sustainable decisions. One must have the ability to weigh all options, accept criticism with an open mind, offer oneself for scrutiny despite what we may believe to be successful completion of initiatives, and most importantly encourage contrarian views to develop. A leader is essentially a facilitator, one who is responsible for developing an environment where the members could contribute their best. One must realize that progress has come often from designs that emerge from diametrically opposing viewpoints as compared to the generally accepted trends. One needs to balance between what is the current stand point and what demands of the future are. Leaders in lionism are trustees of the future generations in their own communities and countries. He, in fact, becomes an officer of the Lions Clubs International to implement the plans and projects, for which decisions may have been made.
Every leader with potential in the District aspires to become District Governor one day. This is a praise-worthy ambition provided the candidate’s motives are clear at least to him or her. Since this is a high office in the Lions’ set-up and carries both an enormous amount of dignity plus onerous responsibilities – it is essential that you ask yourself, in moments of deep introspection… why governorship? Remember that, for one Lionstic year, you will have to sacrifice a great deal of your personal, social and public life in order to serve the District. Your initial motives may be status and position; they could have elements of power; you may even feel that you could be more effective than the present or past incumbent; or you may be powered by a deep sense of mission. In all probability, you will have a mixture of motives. It is good. Because, regardless of why you wanted to be Governor, what the Lions’ movement and your district and members expect from you is now important. You may have been driven by a set of your personal desires to attain the office of a district governor, but the dynamics change so rapidly as you occupy or even prepare to occupy that office. The vision shifts from a personal perspective to that of an organization, your approach alters from one aimed at self-development to the augmentation of the common good, you suddenly become answerable to so many ( may be, more ethically than legally) and the levels of expectations from you take a quantum jump (both in your own eyes and in the eyes of others). There is a tremendous demand on your private and personal time, and that is only expected. You have arrived at a “public” podium.
To understand this dichotomy – what you expect from the District Governor post and what your “constituents” or stakeholders expect from the District Governor’s post – you need to understand that every position consists of two elements: a job and a role. The job is the duties and responsibilities of the District Governor which are clearly laid out in the District Governor’s Manual. They include the ceremonial installation (of club officials, creation of the cabinet, creating project teams, managing funds, membership acquisition and retention measures, continuity of ongoing projects, etc). But, over and above the job is the ROLE.
The role consists of two powerful sets of factors – what you expect from the position and what others expect from you in that position. The difference between job and role can easily become clear, if we take an example. The job entails the minimum standards without which you cannot be allowed entry at this level, the role sets the bench-mark for leaving a legacy. The role come more from the heart, even the soul. It leaves impressions that time cannot easily erase. If not realized, it is bound to cause aches in the deepest corners of your heart in the years to follow-what some may like to call the prolonged pangs of conscience emanating from the regrets associated with losing major opportunities. If properly realized, it is this feeling only that remains within each person’s mental and spiritual realm as it would forever “flash upon the inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude”.
We could take the classic example of Florence Nightingale. She joined the Services to serve the wounded in times of war. Gradually, she redefined the concept of nursing. That was, in fact, a stage where she developed her role. Today, she stands out as a role model for every nurse in the world. Defining moments in life are those when one leaves a mark on the sands of time. One does not have to a Florence Nightingale or a Mother Teresa, but one can definitely be an individual who has lived a life of purpose, and occupied the public office of a district governor with a head held high, and a spirit soaring even higher. There must be at least some impact that such person ought to make, beyond making annual visits to the clubs and enjoying fellowship.
Why do you want to get there? The answer to this would be in the lines that have been mentioned above, but priorities and the degree of emphasis on each of the issues may vary. What is most important is to remember that the year of Governorship must, essentially, be a year of results. Continuity of programmes may need to be ensured, and yet changes may be required to be incorporated. But, on the whole, each year must have its own share of achievements. Remember one of th major inputs that your members bring with them is their man-hours. No individual spends time in lions clubs today; everyone invests time. And there should be a good return on the investment made. If the ROI is not above the market rates, we can expect no premium (enhanced public acceptability) and may even not be able to retain the loyalty of the investors (our members). Each member must have a life enrichment experience, and the district governor is like a gardener who must ensure that plants in the garden continue to flourish; the gardener gives out no good fragrance-it is the flowers that do so; but the gardener must maintain the quality of the soil and the water levels, and adequate and just enough sunshine for the flowers to bloom; similarly, the great experiences will come from within the clubs, but the district governor must maintain and sustain the momentum and direction of the association.
So, the next question that each incumbent must ask himself is: What do I want to achieve as a District Governor? The answer to this would lay down the priorities and would, thereafter, assist the District Governor (Elect) to chart out his course for his year of Governorship. This is the most critical and the most neglected part of the story. I have often met so many district governors almost half way though this office, who are still not certain what their priorities are. They confuse statutory duties with the purpose of life. How could I explain to them that it is important to breathe if we are to remain alive, but do we remain alive just to breathe? They are the ones who would regard reproduction as the purpose of marriage, not understanding that it is only the fruit of a much more purposeful communion.
The story of leadership essentially never ends with the conclusion of Governorship. For the rest of his life, the person continues to be the Past District Governor of his / her district. As a Past District Governor, it is definitely the duty of each individual to continue to work for the plans of the Association at various levels where he is placed, and the quantum of respect that the person would command as a Past District Governor would, to a large extent, depend on the quality of the leadership that the person portrays during his year of Governorship. Hence, one single year of Governorship would determine the image of a Past District Governor to a large extent for many years to come. Does one really have to help you to take a brief moment and try to remember each great district governor that your district had? Do you re-count every PDG in that category? If not, why? Each one of them had similar emotions and the desire to be a successful DG when they got elected; each one had worked that hard, even run around asking for support to be elected in those parts of the world where the elections are fiercely fought; then what went wrong that you do not include them in the category of such governors who made a difference?
From here follows the next logic: How do you want to be remembered as a Past District Governor? Quite naturally, each individual desires that his year of Governorship should be a deserving one. And, if so, each District Governor must develop for himself a Master Plan of his intending contribution during his year of Governorship. Are you ready with a statement that you could use as your governing principle during the year of your governorship? Do you have a set of priorities beyond the bare minimum? Do you see your responsibility to the future generations of your country and your community? Do you believe that you have a role to play in making life more meaningful in your part of the world? Do you believe that your job is to lead the clubs to where they want to go, or where they ought to go? Do you allow yourself to understand that you are driven by the circumstances that exist in your district, or whether you are responsible for the way things are at present? Are you ready to accept status quo as a price for comfortable leadership, or do you believe that leaders must always reside in the zone of constructive demolition? Actually the choice is simple: You will definitely enter the museum of lionism, but whether as a curator of that museum or an exhibit to be placed on one of the shelves will depend upon your attitude.
Your ascent from a member through the club hierarchy to this lofty position has usually been marked by a tremendous sense of enthusiasm, even aggressiveness. But it is noticed that the achieving spirit levels off when you become District Governor. What did you want to accomplish? Did you want to be a district governor, or a past district governor? I am serious: there are such individuals who find pleasure in having their name included in the list of PDGs of the district; if they had any other way of achieving this, they would have opted for that. Hence, they represent such individuals who have no identified purpose of life; they are such whose bodies are alive while the soul is dead. This is usually because we see the office of the District Governor as a destination, and not as a high point in an ongoing journey of service. If you have a Master Plan for your year as Governor, that should continue in the forthcoming years as Past District Governor, and should be a shining beacon of inspiration to your successors to the post of District Governor. Remember that the “4-minute-mile” in athletics used to be seen as an impossible target. Then Roger Bannister of UK broke the barrier. After that event, breaking the four-minute-mile is standard. It is being achieved at all international and even in some national meets all the time. So the fire that ignited your drive to this high office should burn undiminished during your year as governor, and throughout all your future years as Past District Governor, shedding bright light to inspire generations of future Lions. So the allied question that should arise in your mind as you design your master plan is “How can I be, not just a District Governor, not just a good District Governor, but a great District Governor, a memorable District Governor, whose year as District Governor will illuminate the legends of the Lions International?
You will, of course, attend the pre-District Governor training and orientation programme. They will equip you with the process and contents of Governorship.
But, my friend, no training and no orientation can create that fire, that hot, burning internal combustion that powers you from within. That conflagration will mark the difference between the adequate, the good and the great governorship.
The difference between the average and the outstanding governor is usually in the passion that the latter brings. The average governor “manages” the job – the “nuts & bolts”, and the daily routines. He may even enhance some practices and introduce something new. As he rises above the average, he develops strategies, integrating changes and making connections, and finally raises his people’s capabilities to move the district forward effectively, not just for this year but even thereafter.
There are many philosophies that help one in increasing one’s circle of influence towards the outer concentric boundary of the circle of concern. Reach out your dreams, your visions, and your passions. The extent of your accomplishments is directly proportional to what inspires you.
For God’s sake let not your year expire in pursuit of the trivial, the ongoing, the immediate, as against the really important and vital.
In almost all religions, preparation for priesthood is arduous. In the Roman Catholic Church, the candidate undergoes a long and strenuous novitiate. The priest has to be celibate and must take the triple vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. Because the decision is so onerous, during the first few years the candidate is encouraged to examine, re-examine, and test his motives.
A very similar exercise has to be undertaken by the candidate for governorship. What drives me in this quest? If I am elected, what will my contribution be? When I become Past District Governor, will I look back on a stupendous year of achievement? Will the promise that fired my ascent to the post be fulfilled when I actually have the post?
If this chapter inflamed you, then come, let us explore your role further. Together, with our prayers and your passion, we will scale the highest peaks of Service, the Lionistic way. The World, the District and the Lions are yearning for leaders. Ask yourself, are you a leader?