The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

As entrepreneurs and business leaders, we have an amazing opportunity to serve others. I’ve written in the past about the qualities and benefits of servant-leadership. The most successful leaders focus on others. This article, however, is going to focus on more – our ability as leaders to make a difference through volunteerism.

Anyone can volunteer, and I urge everyone to play their part – there are lots of worthwhile causes out there to be a part of. But as leaders, we can do something more: we can mobilize people and teams. And ultimately, that’s a rewarding experience few of us ever forget.

It can be argued that entrepreneurs have personalities well-equipped to contributing to their communities and the needs of others. After all, an innate part of being an entrepreneur is seeing people’s needs and finding ways to meet those needs.

One of the most powerful experiences I’ve had is standing in the Ronald McDonald House kitchen serving food to families with sick children. Ronald McDonald Houses provide families of sick children with a home to stay at while their child is being treated at a nearby hospital.  I, along with 25 or 30 of our staff, have a wonderful time at this event. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, whatever they ask us to do, we do it.

Humbling doesn’t accurately described the experience. However, in the end, we all leave more energized and renewed for our efforts.

Building a better world

My career gives me an opportunity to connect with leaders in the construction industry who are making differences in people’s lives and their communities. We’ve got remarkable people and exceptional entrepreneurs across this great country. Today I want to look into the rewarding culture of giving within our industry. I recently had the opportunity to speak with several unique individuals whose commitment, I feel, speaks volumes on the power we have as leaders.

Claude Lacroix is the owner of Quincaillerie Touraine, a family hardware business with stores in Gatineau and Cantley, Que. Tragedy struck in his community when a pool accident left a little boy, Alec, with a number of brain-related injuries.

Claude leapt into action, spearheading an initiative to help the family and assist Alec adapt to his new challenges. Claude developed a floor plan for a new home, donated the material and labour and gathered suppliers in his community to help. The response was overwhelming.

The home was started last winter, and is progressing well. It’s bringing the community together. All thanks to the initiative of a local entrepreneur who sees the value in giving back to his community.

A hero’s welcome

The men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces risk life and limb for the freedoms and prosperity we enjoy. But, as Paul Lobb, President of Vicwest Building Products points out, it all too often comes at a price.

Some of our selfless military personnel pay the ultimate sacrifice. Others return with physical injuries, or emotional traumas such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that greatly impact the lives of them and their families. That’s why Paul is a proud supporter and board member of Renos for Heroes.

This great program, which is right in our bailiwick as an industry, renovates the homes of returning servicemen and servicewomen. Its goal is to help them regain mobility, quality of life and peace of mind. As Paul puts it, it’s much more than adding a wheelchair ramp or lowering a countertop. Renos for Heroes looks at the major structural issues that need to be addressed, and seeks to bridge the gap between what the government can do and what’s needed to help make our returning veteran’s daily routines less challenging.

Kudos to Paul (and so many others) for dedicating the time and energy to such noble pursuits.

Don’t have time? Make it!

As business leaders, I know it isn’t easy to find time, but it’s important that we do. Our ability to mobilize and inspire such community efforts comes from leading the charge, not following it.

Making the time requires organization and planning. But, isn’t that what we do every day in our businesses? An hour here, a day there and a week here, and in no time we’re building homes for those who need it, feeding the hungry or helping to better empower our returning military veterans.

We’re able to do much of this using the skills and expertise we have in the construction industry and as business leaders. We’re giving back to the communities we serve. But make no mistake – we get so much more in return.

Find your cause. Make a difference!

Here’s my challenge: No matter who you are, find your worthwhile cause, spearhead change, and create a legacy for your business. Be the lightning rod that attracts others to join and make an even greater difference.

Whatever you choose to do, I guarantee you’ll find it to be the greatest team-building exercise you’ll ever experience, and you’ll become a stronger leader and better person for it. It did for me.