What servant leadership really looks like

C.Esther DeWolde

I first met this man of influence on my life when I was nominated to serve on World Vision Canada’s Corporation Board (www.worldvisioncanada.ca). Dave Toycen was at that time, the much-loved President and CEO of World Vision Canada and an author – among many other esteemed positions.

All his roles focused on making life better for those who cannot help themselves. He has since retired but continues to leave an indelible impression on those he comes in contact with – including me. And just last week, he celebrated his 70th birthday – congratulations, Dave!

Greatest lesson I learned from him?

At first glance you might think it was his undying desire to fulfill the vision of World Vision, the world’s largest humanitarian organization being

Our vision for every child, life in all its fullness.

Our prayer for every heart, the will to make it so.”

I mean, can there be a more admirable pursuit in life then this? Not much surpasses it, so of course this was part of why he is an influence on me. But really it was more about watching him live out his personal faith and leading with his honorable character as he led World Vision, a very large organization.

In fact, back in in 2004 when I first met Dave – it was him who was my first real live leader who put the word “servant” into Servant Leadership. It was a pure delight to watch him demonstrate humility and strong leadership simultaneously, serving his team and the children for whom World Vision exists to make their lives better.

He is also the individual who through his book “The Power of Generosity”, taught me exactly that.

To quote Dave: “The generosity journey is looking for more travelers to address the challenges of our world”.

That message pierced me to my core. It spurred me to action by officially choosing a charity that as a corporation and each of us as staff could and would support. Which is why I selected World Vision as our corporate charity.

Years later, at the request of our staff to not only think globally, but address needs right here in our own town of Abbotsford BC, we added a locally-based charity too: The Cyrus Centre. It provides support and accommodation for homeless teenagers.

And this year, we’ve added Habitat for Humanity.

It’s living proof of Dave Toycen’s legacy to make a difference and it’s still happening in our lives at Phantom – even up to today.

If I could talk to him this very second, I would say…

Thank you for being a shining example to the next generation of how to be a servant leader and teach us the power of generosity.

And of course, on behalf of the millions of children’s lives you have touched through World Vision efforts – well done good and faithful servant.