As a speaker, one of the most awkward moments is when you call for volunteers. All of the sudden, everyone has a new fascination with their shoelaces. All you can see is the top of everyone’s head as everyone is desperately trying to avoid eye contact! While I share that in jest, I am sure most of the readers have been in some type of meeting where a call for volunteers is met with deathly silence. Leadership is ultimately about serving. It is stepping up to the plate and filling a need. Leaders press on and get the job done. Albert Schweitzer aptly noted, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
Susan Garrard, president of the Mississippi Children’s Museum, shared a great perspective with me on this topic. She encourages young leaders to, “Raise your hand! There is a tremendous need for real leaders to make a commitment and see the task through to competition.” Garrard, a graduate of Mississippi State University and the State University of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, learned this lesson early on from her parents. Garrard grew up in Sebastopol, Miss., and her parents told her “in a small town, you have to raise your hand and volunteer in order to get things done.”
During her career, Garrard has worked with both profit and non-profit organizations in marketing, public relations and retail management and buying. She shared, “After working at McRae’s and New Stage Theatre, I worked as a consultant with the Mississippi Museum of Art, C Spire Wireless and other Mississippi non-profit organizations and businesses.” Before serving as president of the museum, Garrard served as a member and then as chair of the museum’s board of directors. She was also the first president of the museum’s support group, MCM Partners, which has over 400 members statewide. Garrard has been very involved in the Jackson community including leadership on the boards of the Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation, Jackson Preparatory School and the Junior League of Jackson.
Garrard noted, “Leaders must exhibit courage and acknowledge that there are always risks involved.” She also believes that leaders must have a vision for the group in order for it to be successful. She emphasized, “Real leaders say WE can do this and WE will do that! Leaders are needed in every arena. Servant, selfless leaders are needed specifically.” Garrard wisely observed that “leadership takes practice.” She also pointed out that “sometimes, leaders must do some of the work behind the scenes without receiving any credit.” Garrard explained, “Leadership is not always learning how to complete a task, but it is also learning how not to complete a task. This is where true leadership skills are honed.”
Servant minded leaders like Garrard form the backbone of our community. Whether serving in a for profit or non-profit sectors, they are always looking to make a difference. The Mississippi Children’s Museum is a prime example of people rallying together to do something great. Garrard and many other dedicated people successfully raised $26.6 million in a capital campaign that realized the dream of a 40,000-square-foot children’s museum in Jackson, Miss. The museum is a huge tourist attraction and has received a great deal of recognition including being named 2011 Travel Attraction of the Year by the Mississippi Tourism Association. I appreciate leaders like Garrard who have the vision and courage to dream and act on big dreams to make our state a better place.
Up Close With Susan Garrard
Title: President, Mississippi Children’s Museum
Favorite Books: ”I am currently reading John Adams by David McCullough.”
First Job: Grandfather’s Hardware Store in Sebastopol (Easom Hardware)
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “When the Junior League of Jackson adopted the MCM as their signature project. ”
Hobbies/Interests: “I love to read, and I enjoying watching my two boys playing football and baseball.”