Recently, I met with Alisa Jones, President and CEO, who is leaving La Comunidad Hispana (LCH), a health and social service agency, and taking on another leadership position in Lancaster County. Since the first day that I met Alisa, I have admired her as a leader.
In the seven years that she has been at the helm of LCH, she has expanded services; helped secure funds for a federally qualified health center; developed a board of directors with the majority of members being users of LCH services; and has inspired an agency culture that is welcoming, team-oriented and self-managing. Alisa is leaving the agency at a high point with an unprecedented success.
Alisa Jones fits the leadership model that has been identified as, “servant leader.”
In the 1970s, Robert Greenleaf, an organizational researcher felt a growing suspicion that the power-centered authoritarian leadership style so prominent in U.S. institutions was not working. He started a movement with an essay he wrote about servant leadership. He describes the qualities: "The servant-leader is servant first... Becoming a servant-leader begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.
Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first... The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and the most difficult to administer, is this: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?"
Greenleaf continues to identify 10 qualities that a servant leader exemplifies: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization/vision, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community.
With this style of leadership as background, I would make Alisa Jones the poster child of this movement. At the same time, I would add a key element that Greenleaf does not address; leading with a Cause. In our book, “The Kennett Story: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time,” Bob George and I interviewed Alisa as leader of La Comunidad Hispana.
Throughout her interview, one could see that she was one-hundred percent committed to the mission of her agency, which in turn was promoting the cause of access to excellent health care for all residents. Along with this, Alisa had the essential people skills to help her staff grow; an astute administrative side that continued to explore what services were needed in the broader community and a talent for persuading others to join the mission.
Alisa made it a point to be out in the broader community, sitting at the table of partners with the foresight that partnerships expand client services. Best of all, she was focused on the cause of building a healthy community that includes all peoples.
The mission for LCH is to help low income residents of southern Chester County to stay healthy, build strong families and live productive lives by providing high-quality, culturally welcoming services.
The health clinic takes medical health insurances and Alisa makes the point that those clients with insurance help balance out the financial deficit with the agency’s sliding scale fee. Alisa is a wonderful presenter out in the community, helping to dispel the impression that LCH’s services are only for Spanish speaking clients.
The southern Chester County community will miss Alisa Jones. Her personal warmth and strength of presence will be unmatched. Servant leadership with a cause is her legacy. Alisa has left the agency well positioned to move confidently and seamlessly forward with a new CEO, with the understanding that those serving the LCH mission are all “servant leaders with a cause!”