By Timothy Cunning, 2019-2020 District Governor of Cali-Nev-Ha

Every year is a challenging year for Key Club members who step into servant leadership positions. There are aspirations, dreams, goals and ambitions — and then at some point, there are the challenges that reality presents. As advisors, our role is to steer them through the muddy waters and help guide them to their destination with their visions intact. 

This year, a Key Club lieutenant governor called me midway through the term — after Regional Training Conference, before Fall Rally — to tell me he was going to quit. Things just weren’t going as he had hoped. He shared comparisons to an LTG from years past and to his contemporaries, saying they had better clubs and better Kiwanis advisors. 

This gave me a lot to consider. First, when we do LTG training, we always advise them not to compare themselves to others.  Every division is different. Every leader is different. All we ask of our LTGs is to be the best they can be. I reminded him of this. 

Next, I explained that I wouldn’t try to talk him out of quitting.  If his leadership role was affecting his health and wellbeing, that is paramount. But I felt there was more to it — something at RTC that embarrassed him among his LTG team. I was aware of the situation and brought it up.   

I also gave him my assessment from working with him: He didn’t have support at home for the leadership role he was in. Eventually he confirmed this. This, honestly, was the most distressing acknowledgement. How can any of us be truly effective in our leadership roles without the support of our families? 

We talked for over an hour. I reminded him not to compare himself to others. I asked him not to quit due to embarrassment or disappointment. We discussed his inability to make his grand ambitions a reality. Not everything is within our ability to control: Do the best you can with what you have, learn to accept the rest, or adapt your plan.   

I said that servant leadership in Key Club provides life lessons, not simply high school leadership opportunities. Difficulties, challenges and failed expectations will happen in college, in the workplace and throughout life. We have to deal with them. We can’t just quit when we don’t get our way. 

I said again that I wouldn’t try to stop him from quitting — but simply to have him honestly evaluate his feelings. I did note that with Fall Rally coming up, it would be a shame for the members of his division to attend without having an LTG for whom to cheer and rally behind. 

As it turned out, this time with this young servant leader was the best investment I made all year. He stayed. He finished his year strong. And he asked me to write letters of recommendation for universities and scholarships.  

I’m honored to serve as an advisor — it’s my inspiration!