Words That Activate Change: Featuring Andy Dula

The Lancaster Chamber strives to provide opportunity for local business and community leaders to share their insight and perspective on a variety of current topics.

This Words That Activate Change series is focused on uplifting voices in our community that encourage dialogue, cultivate transformation, offer thought-provoking ideas, and challenge all of us to be better, be stronger, and, most importantly, be advocates for systemic change within both our community and our workforce.

Our sixth article is by Andy Dula. Andy is Chief Operating and Financial Officer of EGStoltzfus. He joined the company in 1992 where he has served in multiple roles. He was appointed Controller in 1994. In 2003, he became CFO of EGStoltzfus and its Subsidiaries and has served as COO/CFO since 2012. Mr. Dula holds several community service and leadership positions. He is a Member of the Board of Directors for Goodville Mutual Insurance Company; Member of the Board of Trustees of Praxis Mutual Funds; Member of the Board of Trustees of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce; Past Chair of the Board of Trustees of Eastern Mennonite University and Past Vice Chair of the Lancaster Mennonite School Board. Dula has also chaired and served on various committees at Blossom Hill Mennonite Church, where his wife, Michelle Witmer Dula, is Lead Pastor. A graduate of Lancaster Mennonite High School and Eastern Mennonite University, Mr. Dula has a Master of Business Administration from Millersville University. Mr. Dula has two children. His daughter and son attend Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Leadership as Confession, Humility, and the Courage to Act

By Andy Dula

The great Bob Dylan in his iconic song, “The Times They Are A Changin” tells us to “Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone”. Dylan goes on to use language that encourages the listener towards self-realization, reflection, and action. Much like it did in the 1960’s, Dylan’s song has an almost prescient tone to it. No one can deny that times they are a changing. They have been changing ever since the beginning of time. I will let the prognosticators determine whether in the words of Malcolm Gladwell, we are at a “Tipping Point”. However, something seems different today and it very well could be a tipping point. Issues of systemic racism, income inequality, and a worldwide pandemic amongst others call each of us as community leaders to confession, humility, and action.

When I think about racism, to confess is to acknowledge and admit that I am a part of a system that has disproportionately denied access to resources for black and brown people for hundreds of years. This denial has happened through four hundred years of slavery and years of separate but equal. This denial has taken place via red lining in the mid twentieth century. This denial takes place today in the rates of mass incarceration that African Americans experience. If we are to be true leaders during this time, we must start with acknowledgement. Our acknowledgement cannot include deflection, defensiveness or blame on others. It embraces the tension we are all feeling and admits the damage that has been done, appreciates how far we have come, and dreams of how we can do better. Posting on social media and writing statements is fine, but until you work on yourself and embrace these tensions, nothing will change.

CS Lewis says that “humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” It is the ability to admit we do not know what we do not know. Racial humility begins with an understanding that our experiences form the lens by which we view race and we all have much to learn from each other. My own experiences have been formed as a child of interracial marriage. Humility is enhanced by reflection and lifelong inquiry. It involves being self-aware about each of our own individual biases that have been seeded in us based on our own life experiences. Humility is remaining open to what others can teach you and being open to the possibility that you may learn something new at any given moment and in the most unexpected ways. I am reminded of what Jim Collins says about great leaders. He calls humility the “signature dimension.” Collins goes on to say that great leaders have “the humility to confront data, even if that data is showing them something they don’t believe.”

We are all called to do the work of spreading compassion and understanding. Acting with compassion is not the work of the left or the right, the conservative or the progressive. It is the work of all of us who care about those who have experienced life in ways that are different than we have. It is about doing the work of stepping into other shoes by listening, it is about stripping off each of our blinders to the misery, trauma, and discomfort that others have experienced. It is about engaging with those who are different than we are.

So, act in ways that you find appropriate. Protest and march if you want to protest and march. Engage with and learn from people who are different from you. Create more good jobs amidst an inclusive organizational culture. Give charitably and volunteer. Support our community organizations that are engaged in addressing issues related to race relations, income inequality, and housing affordability. Volunteer and support educational efforts in underserved communities. Continually engage in large and small acts that collectively bring about change. Above all, keep doing the work, first on ourselves, and then with others.

Catch up on other articles in this series:

Article 1: Diversity Education & Workforce Development by Dr. Daniel Wubah

Article 2: Celebrating Diversity & Fostering Community by Deepa Balepur 

Article 3: Beyond Pride Month: Celebrating LGBTQ Communities by Todd Snovel

Article 4: Paying The Cost – Learning About Racism And A Call For Business To Invest In Its Eradication by Kevin Ressler

Article 5: My Company Performed Diversity Training. Now What? by Jennifer Craighead Carey

The Lancaster Chamber is also sourcing inclusivity & anti-racism training and hosting conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion with a focus on action. We are committed to making changes within our own organization to better serve everyone in Lancaster County.