How To Lead

An easy to read primer on leadership.

 

I saw an interview with the philanthropist David Rubenstein on Face The Nation recently.
Mr. Rubenstein just released a book on leadership that waits for me patiently on my night stand each evening.
In the book, Rubenstein talks with a variety of successful leaders and distills some of the things they’ve learned along the way.
I was sold on the book by his answer to this question by host John Dickerson.
“What do you look for in a leader?”

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: I’m looking for their ability to focus, their ability to communicate well, their ability to have some sense of priority of what’s most important to them, their ability to inspire people, their ability to rise to the occasion. And I also think humility is important. Anybody that is really a successful leader I think has failed in life. And you have to persist after your failures. But failure gives you some humility.”


Isn’t that cool? I mean, doesn’t that sum it up?
Let’s break it down.
Focus: the best leaders I’ve seen are focused on goals. They don’t get distracted by bright shiny objects and they don’t let distractions throw them off their game. In other words, they don’t major in the minor. A good local example is former Mayor Dave Schmidt.
I learned many things sitting next to David for my first three years on the commission. Mayor Dave was focused on the big picture and always exhibited calm under fire. And he faced some raging ones: protests against the move of Atlantic High School and the discovery that several of the 9/11 terrorists were living in Delray which put an international media spotlight on our town. Regardless of what was thrown at him, Mayor Schmidt kept his eyes on the prize and made sure his fellow commissioners did so as well. 
Communication: Good leaders communicate. They have an ability to explain their positions and views. And they take the time to do so.
I thought former Mayor Tom Lynch did a great job articulating the city’s goals, aspirations and potential when he served from 1990-1996. I was a young reporter back then, assigned to cover city government. I always knew where the city was headed because Tom was a consistent and reliable communicator.
A sense of what’s important: Great leaders want to accomplish something. They don’t seek power for power’s sake. For the good ones, it’s a job to do, not a job to have.
I kept that phrase in my wallet through my term in office. It means that you are willing to lose your seat if it means doing the right thing for the city. Sometimes that means taking positions that are not the most popular at the time but that you know is the right thing to do for the community long term. Great leaders are willing to plant trees knowing they won’t be the ones to enjoy the shade.
An ability to inspire: I’ve seen some good leaders who were lacking in charisma, but that’s not the same as inspiration. A solid steady leader can be quietly inspiring. Why? Because they are solid and steady.
Former Chamber President Bill Wood did have charisma. And he was also very inspiring because he was reliably optimistic, had a wonderful sense of humor and a warmth that made everyone in his presence feel good. Consequently, he made businesses feel good about being in Delray. That’s an intangible that is hard to place a value on.

Rising to the Occasion: Good leaders have a way of meeting the challenges they are presented with. So if tragedy strikes they meet the moment with compassion. If there’s some sort of disaster (man made or natural) they have a way of handling it that calms the community and helps inspire confidence in the future. My local examples for this item are former police chief Rick Overman and former fire chief Kerry Koen. 
Both leaders were battle tested and enjoyed widespread support among the troops and the broader community. So during hurricanes or difficult incidents —which are par for the course in their line of work —they always rose to the occasion and you felt that everything would be OK. Steady hands during stormy seas..invaluable. 
Leaders who rise to the occasion find ways to create wins even when the going gets tough. 
Consequently, if there’s an opportunity they can seal the deal.

Humility and Failure: The best leaders are humble, real, honest and service oriented. I also happen to think a sense of humor is enormously important. The best leaders can admit when they are wrong and are committed to personal and professional growth. They have an ability to evolve. They know they aren’t the smartest person in the room and seek to surround themselves with people they can learn from. I call it intellectual humility. Those that have it can learn from others. Those who think they know it all, really don’t. 
I also think that failure is an important life experience. Failure informs. It keeps us humble and enables us to learn critical lessons. 
A good leader knows that as long as you learn from mistakes and don’t repeat them the experience is not really a failure at all.
As we edge toward national, state and local elections in November and again in March it may be helpful to review this list of traits and see how the candidates measure up. 
 
 

 

15 Years…

Jerrod Miller

Fifteen years is a long time.

Fifteen years is the blink of an eye.

Fifteen years ago this month, Jerrod Miller lost his life at the age of 15 outside a school dance at the Delray Full Service Center.

Just like my daughter, Jerrod would be 30 years old today if not for a bullet fired on a crisp February night by a rookie Delray police officer.

Jerrod Miller died exactly 7 years to the day before Trayvon Martin, 17, lost his life after an encounter with a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida.

People remember Trayvon. I’m afraid that Jerrod might be fading from memory in the consciousness of the larger Delray Beach community.

Oh, I’m sure his friends, family, neighbors, congregants at his church and his teachers still grieve his loss as I do. But the lessons we were supposed to learn, the strides we were supposed to make are at risk on this somber anniversary of a tragedy which also happens to dovetail with Black History Month.

Delray like so much of America wrestles with race. We have a fraught history in this community. We have a dividing line at Swinton. We are diverse but segregated at the same time. Sometimes it makes for a combustible mix.

In a little more than a month, we will head to the polls to choose from among a slew of candidates for two city commission seats. If we are Democrats, we will also vote for a challenger to take on President Trump.

Ironically, I was at Mar A Lago, the night Jerrod Miller was shot while driving his uncle’s Cadillac in our southwest neighborhood, a place now known as The Set. I saw the future president that night as he whisked by and never dreamed he would be president. I was not at his gold leafed resort for a political function that night but rather a charitable event. My phone would ring in the early morning hours with the news of the fatal shooting. I knew immediately that life would not be the same.

When police shootings occur, a dynamic occurs—a tornado of media, lawyers, union reps, police investigators, prosecutors, media, activists, hate mail, threats, anger, anxiety and crushing sadness.

Absolute crushing sadness.

As a mayor, you become isolated—from your colleagues on the commission and from everyone really. It’s a lonely place and there is no playbook to reference.

I think of that lonely place whenever I hear of bad things happening. I know there’s hurting families, anxious policymakers and sad police officers in whatever community bears the byline of tragedy.

For 15 years now, I have had recurring dreams about a young man I never knew in life. I saw him only once—in a casket, at his funeral—at the 7th Day Adventist Church in our northwest neighborhood. I met and admired his pastor. I knew his father—not the biological opportunist who showed up after the shooting–but the man who Jerrod knew as his dad.  And I met his grandmother who sat quietly with us in a room at Old School Square during our race relations workshops.

Over the years, I have met his friends, a cousin and his twin brother Sherrod, a young man deeply haunted by the loss of his brother. We had a tearful meeting a few years back along with several police officers who were on the scene that fateful evening. We tried to reach Sherrod. I think he wanted to be reached. But we failed….he failed too. For now anyway…maybe someday.

Sometimes that’s what happens, but it is so very hard to accept.

In a month or so we will choose elected officials and who we choose matters. Yes these people will be tasked with the usual—how to manage growth, how to keep the millage rate from spiking and how to keep up with the needs and controversies of a bustling city/village.

But they might also find themselves dealing with something wholly unexpected—an act of violence, a natural disaster or in the case of Mayor Dave Schmidt who I sat next to for three years on the dais, the presence of terrorists in little old Delray. Stuff happens, as they say.

Me…I’m concerned about race relations in our community. I have been for a long time now.

There are real issues out there: equity issues, housing issues, the need for jobs and opportunities for our children and grandchildren.

There are social issues too—abuse and neglect, poverty and addiction that touch every part of this city.

And there are political issues too—feuds and splits wrapped up in race that have stoked anger, resentment and sadness.

When you ignore a toxic brew of emotions they tend not to dissipate but to fester. That’s dangerous.

Powering ahead does not solve anything—there will be a reckoning and often times reckonings are ugly.

Here’s hoping that whoever is elected or re-elected in March that they stop and consider the important work of community building and improved race relations. We might not be able to heal our divided nation but we can make a difference right here in our community. We can set an example.

If we don’t try we will continue to fray at the seams—ever so slowly…until one day we break.

 

 

 

 

9/11 We Will Never Forget

9/11 will always be a somber day for our country.

It’s hard to imagine that 18 years have passed since that fateful day when terrorists killed  nearly 3,000 Americans with strikes on the Twin Towers, The Pentagon and United Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA.
I think all Americans who were alive that day have personal memories of 9/11.

As a native New Yorker it stung badly to see the Twin Towers fall. We had gone there on a school field trip, visited the Windows on the World restaurant and I had known some people who worked in the iconic buildings.

I would later learn that a childhood friend, Mike Boyle, an off duty New York City firefighter would perish in the towers. He sped to the scene when he saw what was happening. I would later find his name at the memorial and I think of him often as I am sure others do. He was a special guy.

We lost lots of special people that horrible day.

I watched the Towers get hit while in the newsroom at the old Boca News. I had sold my publication to the News two years before and they kept me on board.
September 11 fell on a Tuesday. I was on the City Commission for a little over a year at the time. At first, we did not grasp the enormity of the day and I remember we held a meeting or a workshop—as if life could go on as normal. We had no conception of how much life would change.

As the days and weeks unfolded so much had changed.
We discovered that many of the terrorist plotters had lived in our community. At the Hamlet and Laver’s…working out at World Gym, going to Huber Drugs, conducting research at the old city library.
I had friends who had encounters with what they now realized were strange men, murderers. We had police officers who stopped them for traffic violations and one who responded to calls of a dog bite where they saw the men who were plotting. Nobody knew  that  they brushed up against pure evil. These were the days before national databases so there was no way to cross check or to know.

When it was revealed that the plotters lived In Delray the media swarmed. Our mayor Dave Schmidt appeared on national morning shows. The rest of us were contacted by national media as well.
The theory was that South Florida and Delray were chosen because the terrorists felt they could blend in here with our diversity.

At the office, we watched with fear when one of our neighboring buildings which housed AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer was sealed off when anthrax was sent through the mail killing a photographer.
Suddenly, our mail room became a source of concern. It was surreal.

It was as if the world was tilted off its axis.

When catastrophe strikes, you strive for normalcy but it’s elusive.

Back in those days, our Fire Chief Kerry Koen had started a wonderful tradition at Halloween.
Commissioners were assigned to fire trucks and we drove through neighborhoods giving treats to children who swarmed the big red trucks with excitement and joy. It was tremendous fun and a wildly popular activity.
On the Halloween after 9/11, we were on trucks that began to respond to calls from parents who feared that their children had brought anthrax back in their candy carriers.
The powder that they suspected turned out to be sugar. And in one case, a frightened man thought he was a victim when he found what turned out to be sand in his apartment.
Things had changed.

We sent firefighters to Ground Zero and I wonder and worry about their health as a result. Experts estimate that more people will end up dying from exposure to toxins after the attack than died that day.
I met someone recently vacationing in Delray who was battling cancer caused by the exposure. That’s why it was so important for Congress to fully fund health benefits for victims.

If you visit our fire headquarters on West Atlantic Avenue you will see a piece of artwork dedicated to the memory of the 343 firefighters who perished that day.
It’s worth a visit.

When I remember those days, I recall how we gathered to meet and pray at Old School Square and the Community Center and how on subsequent anniversaries we lit candles and remembered those lost that day on the front lawn of Old School Square.

I think of how we as a community and we as a nation were united by tragedy. How we grew closer, at least for awhile.
And I wonder if we will ever feel that way again and why it takes a tragedy of indescribable horror to bring us together.
And I remember my childhood friend Mike Boyle who was the fastest kid in our class and how he raced up the stairs into the fire when everyone else was fleeing.

 

A Gathering Of Mayors

“It’s possible to be fierce, fierce in your dedication to change, to what’s right, to making things better–without finding the source of your power in the destruction of others.”– Seth Godin

 

Last week, thanks to the efforts of the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce and the talented Suzanne Spencer, seven former Delray Beach mayors met with the new class of Leadership Delray for a roundtable discussion on leadership and local history.

It was a blast.

And the Seth Godin quote above was a common thread for these mayors who represented local history from the 1980s through today.

Doak Campbell, Tom Lynch, Jay Alperin, Dave Schmidt, Tom Carney, current Mayor Shelly Petrolia and I shared stories, challenges and experiences from our days and nights in the trenches of local government.

It was a special afternoon and we need more of these types of get togethers because local history is special and relevant to the issues that we face today. The gathering was recorded by the class and will be given to the Delray Beach Historical Society. I look forward to seeing and sharing it with you someday soon. Each mayor brings a unique perspective to the job. My theory is that public office is much like an MRI–it reveals who you truly are. Your good qualities are revealed and your weaknesses too as expressed in decisions you make and your leadership style.

Doak Campbell presided over a somewhat tumultuous time in the 80s, with a revolving door of city managers and department heads, worries about crime and concerns about how to revive a desolate downtown. Despite a fair amount of political infighting, Doak’s commission made some huge and important moves: establishing a CRA, forming the first historic districts, agreeing to restore Old School Square, focusing on downtown and passing a landmark bond issue which led to tremendous improvements in the city’s infrastructure and how we viewed our future prospects. Mayor Campbell left his successors with money, a vision and some very promising seeds. He was a successful mayor.

Tom Lynch and Jay Alperin followed Doak. They successfully implemented the Decade of Excellence bond and brought needed stability to City Hall and to politics itself. On their watch, the Tennis Stadium was built and the seeds were planted for a downtown renaissance. Stability is very important to success. We tend not to appreciate stability until we lose it and we see the damage that volatility can bring to a community. Tom and Jay were gentlemen and they treated city staff and the public with respect; challenging both to bring solutions not just complaints to Commission chambers. I respect their leadership skills and learned a lot from watching them as a young reporter covering city government.

David Schmidt and I followed and we emphasized community engagement and citizen driven planning which led to a downtown master plan, a cultural plan, a parks plan, an effort to improve race relations and a continued focus on education. I learned a lot from sitting on the dais next to David. The commission’s we served on were ambitious and energetic–we wanted to bring about positive change and work to advance what other mayors had started. We saw ourselves as civic entrepreneurs and wanted very much to engage and involve the community. David empowered those who sat next to him on the dais and was always a calm and reasonable voice even amidst heated controversy.

Tom Carney wasn’t mayor for very long but he has been involved for many years serving on the Housing Authority, CRA and as founding president of the Arts Garage. We were glad he was at the roundtable to lend his long term perspective.

Newly elected Mayor Petrolia was gracious in her remarks referring to the success of Delray and her role as a steward giving the analogy that she was handed a golden egg and it’s her responsibility not to break it.

She also outlined the pressures facing current leadership ranging from crime concerns, schools, how much growth there should be (and where) and the need to shore up our infrastructure.

Based on the questions that Leadership Delray students asked, I think there was a good appreciation for the challenges of being a mayor of a town like Delray.

I often consulted with my predecessors because I knew that they loved Delray, had relevant experience in the issues we were facing and would understand the unique pressures of the job.

I saw former mayors and commissioners as resources that I could tap into in order to understand the genesis of issues and what paths were possible.

To their credit, they gave advice willingly knowing that ultimately I would make my own decision but that it would be informed by their valuable input and perspective.

I couldn’t imagine not tapping into the wealth of knowledge that exists here and I’m sure in other communities as well. Of course, you want a range of opinion and so the most effective elected officials seek out all sorts of voices—young and old, business owners, people from different parts of the city etc.

That’s how you succeed in what is a very difficult and all-consuming job.

Delray is a dynamic and challenging city. There are incredible opportunities and a lot of daunting challenges as well.

We need people with passion, a love for the town, humility, emotional intelligence, strength, foresight and courage to step up and lead.

Last week, I found myself in a room with a bunch of those types of people and I left feeling connected, happy and excited about our past, present and future.

Thanks Chamber, thanks Suzanne Spencer, thanks Leadership Delray and thanks to my fellow mayors for being so inspirational.

 

 

Fifteen Years Gone: 9/11’s Local Perspective

Proudly worn by volunteers

Proudly worn by volunteers

Sept. 11, 2001 was the shock.
Sept, 12, 2001 was the start of the realization that our lives, our country and our world would be forever different. Over the coming weeks, 15 years ago, we would discover just how different our world would be.
Anthrax came to Boca Raton when a man died opening a letter.
We discovered that at least seven and possibly nine of the 19 terrorists were living in Delray Beach. Another three were living in Boynton.
They were at our library. They lived in the Hamlet, went to a local gym, were seen poolside at Laver’s and filled a prescription for cipro at Huber’s Drugs. One of our officers, Tom Quinlan, responded to a call about a dog bite and later learned that the bite victim was ringleader Mohammed Atta.
I worked in a building a few yards from the AMI headquarters in Boca at the time of the anthrax scare which came a week after the attacks. Bob Stevens, who worked for the National Enquirer, was the first victim of anthrax when he opened a letter containing deadly spores.
It was a surreal scene. Nobody wanted open their mail.
At the time, our Fire Chief Kerry Koen had encouraged city commissioners to ride on fire trucks and hand out treats to children on Halloween. The year before the event was a smashing success. Children throughout  Delray Beach were excited to see the big red engines.
But in 2001, the event was a little different and as soon as it got dark, the department started getting calls from people who thought the sugar that spilled from lanterns holding candy was anthrax and the same engines that elicited cheers and laughter were now called to investigate whether there was a deadly toxin in our city.
But Delray Beach was a strong community back then. You don’t really know that until you’re tested.

A few months prior, the city had won a second all America city award becoming the first city in Florida to do so.
At that time, the civic fabric was strong and there was unity. And Delray had a knack for turning challenges into opportunities. The City had confidence. There was just a feeling that whatever was thrown our way, collectively we would figure it out.

Dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 was a huge challenge. But we had a great mayor at the time, David Schmidt. He was an attorney, soft spoken, polite and professional. But he was also resolute, very smart and exhibited strength in a way that was calming. I sat next to him on the dais and I liked him. But watching him closely– seeing how he handled different situations –turned me into an admirer. David handled adversity with dignity and strength. We were blessed to have him as our mayor during that trying time.
As a community we gathered at Old School Square and at the Community Center to pray and to mourn and to just be together with our neighbors. We sent some personnel to ground zero including Russ Accardi a high ranking member of our fire department.
It was in these difficult moments that we found strength in each other. And that is community. It’s heart. It’s love. It’s caring and I think –because we are Americans –it’s also about taking action–doing something to make things better.
And so Skip Brown, a police officer, and himself a wounded Vietnam veteran, formed the nation’s first Homefront Security volunteer program.
At the time, we had well over 1,000 active volunteers at our police department. Many more at our Fire Department too. From this pool of dedicated citizens, largely retirees, Skip formed a special unit and tasked them with patrolling our public assets: water plant, sewer plant, city hall, library, parks, Old School Square Etc.
They wore sharp uniforms that included a beret. They looked amazing. Many –maybe most –were veterans, many were World War II veterans–well into their 70s but very much representative of the “greatest generation.”
They really were different.

Selfless. Tough but kind. Service oriented. Resilient. Wired to give back, to serve and protect, as our Police and firefighters are.
We took great comfort in seeing these men and women around town. They were trained to report suspicious items and their presence lifted our spirits when we needed them lifted.
I lost a childhood friend on Sept. 11. His name was Michael Boyle and he was a firefighter, like his dad. He was off that day campaigning with his best friend for a city council candidate. But when they heard the call, they heeded it and rushed to the scene to be with their brothers and sisters. Mike was never seen again. He was 37 years old.
Last year, my wife and I went to the new 9/11 museum. Since opening in 2014, 7 million have visited. More than 28 million people have visited the memorial in downtown Manhattan. We found Michael’s name along a reflecting pond. One of 343 firefighters lost that day.
This weekend as we marked the 15th anniversary of the attack, I read a bunch of articles and saw a great documentary on Flight 93 on PBS. In two of the stories I read, one about Marisa Di Nardo, the other about Welles Crowther, a 24 year old who lost his life going back up the stairs to bring others back to safety there were parts of the story that noted that both had premonitions, Marisa about her death and Welles that he would be part of “something big.” And I wondered if my childhood friend Michael experienced something similar. I’m not sure we will ever know. Or if it really matters, or maybe it matters a lot. Maybe we are supposed to listen to that inner voice or feelings.
There’s a sculpture inside our main fire station on West Atlantic that honors the 343 firefighters lost that day. It was dedicated in the wake of the tragic day. Last week, on Facebook, my friend Skip now retired in Alabama, posted pictures of his Homefront volunteers. Some are gone now. But I remember them and so do others. They comforted a community that needed to be comforted. President Bush, Governor Bush, Mayor Guiliani  and others acknowledged their work with visits and words of praise. Media from all over the world covered their service. And that’s all great stuff. But the larger message is one of community. One of love, service, commitment and courage; about rising to the occasion when the rain comes.
We find ways to cope, both individually and as a community when tragedy strikes. We find solace in family, friends, religion, country and community. And that’s what I’m reflecting on this 15th anniversary.

7 Traits of Extraordinary Leaders

Leader

“If you are a leader, you should never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it – young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous – is changed by it.”

 John C. Maxwell

 

We long for leadership in our society.

We look for it everywhere; in business, in politics, in education, health care and in the non-profit world.

We thirst for it, search for it and complain about it when we don’t see or experience it.

But it remains elusive and at times it seems like a mirage, sometimes you come close and it disappears into the vapor.

But when it shows up, progress happens. And the progress can be lasting and exponential, that’s how powerful leadership can be.

I’ve noticed that in well led communities and businesses, people seem happier even when bad things happen as they often do.

It’s somehow easier to deal with life’s travails and inevitable setbacks when you have faith and confidence in leadership.

I’ve spent my entire adult life studying leadership—I seek wisdom in biographies of leaders I admire, analyze people that I think are effective and often times begin my day searching for quotes that inspire.

I know it can be a little hokey, but I’m a believer.

The best leadership inspires progress, frames reality and is authentic. It’s also consistent; it shows up when it’s needed– not just for photo ops.

The best leaders I know are servant leaders; less concerned with “optics” (what a despicable word) and focused on seeking the truth and positive outcomes, even if speaking the truth or following your conscience may sting—at least initially.

I have been fortunate to seek and find leadership in some pretty interesting places over the years.

I found it at home watching my grandparents and parents live honorable lives; doing right by people over and over again.

My grandfather and father were quiet leaders—they never held “positions” of power but smart people sought them out for advice and were never turned away or disappointed.

I watched my mother and my sister in law battle cancer with dignity and lead their loved ones through a dark journey with courage and grace.

As a young reporter, I worked for a volatile but very lovable editor named Tom Sawyer (his real name) and a gentle editor named Debbie Stern. They were different types of leaders: Tom was the crusty but ‘heart of gold’ kind of editor straight out of central casting.

He took me to lunch at Tom Sawyer’s in Boca on my first day of work and told me they named the place after him. I almost believed him. He would chase us out of the newsroom back in the day telling us that no news ever happened in the office; we had to go out and beat the streets.

And we did.

Happily.

When we wrote a bad story, we heard about it. But if we wrote a good story, we also heard about it and we beamed from ear to ear because we knew Tom was tough but fair and that he believed in us and wanted us to be better. I knew in my bones that he was rooting for me and I wanted to earn his praise.

Debbie was a nurturer. She led with humor, smarts and insights. She also believed in her reporters and we worked hard to get her attention too. She doesn’t know it, but she influenced me deeply.

We’re having lunch today (we meet quarterly, she’s very organized) because even after all these years, she’s a touchstone for me. She was a leader.

I’ve also seen and experienced leadership in my business and entrepreneurial endeavors—the best leaders I’ve seen in business are generous, willing to take risks, share credit, accept honest mistakes, learn and move on whether they win or lose. They don’t dwell, they learn.

In education, I watched Dr. Kathy Weigel lead at Atlantic High School through controversy and all sorts of challenges.  And the recently retired Bill Fay led with humor, warmth and passion for kids and teachers.

At Old School Square, Joe Gillie led Delray Beach to two All America City Awards while working closely with another extraordinary leader Frances Bourque to build a cultural arts center that jumpstarted a downtown and saved a city from blight, crime and disinvestment.

In my new book, “Adventures in Local Politics” (shameless plug) I found myself writing a lot about former Police Chief Rick Overman and former Fire Chief Kerry Koen, who had different leadership styles but much in common: a devotion to their troops and the community, an ability to see the big picture and how their department’s fit in to the larger vision and a willingness to speak truth to power when those in power needed a dose of reality.

I also wrote a lot about Mayors Tom Lynch and David Schmidt, two distinctly different leaders, who also had more in common once you got beyond obvious style differences. Mayor Lynch was a big thinker and a transformational type of leader whose calm demeanor, toughness when needed and business acumen really moved the needle at a time when we needed it. Mayor Schmidt was a quiet leader, confident enough in his own skin to let others shine but also extremely tough when pushed and able to do what he believed was right even if it would have been more expedient to punt on issues ranging from moving Atlantic High School to voting for Worthing Place.

I can go on. (And let’s because it’s fun).

Nancy Hurd was an extraordinary leader at the Achievement Center for decades and mentored a wonderful young leader in Stephanie Seibel so that the center’s mission could continue unabated when Nancy retired. Ken Ellingsworth, Bill Wood and now Karen Granger have been solid leaders at our 90 year old chamber of commerce; each leading with warmth and genuine love for the community.

And there are more but the point is simple. Leadership matters. You can’t succeed without it—in business or in cities.

I think we need to spend more time talking about what good leadership looks like and feels like. I think we need to discuss what we expect from those who seek leadership positions in our communities.

Here’s a list of seven traits that I look for in leaders: integrity, vision, passion, emotional intelligence, empathy, courage and judgment.

I’ve seen people who have all seven and I’ve seen those who are 0-7.

A recent study that looked at the successes and failures of 11 American Presidents showed that emotional intelligence (EI) was the key quality for success.

Presidents high in EI (Lincoln, FDR) chose their battles wisely, behave assertively when necessary and display the courage needed to confront sticky situations with confidence.

They are able to recognize and understand their own moods, emotions and drives as well as their effect on others. They have the ability to align people, bringing them together to work toward a common goal.

They are able to understand the emotional makeup of other people and the skills it takes to treat people according to their emotional reactions.

Leaders with high EI energize people and eliminate disagreements and conflicts through excellent communication.

A high bar?

Perhaps, but it’s possible. In fact, we can’t thrive or progress without it. Of that, I am certain.