The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonderers. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map. This week I’m jumping to the front of the line (again!) with my own missive regarding current events in our community…..
When I think of leadership, I think back to some of my earliest memories in life. I grew up in a small town in Ohio. Wyoming is the name. When I was in the third grade, I was a water boy for the high school football team. I later matriculated to ball boy, then eventually when I was of age, I became team statistician.
My friends during those years would be running around the stadium, watching the game, or as we got older, flirting with interested classmates. Not me. I was on the sidelines.
My father had worked out a deal with Coach Gary Jump. After class, I would ride my bike to the athletic field and I would attend practice. I would also travel with the team to away games and participate in every facet of the high school football experience. They even game me a jersey to wear when I was on the sidelines.
I was young, very athletic, and knew that at some point in the future I too would play football. My father thought the experience of being with the team at an early age would help me learn.
I remember sitting with Coach Jump on the bus rides to away games. He was a world class individual who surrounded himself with equally talented folks. The coaching staff, as I remember it, was filled with a strong, intelligent, dedicated, kind, and diverse group of men.
Coach Jump and his coaching staff were honest and humble, and they demanded the same of their players. No cursing, no flashy uniform add-ons, and no taunting. Coach Jump would always make sure his players were suited up when exiting the bus at away games. I remember vividly the players from our team exiting the bus with their helmets on, and the opposing team was instantly intimidated.
Coach Jump had methods, ideals, and rules that he required everyone to buy into. His persona alone demanded respect and attention, and he received both. I never once saw a student or assistant coach bad mouth, disrespect, or talk back to Coach Jump. He was a very successful coach, and he left an incredible legacy when he retired.
I use this football metaphor for a few reasons. One, we are in the South, where football seems to be another religious option in an already complex field of divinity. But more importantly, because almost everyone can relate to the coach as leader story.
I am concerned with two local leadership posts that have been vacated in recent weeks. The City Manager and the President of SEDA have both vacated their posts, and leave in their wake serious questions for us as a community. Both of these positions are respected, commanding and extremely influential.
As a community, Savannah has a lot to offer its residents, and I suspect that when the job postings for both for City Manager and President of SEDA are announced, many talented, hard working individuals will apply.
Here’s what I will be thinking of as our community begins searching for the qualified leaders to fill these two key posts:
- What characteristics do we need in our civic leaders?
- What could Savannah to look like in five years?
- What economic development initiatives are important to our community in the coming years?
- How do we continue making improvements in poverty reduction, health, lowering crime, and education?
- How will these two new leaders work together, and along with other civic, non-profit and industry leaders, to move our entire region forward?
If given the opportunity to interview candidates for either position, I would focus on leadership capabilities and philosophies. We need leaders who are brave enough to stake a claim on the future and follow through with their beliefs.
If Coach Jump lived in Savannah, I would want him on the steering committee to find the right candidates. Coach Jump would select a diverse, eclectic, dedicated, and hard working group of candidates for each position, then he would proceed to interview each one of them honestly and vigorously. I am sure there would be equal parts blood, sweat, and tears, but the strongest, most dedicated candidates would rise to the top, and our region would be better for it.
This blog was published October 10, 2012 on SavannahNow.com.