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Can you afford not to?

On May 16th, I presented the keynote speech at Polk Vision LEAD’s graduation ceremony titled “A Celebration of Leadership”. LEAD is a year-long training program in Polk County, Florida, designed to help mid-level managers and supervisors become capable leaders in their organizations. Class members are selected based on their leadership abilities, career accomplishments, volunteer activities, contributions to the community, and commitment to work towards a collaborative and thriving Polk County. Once selected, students need their supervisors’ permission to attend the course - a selection criteria I emphasized in my comments during the ceremony.

It was an honor to be asked by Kim Long, the Executive Director, and Reba Coil, the Program Manager, to participate in the ceremony and I quickly learned what the twenty-six students had been doing in the program. After talking to the graduates, I realized this leadership program, like many others, creates completely new networks of colleagues and friends for the graduates and introduces them to new aspects of the business, civic and government worlds they might otherwise never learn about or appreciate. The course is appropriately named LEAD with the objectives derived from the title - Learn, Engage, Align and Develop. The guiding principle of the course is to “cultivate a sense of community that fosters diversity, innovation and pride … while recognizing the many physical assets and unique cultures of the area.”

In my opening comments to the graduates, I emphasized a couple basic points on leadership that come directly from Two Blue Aces’ website and the 5GG Blog you’re reading now. I also included the elements of a simple charge I sent to every new Brigadier General in the Air Force each year - be humble; maintain a sense of humor; and stay physically fit. I let the graduates know I believe most people who rise to a leadership position in an organization already have the competence to lead, the real question is whether they maintain balance in their lives as responsibility increases in their new position. And, equally important, if they’re able to maintain the integrity and character needed as difficult situations arise and decisions become more complex. I went on to say their leadership ‘style’ would be even more important as they take charge of complicated tasks, and that the people who worked for them would likely do their best to follow their guidance as long as they were honest and trustworthy. This might sound a bit complicated if you don’t put things in proper perspective - but it’s really not difficult if people learn and embrace the important concepts and lessons taught in courses like Polk Vision LEAD.

My final comments at the end were focused on the graduates’ teammates back at the office who likely endured longer hours at work while the students were absent, and more importantly, their supervisors who gave them time off to attend the course. I asked the graduates to say ‘thank you’ to these people, and especially their supervisors who nominated them for the course and adjusted work schedules to handle reduced manning. For the actual CEOs and supervisors in the room attending the ceremony, I congratulated them for their wise decision making since - in my opinion - they couldn’t afford not to let their people go to this type of training. It’s called ‘paying it forward’ - or making sure the next group of leaders in a company get the requisite training and experience necessary to handle the complexities of today’s business world.

Take this opportunity to look back on 5GG’s recent blogs covering many of these topics in more detail. Each of us should commit to lifelong learning in our lives, and my Partners and I hope these weekly postings contribute to that endeavor.



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