On his blog, <RiverCityRapids>, Jon Baliles is attacking the establishment of Richmond City and how it submits so easily to VCU‘s whims.  He states, quite correctly, that VCU has been a major economic force for revitalization in the city (so that’s good), but that it is leading to our city leaders essentially handing over the keys to the city and rolling over whenever the city plans may conflict with VCU’s plans.

Jon certainly makes good arguments and I would encourage you to take a look at his recent posts on the subject, especially the most recent, "A Resistance To Reflexively Go Along Part III: VCU".  You can come to your own conclusion about whether you think Richmond’s Planning Commission was right or wrong in their decision to stay out of VCU’s way.  (and I would be happy to hear your views here in the comments section)

My comments are more to the general topic of leadership, especially as it applies here in Richmond.  Jon is right that the most memorable leaders have gone against the grain, and been successful in spite of their setbacks. 

I submit, however, that a great leader is often not the most memorable.  The best leaders are those who bring people together to pursue a common vision, especially when the different parties are not originally cooperating.  Those types of leaders aren’t always remembered explicitly in history books, but they are often the ones that are the most effective in enacting real change. 

Being remembered shouldn’t be the point.  Making changes to better society and move forward should be.

Merely going against the current doesn’t produce results, as we have seen from recent events.  In fact, we have so many "leaders" in Richmond trying to impose their will on public policy that everyone is butting heads and absolutely nothing is being accomplished.

What would make a great leader in Richmond is a combination of:

  • a strong vision of what Richmond could be
  • a will to lead and serve the public’s interest (rather than one’s own ego)
  • the ability to bring people together and coordinate efforts (rather than dividing and conquering)

What do you think?  Is there anything you’d like to add to the list?

4 Thoughts on “What makes a good leader?”

  • In my professional life, I spend far too much time reflecting on and teaching leadership. One of the simplest models for effective leadership I’ve worked with builds on the iterative approach of Leadership = Integrity (relationships and trust) + Vision + Inspiration. One assumption behind this approach is that too often leaders begin with vision, that without the glue of trust and relationships, of having integrity with others (which is different from simple honesty), visions never turn into actions. I’ve found that this model bolted to the idea of supporting the success of others (as an outcome) has been a good yardstick for me as I’ve struggled to identify effective leadership in Richmond.
    Unfortunately, I haven’t seen too many people playing hard with the whole package.

  • Great post.
    We have had the perfect example of leadership speaking for “the people”.
    The best leadership will attract less attention to itself and let the results do the talking.

  • John: I appreciate you lending your expertise (and it’s good to hear that I wasn’t too far off-track!). It’s not to say the Richmond region couldn’t get by with several good leaders that know how to coordinate between themselves and get everyone else behind them, but if we could pull out a really GREAT leader that has all of those characteristics, everything could be pulled off a lot sooner. AND, I believe that a GREAT leader would spawn several good leaders that would carry us even further.
    Paul: Thanks for the compliment. I find myself thinking more and more about leadership and what makes a good leader as I progress in life (or regress, as the case may be). I have always held that it’s a fine line between being driven and ambitious enough to want to be a leader, and being so ego-centric that one becomes a glory-hog.

  • Being true to your word is the first strongest bond then taking care of people as you progress into leadership will make you effective.
    There are a bunch of other things but being able to put your head down and continue working when everything or everyone is pulling you in different directions has to be one of the qualities of leadership.

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