Leaders call for new leadership

By Ret Boney

RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina faces big social problems and needs a new generation of leaders to address them.

That was the message delivered to a leadership summit February 17 convened in Raleigh by Peace College.

The event included two dozen leaders from the state’s nonprofit and higher-education sectors to examine the state of leadership in the state.

“We are in desperate need of leadership, the right kind of leadership,” Barbara Goodmon, president of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, told the group during an opening address.

“We have problems in North Carolina we aren’t even talking about,” she said.

That includes a big influx of Latinos, a growing senior population, an increase in poverty, burgeoning Medicaid and Medicare expenses, and a housing crisis that leaves one in three North Carolinians without an affordable place to live.

“A good leader has to be about the common good,” Goodmon said.  “Personal interests are taking priority over common good.”

Many young people avoid public leadership, Goodmon says, because of the heated political infighting and divisiveness that characterize much of public service today.

“We can’t get past what’s going on with our leaders until we’re able to have fair elections and the ability for people to stay their course and not be threatened” with being forced out of office, she said, urging efforts to reform campaign finance, lobbying and redistricting.

To be effective in leading change, a leader must be a “photographer, an artist and a gardener,” she said.

A leader must first be able to take an accurate picture of the current situation, then paint a picture of what the future should be, and finally plant the seeds of change and nurture them to full fruition over the course of years, she said.

“A leader has to have all three, and the ability to pull everyone together and convince them this is the right thing to do,” Goodmon said.

A veteran of leadership development efforts, Billy Ray Hall, president of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center in Raleigh, said two things are critical in designing leadership-development efforts.

“Those that have succeeded have had a vision for the group and a staff associated with it,” he told summit participants.

And Ferrel Guillory, director of the Program on Southern Politics, Media and Public Life at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, cited

Three areas where leadership development efforts can have a significant impact.

“We need to think about young leaders as they are emerging,” he said.  “We have to think about elected and appointed leaders that we do very little mid-career enrichment for. And we have to think about the different ways to do leadership enrichment – some of it has to do with issues and some of it has to do with skills.”

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