Leadership Sandy Springs – Graduation Speech May 7, 2014

Chip Speech at LSS Graduation May 2014

At our opening retreat at Amicalola Falls, we were asked to spend 7 minutes writing about the word “leaf.” I would like to read a brief excerpt from that exercise now. A leaf is alive…(read excerpt)…

In the immediate moments after reading this, although all of the other “Intuitive Feeler Idealists” sitting at my table nodded their heads in agreement, I caught a small glimpse of how crazy I must sound sometimes to people on my team at work or in my family and to all of you in the room that day (those of you Sensing Thinker Analysts & Helpers, and you Intuitive Thinker Strategists). This exercise was one of the most powerful takeaways for me from our retreat. It helped me to not only become more aware of the differences among us, but that those differences are all strengths. And that any exceptional team needs to be comprised of a diversity of these strengths, all complementing one another, adding value, and filling in gaps. An exceptional leader will not only seek to include as many of these strengths as possible on his or her team, but will know how to maximize and multiply their collective influence.

Much like the leaf I wrote about, we are each part of a larger living thing – the community of Sandy Springs. Our community is growing, changing, and ever dependent on each of the other parts. When our class started, Eva Galambos was the mayor. As we graduate tonight Rusty Paul is the mayor. No other class can claim the distinction of being in session during that important transition. When we started Ken Dishman was merely a candidate, now he is a Councilman. In fact, Ken was originally part of the previous class, but Ken is wise beyond his years and I think he sensed something special was going to happen this year. Good choice Ken! We all know more about Sandy Springs than we did in October. We know more about Sandy Springs now than 99% of the people we drove past on the way here tonight. We have an obligation to do something, to take action with both the knowledge and the relationships we now possess.

In preparing this speech, I enjoyed reflecting on the whole experience and I think Leadership Sandy Springs was about 3 things for me: knowledge, relationships, and action.

Do you feel vastly more knowledgeable than when we started? I do.

Do you feel more connected to the city and the other leaders in this room? Have your existing relationships grown and new relationships been forged? Absolutely.

Do you know what you are going to do with both the knowledge and the relationships you have gained this year for the benefit Sandy Springs? Yes. You may not know what yet, but you know you will make an impact.

I have been a student of leadership for many years and I’d like to share a couple of my favorite quotes; the ones that have helped to shape my understanding of leadership. Leadership means different things to each of us.

In his book the 360 Degree Leader, John Maxwell dispels the myths of leadership when he writes, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less. You may be able to grant someone a position, but you cannot grant him real leadership. Influence must be earned.” This was an incredibly empowering realization for me as a young teacher. It gave me confidence to expand my influence, which later led to new positions. But the influence definitely came first. The positions came later and always as a result of action based on knowledge and relationships.

Another favorite book is, “Lincoln on Leadership.” Upon relieving Gen. John C. Fremont from his command in Missouri in 1861, Lincoln cited his reason by saying, “His cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself, and allows nobody to see him; and by which he does not know what is going on in the very matter he is dealing with.

The author Donald T. Philips writes that, “During his four years as president Abraham Lincoln spent most of his time among the troops. They were number one to him. He met with them in their homes, offices, and in the field, principally to provide leadership and direction. He toured hospitals and visited the wounded, inspected the Navy Yard and fortifications around Washington.  ” The lesson here is “Get Out of the Office and Circulate Among the Troops.” I believe each of our monthly themed days together gave us that opportunity. If we are among the leaders in Sandy Springs, these days were a great chance for us to be out among the troops and empathize with the different stakeholders in our community. I am grateful for the chance we have had to see and experience so many different slices of the community this year. It has opened my eyes.

Finally, one of my favorite quotes is from Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Do you know how iron is sharpened? Iron is sharpened by clanging to pieces of iron together. It happens through interaction, sometimes painful friction, and always relationship. Iron cannot be sharpened alone, by itself. It can only be sharpened in relation to another piece of iron. And so it has been with our group this year. We have sharpened one another. Thank you for the influence each of you has had in my life over the past 9 months. Thank you for sharpening my leadership ability, my ability to be a teammate, and my ability to be a knowledgeable, contributing member of the Sandy Springs community. I hope I have been able to do the same for you in some small way. After all of our experiences together and in light of the potential ahead of us, it seems to me that Leadership Sandy Springs could just as easily be called Teamwork Sandy Springs

In closing, let it be known from this day forth and ripple across to every class that has come before us and every class that is yet to come behind us… We are the Immortal Class of 2014, the best class ever.

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