Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Being There



Recently, I taught a workshop for a municipal government. It was just one of several sessions that I'm conducting for the city and yet this one had a subtle advantage: both the mayor and the police chief were present.


They didn't play the standard executive game of putting in an appearance at the start, talking about how important the subject is, and then heading for the door.


They stayed for the entire session.


Judging from the evaluations, the program went very well and yet one of the most important messages was given by the presence of those two people.


"Do you care enough to be there?" is a question that all leaders must answer. I recall talking to a police officer in another city who'd walked through a pretty rough neighborhood during a race riot. He mentioned how much it meant to the officers that the mayor, without a bunch of reporters in tow, had shown up and walked with them for part of the night as they sought to talk to citizens and calm things down.


What the mayor said that night was probably far less memorable than the fact that he showed up.


To paraphrase a chief executive officer, you can pretend to care but you can't pretend to be there.

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