Leading Memphis…

In light of our city’s distorted sense of what leadership is, and despite my attempts to highlight this distortion over the past few years, I thought I would condescendingly link to the Wikipedia definition of leadership.

One of the differentiating factors between Management and Leadership is the ability or even necessity to inspire. A Leader, one who can instill passion and direction to an individual or group of individuals, will be using psychology to affect that group either consciously or subconsciously.
Those who seem to be “Natural Leaders” and effectively inspire groups without really knowing the strategies or tactics used are considered Charismatic Leaders. The conscious Leader on the other hand applies a variety of psychological tactics that affect the “reactions” of a group to the environment they exist in.

Leadership is not about you, it’s about the people you are leading. It’s about inspiring them to do better, not thriving in the spotlight. Charismatic leaders can get a lot done, if they are willing to take the hard medicine that is sometimes necessary.

That is not happening right now. In fact, NOTHING is happening right now from the top floor of City Hall.

More than anything Memphis needs a conscious leader, someone who is purposely driving the conversation in a positive We do not need a rhetorical bully, calling those who disagree with him stupid, or racist.

In reading the initial recommendation from the $700,000 “efficiency” study the problem didn’t start with Willie Herenton, but goes back 50 years in some cases. Still you don’t have to pay someone $700,000 to come to it’s initial conclusion:

The City does not have a well-documented set of strategies and objectives to guide its future plans and ongoing operations. This situation results in a lack of direction and clear priorities to guide management and align services with operational and financial goals.

No kidding.

The reason that crime is high in Memphis is that we don’t have a comprehensive strategy. We may have a strategy to catch criminals, but we don’t have a strategy to head crime off at the pass. We aren’t educating our kids, offering opportunities to our citizens, or providing any career training that people aren’t laughing at. We have some of the highest levels of infant mortality and teen pregnancy in the nation. WHAT IS THE STRATEGY?

What is the strategy to beautify Memphis? There are parts of Memphis that are absolutely stunning…and then there are the other parts. What’s the city strategy for dealing with the blight that exists in just about every corner of the city?

Go down the list, and I guarantee you will not find any strategy from Mr. Mayor on anything but staying in power. Let’s fill the city with cronies, sit back and enjoy the ride. That’s vision.

Maybe the people of Memphis, you know, you guys who have lived here longer than me and as such, know soooo much more than I do, are just too tired to do anything about it. Maybe you’re content to just sit back and watch as it keeps crumbling around you. Maybe you like living in a city that is becoming more and more toxic with each passing day. Maybe that’s ok with you, but it’s not ok with me.

Quite frankly, it makes me mad that so many people in Memphis just think that nothing can change. Everything is permanently messed up in their worldview. As long as we, as Memphians, are content to take that attitude, we have done it to ourselves. The reality is that Herenton has no vision for the city outside of his ego, so it’s time for us, the citizens, to take over.

No one is going to heal the divisions, fix the crime, educate our kids, stop the cycle of poverty, or lower teen pregnancy and infant mortality for us Memphis, we have to do it for ourselves. As soon as we start taking ownership of our city, all of us from Whitehaven to Cordova and everywhere in between, the solutions will become self-evident. Until we start thinking about the benefit of the whole instead of the benefit of our neighborhood, or group, or whatever, the solutions will continue to elude us. Until we stop relying on people intent on upholding or worse, exploiting the mistakes of the past, we’re stuck. Until we agree that we are better working together as a community, nothing will change.

It’s way past time Memphis. Whaddya say?

Leave a Reply