Leadership Is About Character

When things don’t go the way you hoped, introspection is better than blame. A leader asks what they could have done differently. A leader asks what didn’t work. A leader doesn’t point to others for their failings. I have been a high school track coach for more than 20 years. I don’t like losing, but it happens, and it’s how you deal with it that shows your character.

Leaders need to be able to pull disparate groups together to achieve results that are a “win” for all involved. With less powerful groups like neighborhoods, just being heard can feel like a win. For Staver to suggest that a neighborhood group “contributed to the demise of this project” shows his inability to lead our city through a difficult process. By blaming a neighborhood group, he is showing us something very important about his character.

The reality is, our city’s processes haven’t kept up with our growth. I was in kindergarten when the current comprehensive plan was created and that’s simply not good enough for Rochester. We need to be willing to say that a lot more: “that’s not good enough.” We should expect more from our city officials and elected leadership, just as we should from developers and most certainly from each other as a community. Developers will come and go, but at the end of the day we will all still be here because Rochester is our home. How we work with and listen to each other is important. Blaming and declaring winners and losers isn’t helpful. Leaders shoulder the blame.

From my leadership position in the community I could have done more to try and bring everyone together. We held a public forum, wrote editorials about our concerns, and spent countless hours working with the developer and city representatives to improve the project for the community. We weren’t able to find common ground on this project, but next time I’ll try even harder.

The withdrawal of the Holiday Inn project isn’t because of one group’s actions or another. But the project did hold a mirror to the current state of our leadership and it has showed us that we are more interested in blame than figuring out what we need to fix to ensure a more successful future.

Strong leaders represent and are willing to listen to everyone in the community, not just a select few. Leaders who blame their citizens aren’t leaders at all.