Leadership is all about challenging ourselves. It’s easy to do the familiar thing; to do things a certain way because that’s how they have always been done. It gives us a sense of security to repeat the past because it gives us an illusion of control over the future. The last time I did this, that happened, so if I do this again, that will happen again. And a great many times it does. But that doesn’t mean that doing what you’ve always done is the right thing to do.
Sometimes, that reluctance to step into the unknown future ties us down. We find ourselves caught in the classic definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Or worse, doing the same thing over and over and not expecting different results, but not changing the behavior because we have found a way to benefit from a broken system. We got ours – everyone else, well, that’s their problem.
Only true leadership can break these cycles. By challenging ourselves to break the mold we can pursue better government, social and economic models. This happens frequently in the last two areas. In the former, not as much. Businesses must constantly reinvent how they approach the market because something is always changing. There’s a new method of manufacturing, or a new distribution channel, or a new competitor. Society changes more slowly, but even there on issues of equality we are a far different country than we once were, and that’s a good thing.
That inertia can be felt in Northwest Indiana. “Doing things the way they’ve always been done” could be a slogan for the region. But after decades of fealty to the way things are always done, the results speak for themselves. The mills are a shadow of their former selves. Our infrastructure is in disrepair. Our urban core struggles with poverty and neglect. And our best and brightest often leave first chance they get, because of the lack of opportunity here. Finding our way out of this cycle is a leadership challenge that will be with us for decades to come.
As young leaders it is incumbent upon us to break the cycle of how-it’s-always-been-done in Northwest Indiana. To do that we must be dedicated to forthrightly addressing the best interests of the region and not our job titles.
As young leaders we have an obligation to seize opportunities to truly lead. Most of the time that means we will have to fly by instruments instead of sight. So our instruments better be dialed in tight! The dialing in comes from education and mentoring. Seeking to be critiqued and advised is a sure way to accumulate wisdom from those who have it to offer. It is also a way to minimize in yourself a true killer of results: pride.
For a long time growth in Northwest Indiana has been stifled in part by parochial attitudes and lingering political fiefdoms. This makes it difficult to get others to help us make the changes we need to make, because they look at our own squabbling and walk away.
The mission of the Regional Development Authority is to build a region that is competitive with the Chicago suburbs. It is my goal to move toward a community that has as many opportunities as any place in the country for my children. I want to be able to ask them to stay and make a life here for more reasons than just to be close to family. We can get there. I look forward to looking to my left and right and seeing you all there as we bring new light for others to follow, step by step.