Ask Coach Bobby Lamb of Mercer or Coach Mark Richt of Georgia: “What’s the most important thing in winning a football game?” they’ll tell you: “Blockin’ and Tacklin’.” Sure, the quarterback’s passing arm and the receiver’s jumping catches are what get the fans off their seats screaming and shouting and whistling. But if you don’t block and tackle, you lose. Every time.
Ask Ronny Williams, the vice president of construction for Chris R. Sheridan & Co., why Middle Georgia owners choose his firm to build their churches and schools and football stadiums, and he’ll tell you: “We listen.” Sure, they bring the project in “on time, within budget” and that’s what everybody sees; those two things are touchdowns. But the “basics” of this game -- the most important thing -- the blockin’ and tacklin’ -- is listening to the owner and the architect and the sub-contractors. If you don’t do this, you lose. Every time.
Ask Michael Tompkins, the CEO of TriBridge Residential, why thousands of people want to rent his apartments when they have so many other choices available, and he’ll point to the wall in his Atlanta home office lobby. You can’t miss it. It’s an entire wall painted with three words in five foot letters. It reads: KEEPING OUR PROMISES. If they promise to fill the swimming pool, it’s filled. If they promise to paint the curb, it’s painted. If they promise to fix a leak, it’s fixed. TriBridge considers this “basic” -- it’s their blockin’ and tacklin.’ Without it they lose. Every time.
Let me ask you this: you’re trying to build a great community. You want a neighborhood that’s safe from crime; a downtown that’s inviting, a school that really teaches, a church that inspires and businesses that flourish and provide great jobs. How can you get this? What is “basic” for a great community? Think about all the great communities you’ve ever known or read about. What’s the one thing that each of them has? It’s not the weather; it’s not the size; it’s not the closeness to the mountains or the sea; these things may be touchdowns, but they don’t win the game. What’s the one thing -- without which the community loses? Every time.
You know the answer. It’s leadership. Without real leaders, we can’t have the environment where blacks and whites sit down together; where Democrats and Republicans communicate, where cops are protectors not predators, where teachers are respected and properly paid, and where we’re all proud of where we live.
Ray Rover runs the “Streets for Success” for kids in the Houston Avenue neighborhood that Charles Richardson wrote about last week. Ray creates the environment where people just want to volunteer: the Rotary Club, Central Georgia Tech and Mercer University. Everybody turns out to help his kids because he’s a leader who builds the environment.
Real leaders build the environment and the culture. They write the policies and the procedures and the laws. They might not teach in the schools but they make teaching a career people want to have; they might not wear badges and guns but they make policing worthwhile. Leaders are the blockin’ and tacklin’ of a community; they’re the basic essentials. Without real leaders, the community loses. Every time.
Real leaders are here right now in our community. We need to find them, promote them and vote them into office. Sometimes they’re a little hard to find; sometimes we miss them in the whirlwind of activity and that’s because real leaders are not pointing at themselves. As the 6th century B.C. Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once said: A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
Find these people; they’re the blockin’ and tacklin’ of our future great community.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is digitallydrc.com.