JJ Harris, President of the Clay County Economic Development Corporation in northeastern Florida and a member of this blog’s CEO Advisory Committee, is a prime example of a new breed of public/nonprofit chief executive officers I’m encountering with increasing frequency around the country: the Transformational Change Leader. In a nutshell, the Transformational Change Leader spearheads one or more significant innovation initiatives that transform the organization she or he leads, making a substantial, lasting difference, in terms of organizational impact and, often, culture. In JJ’s case, his chosen innovation initiative was the transformation of the Clay County EDC’s governance function, primarily by updating the EDC Board’s governing role and structure, working closely with his Board Chair, George Egan, and other members of the “High-Impact Governing Initiative Steering Committee:” Jerry Agresti, Ted McGowan, and Van Royal.
I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of highly successful Transformational Change Leaders in diverse sectors over the past 35-plus years, including economic/community development, public transit, K-12 education, and health care. They all have shared 5 attributes that have been key to their success as change leaders. They have:
- Been driven by a clear vision of the impact they intend to produce through the innovation process.
- Been laser-focused on a very concrete innovation initiative – not a “Christmas list” of the kind of goals you might find in the traditional strategic planning document.
- Inspired board and executive team members to participate in the change effort – principally by their passionate commitment and collaborative leadership style.
- Walked the talk, paying meticulous attention to the nuts and bolts details involved in actually implementing innovation initiatives, playing a hands-on role in getting the innovation job done, rather than making merely a rhetorical commitment and then handing off the nitty-gritty details to subordinates.
- Made sure their board members were actively engaged in the innovation process, both in helping to shape innovation initiatives and providing the resources to fuel implementation.
I expect we’ll soon be telling readers more about the Clay County EDC’s governance transformation, and I hope readers will share their transformational leadership experience in future blog posts.