Finding Inspiration in the Leaders Among Us

December 12, 2018

Deke Copenhaver

Leadership Focus is written by Deke Copenhaver, Principal with Copenhaver Consulting LLC. The former mayor of Augusta, a triathlete, writer and runner, Deke is focused on transforming great ideas into great actions.

Earlier this month I had the great pleasure of attending the ribbon cutting of the M. Bert Storey Research Building at Augusta University’s Georgia Cancer Center. The $62.5 million dollar expansion is named in honor of a local real estate developer and philanthropist who passed earlier this year. Bert Storey was the epitome of a humble servant leader dedicated to his community. During the ceremony I was reminded of the fact that in a time when our country is very much in need of transformational leadership there are still examples of true leaders who are focused on making an impact which will serve our state and our communities for generations to come.

During my life I’ve had the great blessing to work with and to be mentored and inspired by great leaders. They’ve all shared the common denominators of humility, a view towards the big picture, and a true dedication to service above self. On the day of the ribbon cutting those gathered with me were fortunate to hear from three of the individuals who I’ve had the blessing of working with and who for me exemplify what true leadership looks like.

As his eight years of service to the State of Georgia draws to a close, I would count Governor Nathan Deal among those great leaders as his time in office has been nothing short of exemplary. For my final four years in office as mayor of Augusta, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Governor Deal on many different occasions. From working with his economic development team to land major economic development announcements for Augusta to dealing with the catastrophic ice storm in 2014, I’ve always found Governor Deal to be a caring and compassionate leader who truly values the needs of the citizens he serves and is passionate in wanting to improve the lives of all Georgians. As he spoke at the ribbon cutting this month I was once again struck by his humble spirit and how his visionary leadership, through both his commitment to the Georgia Cancer Center and the Georgia Cyber Center, has led to the ongoing transformation of Augusta’s urban core. In a time of hyper-partisan politics, Governor Deal represents for me and many others what true statesmanlike leadership looks like. I’m hopeful that his time in office will help to influence a new generation of Georgian’s elected officials to follow his lead.

Jim Hull, an Augusta native who currently chairs the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia, is simply a dynamic leader whose philanthropic endeavors continue to have a generational impact for our community. From his tireless service to the state in his current position to his commitment to Augusta University, whose business school bears his name, Jim’s leadership style has always been hard charging and results oriented, a true testament to his work ethic. In all my time of knowing Jim I’ve never seen him put his tremendous passion behind a cause that wasn’t successful. His dedication to public service through his commitment of time, talent and treasure to a multitude of different causes is something I hope will set the tone for Augusta’s next generation of leaders who he has shown a true commitment to mentoring.

To close out the ceremony, those in attendance were fortunate to hear from Barry Storey, the son of the true Southern gentleman for which the Georgia Cancer Center Research Center is named. Barry is a longtime friend whose words regarding the importance of the Cancer Center and the way cancer has impacted his own life were totally unscripted and from the heart. Like his father before him, Barry exemplifies humility and his quiet philanthropic endeavors have helped to shape our city in a multitude of ways, many of which most of our local citizens may not realize as he has never sought the public spotlight. I’ve often shared with people my perspective that in my estimation, in order to be a truly great man, you must first be a truly good man. Barry is simply both and I know that both of his parents, who ultimately succumbed to their own battles with cancer, were smiling down from heaven that day as he made his remarks. Barry is simply a leader who current and future generations can both look up to and learn from.

In a world so often fraught with controversy and confusion, it’s my humble opinion that true servant leadership, the kind that gives people hope and inspiration, is now more important than ever. The gentlemen I’ve mentioned above have played a strong role in my life and in the life of this community in providing both hope and inspiration during turbulent times. Through life I’ve found that there are examples of this type of leadership in every community I’ve ever visited, and that I’ve never had to look too far for inspiration from leaders past, present and future.

Everything starts at the local level and here’s wishing you all hope and inspiration in your own leadership endeavors this holiday season.

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