Leadership and Why Telling Our Stories Matters

October 7, 2019

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.
Last year when I first met with my publishing team at Advantage | ForbesBooks, I remember being told that as I began writing my book it would be best for me to keep in mind a certain demographic that I would be targeting through it. My first thought was that I never did that during nearly a decade in elected office or during a year hosting a daily call-in radio show, as I felt that any success I had in those endeavors was based on broad based appeal. After several months spent working on the book I had a conference call with my editor this past December when he made the observation that he felt the book would appeal to “a very wide variety of people.” Needless to say, this brought a huge smile to my face.

Last week the book I authored with the mindset of not targeting any certain demographic became an Amazon #1 Bestseller and the reception the book has received has been humbling to say the least. Prior to this happening I had remarked on many occasions how heartening it has been for me to witness the way the book’s connection with people has cut across all demographic lines. To know that my words about my experiences, both bad and good, and which helped shape me as a leader, are touching the lives of people from all walks of life and across generations is something I’m still trying to comprehend. From the start I had hoped the book could become a connection point that people with differing points of view and different backgrounds could have a conversation around; so far it seems as though its hitting the mark.

Several weeks ago, out of curiosity, I Googled my name and the title of the book just to see what was out there on the web. It was then that I learned that the University of Texas El Paso Student Engagement and Leadership Center (SELC) is using the book as a teaching tool through their “Powerful Reads” program. As my focus has always been to engage a new generation of leaders, I must admit that I was encouraged to see that this connection happened organically and was completely unsolicited.

In the future I hope to have the opportunity to engage with the UTEP SELC students and others from around the nation to discuss what true servant leadership looks like. Unfortunately, in today’s world leaders treating each other and those they serve with dignity, respect and simple kindness seems to no longer be the norm. Undoubtedly the next generation of leaders in our nation will play a critical role in helping to set a more civil tone. Engaging them, mentoring them and providing them case studies which show that success doesn’t have to mean compromising your character and integrity will be crucial to their leadership development.

Through this endeavor I’ve once again been reminded that all politics are local and that people gravitate to stories of hope and inspiration. Based on what we’re seeing these days politically at the national level, I don’t believe that engendering a sense of hope and inspiration would be exactly how I would describe the current scenario. However, there are still stories of hope and inspiration through what local governments are doing across this state and across this nation which need to be highlighted and used as teaching tools for our next generation of government leaders. I know that there are good people in elected office who put people before party because of organizations like the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) are highlighting on a daily basis their positive efforts while also encouraging good government practices.

It is my firm belief that the work of GMA and local elected officials is now more important than ever. As I’ve highlighted in other columns, it was ultimately this organization giving me a platform through these monthly musings on leadership which allowed me the opportunity to write a book with a message of hope that is now impacting people and communities far beyond the borders of our state. I would like to personally thank GMA for this as well as all of the elected officials around the state whose tireless work of behalf of the communities you love and the citizens you serve continues to inspire me to this day.

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