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.
For many years now I’ve had as a strong focus engaging the younger generation of leaders in our community and have found myself being inspired by them in the process. I recently had the opportunity to attend Augusta Day at the Georgia Capitol with this year’s class of Leadership Augusta and found myself not only being filled with hope for our city’s future but, in the process, also having the most fun I’ve had in quite some time.
I was invited to go with the class to speak to them on leadership and to tell them about my new book “The Changemaker: the Art of Building Better Leaders” which will be published by Advantage|ForbesBooks in the coming months. My remarks centered around my firm belief that true leadership is about inspiring people while making them feel safe, secure and included. I also touched on the need for a new generation of elected leadership at the local level led by individuals who are willing to set aside their differences and work together for the common good of the communities they serve. I made this statement as I’ve become more and more convinced that positive change and a more civil form of governing must take root at the local level.
Our time at the capitol was well spent with meetings with Governor Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr, House Speaker David Ralston as well as many other individuals involved with our state government. During the question and answer sessions it was extremely encouraging to hear the remarkably well thought out questions the class had which were delivered in a respectful and nonpartisan manner. It was also encouraging that the organizers invited members of both major parties to address the group.
During our time together I was struck by how much the class members truly like each other and the bond they had developed through the program. I was also impressed with the diversity of the class as well as with its overall youthfulness, with many of the members in their twenties and thirties. I had conversations with many of the class members throughout the day, with a good portion of them not being originally from Augusta, and to a person each one shared with me how they love our city and why they’re proud to call it home. Needless to say, I couldn’t help but be inspired and encouraged by these amazingly positive individuals.
On the bus ride home, there was pizza for everyone, cold beverages and karaoke. As our rolling dance party headed for home, the energy on the bus was palpable as the dance moves and laughter came busting out every other minute. At one point one of the class members shared with me that he’s considering a run for local office and asked if I’d be his “Sherpa,” which I happily agreed to with a huge smile on my face.
When we made it home that night several thoughts crossed my mind. First, it hit home for me that this class is truly the face of our city and what Augusta looks like in the now. It then dawned on me that the trip had shown me that my true calling at this point in my life is to help mentor and raise up this new generation of leaders for our community and hopefully beyond. Finally, I realized just how much fun it is to spend time with a huge group of like-minded individuals who simply want to work together to make Augusta a better place to live for all of its citizens.
In cities across our state there are dynamic, energetic and emerging young leaders doing amazing things who are just waiting to be given a seat at the table and be part of the decision-making process of how our communities grow and evolve. Whether it’s recruiting them as board members, encouraging them to run for office, or simply taking the time to listen to and value their voices, I would challenge cities throughout the state to further engage our younger generation of leaders.
We live in a fast-changing world where the pace of change picks up exponentially each day and this generation, a generation raised while constantly adjusting to and embracing these changes, has much to give. The more we provide them with mentorship and encouragement across generational lines, the more likely they are to do the same thing for the generation coming behind them. And who knows, you may have a little bit of fun in the process!