Great leaders in business, education, the military or government create a culture of connections that inspire people to grow. When team members feel truly connected to the mission and the core values of the organization, true growth of both the organization and of the individual take place.
A great example of that leadership is in Don Ness, former Mayor of Duluth, Minnesota. As a young man, Ness founded the Bridge Syndicate, a group of young people whose mission is to increase civic, cultural, and economic opportunities in the Twin Ports. Ness was also festival director of the Homegrown Music Festival for two years. Under his leadership, the festival expanded to an eight-day event.
After serving on the city council for several years, at age 33 he ran against 12 other candidates and was elected mayor of Duluth, MN. Under his leadership, at the height of the recession in 2008, Duluth’s general fund increased from a negative balance of $1.3 million to a $7.52 million reserve in 2011. He accomplished this along with a multitude of new improvements to both the infrastructure and community engagement.
Ness lead with both a sense of vision and ownership. His favorite expression to his team was, “Own it, Solve it.” It wasn’t “That’s not my department…but rather, let’s see what we can do to solve that.”
I love an “Own it, Solve it” leadership style. I see it when I walk through a school and watch as the school principal picks up a piece of paper they didn’t throw down. I see it when a restaurant general manager busses dishes to help out during a rush. I see it when flight attendant does their best to remove trash on a plane instead of leaving it up to the ground crew. I see it when I watch a police officer take the time to speak to a homeless person to see if they are doing alright.
When we “Own it and Solve it” our world gets better one person, one action at a time.