Leadership and the Future: What Really Matters Goes Beyond Rituals

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By Lev Gonick, CEO, OneCommunity

Lev Gonick, CEO OneCommunity

Lev Gonick, CEO OneCommunity

—Somewhere between the winter solstice and the first day of Spring an annual ritual unfolds.: the state of the union, state of the state, state of the county, state of the city, state of the schools are a set of quaint analogue milestone events that ostensibly afford our leadership an opportunity to reflect back on the year that was and chart a framework for the year ahead.

Because we no longer live in an analogue world, these annual rituals have turned into scripted and choreographed photo opportunities and banal commentary resembling the seasonal red-carpet rituals produced by the entertainment industry.

It is important that we have an opportunity to listen to and measure the integrity, thoughtfulness, and effectiveness of our leaders. Yet ours is a digital and hyper-connected world.Too few of us do little more than hear the echo chambers of our own views that bounce around the canyons of our daily Twitter streams and other digital receptors.

Notwithstanding the growing complexities of our digital era, many of our individual worldviews are comfortably ensconced in the 20th century industrial and analogue reality of yesterday.

Cleveland and our region was the epicenter of the great industrial age of the mid-20th century. As mass industrial production became a perfected form of human ingenuity, the smoke stacks of our industrial superiority bellowed with evidence of our contribution to the greatness of the industrial age of mass production itself.

Mass industrial production combined with mass media, industrialized mass production of schools, and growing mass consumption characterized an era of massive awe and massive passivity. Our cities emptied out, the manufacturing of our dreams were made possible by lifestyles associated with the latest release of the automobile.Our sense of collective identity here on the north coast finds its essence in our hero-worshiping for our professional sports teams. Our pride in our world-class institutions of art, music, health, and education reflect the enduring power and importance of our sense of a community with a history and a collective appreciation of and commitment to aesthetics, wellness, and learning. Particular identity as belonging to Akron (insert Youngstown, Lorain, or Medina etc…) means that we don’t allow ourselves to be a member of broader tribal identities. In Cleveland we are east siders or west siders. We are from North Canton or Canton. These are all important contributors to our sense of place and purpose. To the extent that this type of identity continues to define our own realities, no one should be surprised that our leadership will continue to align around these symbols and narratives of our analog past.

It is no longer news, but it warrants stating that we are in the midst of a revolution of historic proportion. The digital age, enabled by information and telecommunication networks that span the globe and touch and connect more of humanity than ever before, is occasioning disruption and opportunity no less impactful than the industrial age, the steam age, or the agricultural revolutions of yester era.

Our economy is rapidly evolving towards a network-connected knowledge economy. The prospects of realizing the dream of being part of the middle class are intimately connected to new realities associated with the digital era.

• Our approach of mass education needs to evolve to a scalable system of personalized and customized forms of student-centered learning.

• Our industrial age (actually 18th century) institutional model of clinical care needs to meet personalized wellness regimes enabled by genomics research and supercomputing capabilities.

As we pursue the dream of being a vibrant, sustainable, and prosperous region, we have no choice but to start new conversations about where we want to go, how we plan to get there, and the prospects of developing new identities, symbols of hope reflective of our values.

And while pot holes, airline schedules, and balancing the budget are all important there are more important leadership challenges.

To be continued….

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