Archive for April, 2008

What is poverty?

April 29, 2008

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.
– Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

What did Aristotle know then that we haven’t learned yet.


Great art speaks: perspective for policymakers

April 29, 2008

My favorite installation at the 2008 Biennial ( was “Divine Violence” (2007) by Daniel Joseph Martinez. The installation consumes a very large room with yellow panels on every wall from floor to ceiling, creating a mausoleum-like environment. Centered on each panel are the names of 20th- and 21st-century government or revolutionary groups (e.g., KGB, Khmer Rouge, Tamil Tigers, al Qaeda, CIA, and many more). It reminded me of the old saying: One man’s cause is another man’s cause for revolution.

Today’s leaders responsible for foreign and domestic policy should visit this installation. It embraces and conveys history, perspective and context.

Great art speaks for itself.

What is art?

April 27, 2008

After spending time with New York artist James Gilroy ( in his studio, touring several revitalized Brooklyn neighborhoods populated by artists and immigrants, and viewing the Whitney Biennial today I have been asking one question: What is art?

In traditional circles this question is often answered by asking:

What is language?
What is culture?
What is knowledge?
What is beauty?

I would add at least one more question to this series of questions that helps define art: What is the context?

Great artists bring context to their work . . .from yesterday or yesteryear. They channel their personal experiences and sense of individual being to their work. They capture even the most simple yet the most complex experiences and combine them to create a beautiful language all their own.

Great art speaks for itself.

The practice of leadership

April 25, 2008

Agile leaders know intuitively that their ability to be agile comes with its challenges. Just because a leader can bend or flex in the environment in which they find themselves doesn’t always mean smooth sailing. In fact, agile leaders know they will experience push back, resistance, and even passive-aggressive behavior when they are trying to create a culture that supports leadership and leadership development.

Creating a “culture of leadership” requires a framework for practicing good leadership. The practice of good leadership includes an understanding of how to identify issues, take advantage of opportunities and measure outcomes.

Mentoring leaders matters: In honor of Arthur Naparstek, Ph.D.

April 24, 2008

One of the greatest things a leader can do is mentor other leaders.

Today, I am reflecting on the greatness of a man who mentored me, Arthur Naparstek, and passed away prematurely four years ago today. Art was an agile leader. Throughout his life he adapted his leadership style to the person, situation, organization or community with whom he was working. While I know the impact he had on my personal and professional development, I know he influenced many other leaders in the United States and Israel.

My question for leaders reading this entry today. . . who are you mentoring?

Circa 1999 – from left to right, Generosa Lopez-Molina, Charles Thigpen, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson, Arthur Naparstek, and Ken Lurie pose proudly at the site of the first units to be completed in Cleveland’s Homeownership Zone in the Central neighborhood.

Leadership: actions speak louder than words

April 23, 2008

Understanding culture is not always easy or obvious. However, the manner in which leaders act is a fairly reliable indicator of culture.

For instance, communities with an “ecology* of leadership” that is sustainable, vibrant and balanced tend to know and understand that the real power of leadership lies in a very interconnected network of leaders who look like the community they lead and know that their effectiveness comes from connecting to other leaders who share their vision, passion and commitment to making change.

*Ecology is defined as a dynamic system of interdependent relationships where there is no one point of power or control [in the ecosystem] and leaders understand that their work impacts multiple levels of community.

The Arts: one way to understand culture

April 16, 2008

Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson once said of art and culture . . . “Culture is the definition and art defines culture.”

Having just left the 2008 Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio Luncheon in Columbus, I would like to share the news and congratulate Marcie Goodman, Executive Director of the Cleveland International Film Festival, for receiving the 2008 Governor’s Award for Arts Administration.

Dozens of “Friends of Marcie” were on had to watch her accept this distinguished award that places her in the company of an accomplished group of individuals leading arts activities around the state in education, philanthropy, business, individual expression, and community development and participation. In their humbling acceptance comments the recipients talked about the power of the arts to engage, connect, express diversity, bring about change, instill hope and share passion for the arts with all of humanity.

Governor Ted Strickland reminded the audience of the power the arts have to innovate and inspire and that there exists an intrinsic connection between the arts, education, workforce development and economic development.

Our state has both public and private leadership that is creating a culture defined by our commitment to and support of the arts.

The arts are one way of understanding our culture in Ohio . . . from the rolling hills of Appalachia to the lakefront communities of Toledo and Cleveland.

The heart and soul of community = culture

April 15, 2008

As I have listened to the political rhetoric of the U.S. presidential campaign over the few past days I am reminded of one of the most important competencies of leaders. Leaders must remember that the esprit de corps of any community lies in its culture . . . its traditions, language, beliefs and customs.

Civic leaders must embrace the plight of communities. And, culture is not to be criticized or categorized, but understood.

Indicators for Successful Leadership: Understanding the Past

April 11, 2008

History plays an important role in helping leaders understand what and why something happened . . . or didn’t. Leaders face the daily challenge of balancing time to reflect on lessons learned from the past while keeping up with the constant change around them, as well as making decisions in a timely manner.

Leaders who take the time to uncover the history related to what they are doing now get new perspectives. They also learn to respect those who have come before them, their failures and successes.

Finding Common Ground through Planning

April 9, 2008

After having spent three full days gathering perspectives of community leaders and members in an urban neighborhood on the East Coast to inform a community planning process, I am reminded of a quote from Audre Lorde, an accomplished black feminist poet:

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Comprehensive planning, when done right, creates an opportunity for communities to recognize, accept and celebrate differences.