Sustainable Leadership School

Last Friday I was up at Furman University in Greenville to attend the first class of a 6 part course on Sustainable Leadership….presented by the Urban Land Institute (ULI). ULI’s South Carolina chapter set up this program to help implement a blueprint for healthy growth across the state by building a diverse team that’s trained in collaborative leadership, community dialogue and the world’s best practices in sustainable development.

It’s pretty nice up at Furman. The campus is like a wooded paradise….trees, lakes, hills, etc. The school was an early leader among colleges and universities in adopting sustainable practices throughout the campus, and the city of Greenville has poured a lot of energy and money into redeveloping its core downtown.

Bill Hudnut, the former Mayor of Indianapolis, shared his perspectives on leadership…and many of his points apply to brands as much as people. He told a story of meeting a chess master who shared his basic strategy….that you just start at the end of the game and work backwards. If you can visualize your outcome (or at least goal), then you can lay out the moves that get you there. That’s a good place to start….where do you want to take your business or brand?

He also emphasized that leadership requires you to get engaged and take a stand. You can’t sit on the sidelines and watch things flow, and you can’t be all things to all people. The good ones (leaders, brands) have an agenda and aren’t scared to put it on the table. Method has, so can you.

Dr. David Shi, the President of Furman, also gave an inspired talk on the topic of his book…The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture. It’s a social history of the American drive to simplify one’s life through a focus on meaning vs. material (as embodied by Jefferson, Thoreau, Jimmy Carter and others). He noted that the lost practice of personal journal writing is one example of how meaning has, for the most part, lost out. Unfortunately, he said blogs don’t count.