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Ed O’Malley: A global gathering for the common good

  • Published Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, at 12 a.m.

It turns out the barriers that get in the way of so many Kansans exercising leadership also get in the way of others around the world. Leadership, especially for the common good, isn’t easy anywhere – in Kansas, Nigeria, France or Mexico.

The Kansas Leadership Center recently hosted new friends from 13 countries and 17 American states plus the District of Columbia. They traveled from Australia, Canada, France, India, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, Singapore and the United States.

From the United States, participants came here from California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

They came to learn about creating stronger, healthier communities, regions and states. They came to learn from one another and from the Kansas Leadership Center’s six-year effort to foster more leadership for the common good in Kansas.

Yemi from Nigeria spent 27 hours traveling to get here with dreams of promoting leadership for the common good through faith-based organizations. Edgar and four colleagues are from one of the most violent states in Mexico, and returned home with dreams of creating a leadership center for the common good, to inspire and equip people to improve their condition. Govind, a retired general in the Indian armed forces, feels his country needs a massive infusion of leadership development.

As I think back over this gathering, now a couple of weeks removed, I’m struck by the similarities that exist between our Kansas culture and theirs.

Of course, differences abound, from language to cultural preferences to strength of economy. But my understanding about the common longings of all people advanced significantly during our time together. I’m discovering that all of us struggle to embody the way of being for leadership – empathy for opponents, courage to step forward, patience to work for the long haul, flexibility to work within ambiguity, a bias for action even when the status quo is comfortable. The list goes on. The biggest barriers to exercising leadership have human, not cultural, dimensions.

I am moved and inspired, because these individuals coming here affirms much of the Leadership Center’s work over the past six years. The presence of so many people from so far tells me we are on to something. Our ideas resonate. There is a hunger in Kansas and beyond for authentic leadership for the common good.

There is a desire for a type of civic engagement that is frank, effective, purposeful, provocative and engaging. People are coming to Wichita to learn how to satisfy those hungers and desires.

Ed O’Malley is president and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita.

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