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5 Leadership Priorities During Times of Crises #BaltimoreRiots post image

“It was only a matter of time before Baltimore exploded,” Michael Fletcher explains in his excellent Washington Post article digging a level deeper into the rioting and destruction in Baltimore this week.

He stated,  “Baltimore is not Ferguson and its primary problems are not racial.”

There’s a huge economic divide that has been eating away the infrastructure of our city for years.

The city has changed dramatically in my lifetime. The once safe-feeling row house neighborhood where my father grew up now faces many of the economic issues underlying the protests.

What Baltimore needs next is strong leadership.

In yesterday’s post, I asked the LGL community to offer their insights on what must happen next in Baltimore. The response was tremendous. I look forward to continue to collect your comments to take forward to Baltimore leadership to instigate change.

5 Leadership Priorities Baltimore Must Address

The main idea was that the problem is aggravated by a lack of shared vision of what must happen next, and an unwillingness of leaders on both sides of the issues to take a united stand, roll-up their sleeves and send a clear message on a path forward.

1. A Unified Leadership Front

We’ve got glimpses–gang members from rival gangs working together, 100 church leaders marching arm in arm through the burning rubble asking protesters to stop the violence, and Orioles COO, John Angelos tweeting about decades of inequities underlying the eruption of violence.  But it’s not enough.

We need elected officials, fire chiefs, gang leaders, church leaders, student leaders, COOs, and celebrated athletes coming together to say “STOP: THIS IS OUR CITY AND WE CAN’T DESTROY IT!” along with a clear commitment to get in a room and work it through in a collaborative way.

2. A Deep and Candid Conversation on the Issues

Violent demonstrations such as this happen when people feel their voice isn’t being heard.

We need to follow the lead of other cities like Chicago who have engaged collaborative conversation through appreciative inquiry and structured conversations.

I’ve been disappointed at how many key leaders have been told “not to comment.”

I was even asked, “Are you sure you want to get involved in this? Is it good for your brand?”

My brand is authenticity, and leading with confident humility. If not on important issues like this, when?

Leadership that matters will always annoy someone.

Honestly, what has surprised me most is all the emails coming in in lieu of comments. Folks who have something important to say, but somehow only want to say it to me.

3. Swift Action

Leaders need to take swift and bold action to make some crucial decisions.

I don’t pretend to understand why the mayor vetoed the body camera bill last year, and what was different about her proposal this February that is still swirling. I do know that quick action in this arena would be a sincere step toward additional transparency.

4. A Clear Path Forward

Citizens are looking for guidance on what to do. Thousands came to Baltimore to support the clean up efforts, because someone organized it. Many churches in our area (including my own) are holding special services and prayer vigils. We could get these concerned citizens to “pray with their feet” if we just told them how, and offered scaffolding that made it feel safe.positive baltimore

What we need is a place where the anger, heartache, love, and hope can be put to good use. Outside of the broken souls who ransacked stores and scrambled through the streets last night with as much booze and stolen goods as they could carry, I don’t imagine anyone turned on the news last night and said. “Good. Let it burn!” I even saw a young man, who claimed to be Crips leader quoted as saying, “This is our neighborhood, but we can’t control it now…”

But where do you start? How can you help? I’m a middle class white-guy, born in Baltimore, but raised in the suburbs. I love the city and like to consider myself from there, but I can’t claimed to have lived it. I’ve been a spectator at best. What should I be doing? Should I grab a shovel and start scooping out the ashes of CVS and the dozens of mom and pop shops that may never recover? Maybe. Should I stand with the non-violent protesters on Eutaw Street? I probably should have done that two days ago, but I don’t know that that would have helped and the truth is we don’t know exactly what happened to Freddie Gray. It’s an injustice to be sure, but a vague one that presents little course of action other than outrage. So, most of us do nothing. We shake our head at the news and then move on with our day.

I suppose what I would say to our leaders is that the outrage, the sadness, and the concern are wasted resources. There are many who will help if given clear direction. Tell us what to do and where we’re needed. Clear a path to the greater good and build a better city than the one we had. It’s not about one night or one issue. It’s about creating an environment where last night is impossible.

5. Admitting Mistakes for Proactive Action in Other Cities

It’s hard to know what to say and do in such scenes.  God only knows I’ve said some stupid things under fire. The mayor’s “room to destroy” comment is distracting the media from the real issue. She can make this go away by saying, “Yup, poor word choice. I am sorry. What I really meant was_____.”

Here’s what one concerned LGL tribe member shared:

From an outsider’s perspective (though, an outsider that experienced something similar during Hurricane Katrina) it seems that a simple conversation between community leaders could not only resolve this, but also serve as a model for communities dealing with similar issues across the US and even the world. I think Baltimore would be smart to capitalize on the opportunity to help the world take a big step forward.

Our worst times in history are aggravated or improved by the leadership response. My hope for Baltimore is that we will have more leaders leading with confident humility, setting egos and agendas aside and rebuilding our city to be so much better than before that no lives, property or effort was wasted.

*Pics shared with me by Civic Works Baltimore a non-profit strengthening Baltimore’s communities through education, skills development, and community service.

I was delighted to share a bit of discussion on Canada Talks Radio last night. You can hear the audio here., as well as an interview with Matt Tenney in the Huffington Post. 

Your turn. Please weigh in. What would leadership suggestions do you have for Baltimore and cities like her?
Filed Under:   confident humility
 
 
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers, AMA's 50 Leaders to Watch in 2015, & Top Thought Leader in Trust by Trust Across America. She’s the author of 2 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss.
 

Join The Conversation

What People Are Saying

Nancy   |   29 April 2015   |   Reply

Karin, I want to hear an open conversation about what happened with Freddie Gray. I want to hear the mayor and the police chief pledge to get the true story and to transform the police department into what it should be, one that serves and protects. This is not simple and I realize that. The police force faces real threats to their own safety, but the answer cannot be to brutalize and opporess. I want to hear a commitment from our political leaders to create a Baltimore with opportunity for all. I also want an opportunity for every citizen of Baltimore to engage in meaningful conversation and right action. There are so many ways to do this. I suggest a series of city wide Community Cafes for children, teens and adults where the issues can be laid out, thoughtfully discussed and from which meaningful action can emerge. I am familiar with Community Cafes as a participant and would like to be trained to facilitate them. I would volunteer to conduct them and be part of turning this crisis in Baltimore into an opportunity for transformation and growth. I live in Catonsville and spend a lot time in Baltimore. My husband works in the city and my son and his girlfriend live there. So I care about what is happening in a personal way as well as because of the larger issues of injustice and opporession. Please call upon me if you believe I could contribute to your effort.

Karin Hurt   |   29 April 2015   |   Reply

Nancy, I love the idea of community cafes. Let’s connect to talk more.

Terri Klass   |   29 April 2015   |   Reply

These are all excellent points!

I would add that in my community the police are very visible in the schools, teaching DARE programs and getting to know the kids. Then the police are in town watching out for the kids and the residents. In town you can see the kids saying “hi” to the police and having a more familiar and comfortable connection.

There needs to be a cultural shift where the police are part of every community, getting to know the residents more deeply. That type of connection breeds trust and care for another.

Thanks Karin for sharing such an important discussion!

Karin Hurt   |   29 April 2015   |   Reply

Terri, I so agree, the police in schools program can go a long way to removing barriers.

James Anderson   |   29 April 2015   |   Reply

It’s naive to say that the issue is classism and not racism. These issues are so intertwined that they cannot be separated. Look at the percentages of who populates the bottom third, the middle, and the upper socio-economic status. It doesn’t work to hold up those who have risen above as examples that racism is not the issue. What do these people believe about racism? Instead of a white person speaking for them, you need to listen to what they have to say. They will tread carefully so they don’t lose the ground they have personally gained, but if you ask them directly and listen closely, you’ll hear them hesitate. Saying racism is not the primary problem lets those in power off the hook emotionally, but you then miss the the opportunity to address the fundamental issue Baltimore is facing and that plagues our entire country.

Karin Hurt   |   29 April 2015   |   Reply

Thanks, James. I agree the issues are very intertwined. I also agree that we need to start with a lot of listening.

LaRae Quy   |   29 April 2015   |   Reply

I love all of those points, Karin! Well done!

I also believe there needs to be accountability somewhere. The comment by another LBL tribe is a great example of how to turn this whole thing into a positive model for the next time there is a disaster or violent situation.

Karin Hurt   |   29 April 2015   |   Reply

LaRae, Amen. We must learn so we can rebuild a better city and also share our learnings with the world.

Lisa   |   04 May 2015   |   Reply

There are many inspired and effective leaders in the black community doing critical work in Baltimore. They have been there, working tirelessly, for a long time and are only now receiving “press time”.

I encourage your readers to check out “Bmore United” and “Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle” for more information.

Karin Hurt   |   05 May 2015   |   Reply

Lisa thanks so much! I totally agree with you.Thanks for the references.

Xinhua Mai   |   05 May 2015   |   Reply

Karin makes good points on how leadership can help stop the crises. No big crises could happen without a detailed plan and leadership, and with accurate and useful leaders, the damage of crises can also be minimized. Most of the residents at the crises area, not only at Baltimore but also at other places with crises, would like to help stop the violence, but they don’t know how to do it. With a leader, they may be more organized and contribute more to reduce the violence.

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