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“What I’m Reading” with Raymond Jetson

“What I’m Reading” with Raymond Jetson

As we continue this series, beBATONROUGE chooses to share Raymond A. Jetson’s “What I’m Reading” interview. Jetson is the Chief Executive Catalyst of MetroMorphosis. In this role, he uses his extensive network and reservoir of social capital – as a former legislator, pastor and other executive roles in state agencies, to deploy resources to advance the strategies of the organization. Mr. Jetson is an experienced leader and an important “connector” for intersectional collaboration between community members, stakeholders and systems.

During the interview we discussed two of MetroMorphosis‘s initiatives, the Urban Congress for the African-American Male and the Urban Leadership Development Initiative. I’ve provided a description of both initiatives for context. Urban Congress is a coalition created to understand the challenges that impact the quality of life for Black boys and men and then leverage the communities to transform their lives, their families, and surrounding neighborhoods.  The Urban Leadership Development Initiative a year-long program teaches select individuals how to identify opportunities, develop innovative solutions, and build coalitions designed to foster positive, long-term change.

First of all, if you don’t know your history, then you don’t know your future.

I see you chose two books, “The Biography of Maynard Jackson” by Robert Holmes and “The Practice of Adaptive Leadership” by Alexander Grashow and Ronald Heifetz. Can you tell me a bit about the Maynard Jackson book?

It’s about Maynard Jackson, the first African-American mayor of Atlanta, and he literally changed the trajectory of the city. He changed the economics of the city and African-American life in Atlanta. When faced with the airport building project that is now Hartsfield-Jackson airport, Jackson stood firm and insisted that there be equal distribution of the revenues associated with the project. Jackson insisted upon African-American business participation, along with African-American labor participation in every area of the world. Atlanta is now a city populated by African-Americans who have generational wealth, and that was in large part because of the leadership of Maynard Jackson.

How does this influence your life?

It helps me to understand that the right kind of leadership being practiced impacts others. You know, Maynard Jackson didn’t get rich off the airport, but he was a catalyst and made things happen. The book also helps me to understand that real leadership is about that which lives on after you.

That airport will forever be Hartsfield-Jackson. Even though there are some who will not have a clue who the “Jackson” is in that airport name, Maynard Jackson made a deposit in this Earth. There are young people, especially African-Americans, who will grow up in Atlanta and will inherit a generational wealth. They won’t understand how the lives of their families changed. And so for me, it’s about understanding the need for catalysts, and to sow into the lives of others. That’s the critical ingredient in leadership.

So it seems that this book and your other book, “The Practice of Adaptive Leadership”, overlap.

Yes, yes they do. This [“The Practice of Adaptive Leadership”] is kind of the theory, the textbook. Maynard Jackson, in my opinion, is what it looks like. So as I read Mr. Holmes’ biography of Maynard Jackson, I saw the principles of adaptive leadership being demonstrated in what Jackson was doing. In our work with Metromorphosis, we have the Urban Leadership Development Initiative—where we have a group of urban leaders, and we spend a lot of time talking about the theory and “The Practice of Adaptive Leadership” and “Maynard Jackson” is what it looks like.

Okay. So you apply these principles to the Urban Leadership Development Initiative, and even to the Urban Congress on African-American males?

I mean one of the goals of Urban Congress is to develop generational wealth and those things that are the result of catalytic actions. So these are just two pieces of literature that impact me in the same way, but with their very different reasons you do that.

How would you sell these books to others?

First of all, if you don’t know your history, then you don’t know your future. Maynard Jackson is somebody that every African-American, especially those who espouse to make their community better, should take the time to read. Because here is a man who was the first African-American mayor in a southern city. That was a time of change.

One of my favorite people in the world, Marshall Ganz from the Kennedy School at Harvard, says that real leadership is about moving people forward in the face of uncertainty.

Maynard Jackson stepped into a very uncertain time and was able to mobilize the city in spite of his opposition to deal with some real difficult challenges and “The Practice of Adaptive Leadership” is about mobilizing others to attack on tough challenges and still thrive. Atlanta is a thriving city today because of Maynard Jackson.

 

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