Extraordinary excellence of Leadership Augusta helps community thrive

In this 2003 photo, Leadership Augusta Chairwoman Jan Wiggins takes a rest between exercises in the shade beside Jay Forrester of Georgia Bank & Trust as part of the "Augusta in Army Boots" program with the 93rd Signal Brigade at Fort Gordon. Leadership Augusta provides valuable opportunities for leaders to connect and learn.

Last month, I had the privilege and pleasure of being a kickoff speaker for the 2017 class of Leadership Augusta. Each of the 36 members of this class will spend the next year examining the important issues and institutions in our area.


Just as importantly, they will get to know each other well. These close relationships will lead to hundreds of interactions that will benefit our community for many years.

This fine group of Augusta citizens includes bankers, attorneys, sales directors, accountants, program managers, speech pathologists, educators, executive directors, team leaders, property appraisers, architects, etc.

Providing leadership for the Class of 2017 are Chairwoman Brenda Durant, Co-Chairwoman Kim Elle and Class Administrator Kate Harski. It is their responsibility to plan and execute a program that is rewarding, meaningful, uplifting and fun.


THE CLASS members are selected carefully from a large pool of local citizens. During the course of the year, class members will dive deeply into important subjects including history, communications, health care, criminal justice, human relations, government, education, arts, community service and economic development.

By the time the program wraps up next spring, class members will have had substantive visits to many of the key institutions in Augusta.

The following is from the Leadership Augusta website:

“Leadership Augusta is a program of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce. The mission of Leadership Augusta is to identify, develop, grow and connect knowledgeable leaders from throughout the region through dynamic education, membership, and alumni programs that enable them to grow as leaders and help make the community a better place to live and work.


“VISION: WE recognize the power that trusted relationships between community leaders bring to the region. We believe in cultivating leaders who will build upon those relationships, collaborate across cultural and economic boundaries and develop innovative ways for the greater metro Augusta area to thrive, socially and economically.

“Goals & objectives of the program:

Identify and educate current and emerging leaders on the region, major accomplishments, issues and challenges.

Build lasting relationships and networks with other leaders through collaboration across cultural and economical boundaries.

Share and learn innovative leadership styles, techniques and strategies.

Provide a resource pool of leaders for the benefit of the community.”

Those who wish to touch base with Leadership Augusta should check out the website www.leadershipaugusta.com. Other ways to contact Leadership Augusta are by its street address, 1 10th Street, Suite 120, Augusta; its mailing address, P.O. Box 1837, Augusta, GA 30903-1837; and its telephone number, (706) 821-1308.


LEADERSHIP Augusta constantly is looking for new ways to improve the program. One new approach has been designed to give everyone in the class a chance to go out to lunch with someone whom they admire. A number of leaders in our area have volunteered to play host to a luncheon for two or three class members.

Each Leadership Augusta participant provided two or three people they would like to meet in the community during their initial interviews. These leaders will be especially helpful in broadening their knowledge of both leadership and local issues, and will provide leads to others with whom they may want to connect in the community.


DURING MY 90-minute workshop, I emphasized
the importance of maintaining a reading program. The goal is one good book per month. I also suggested they could best serve their hometown if they kept up with local issues by reading
The Augusta Chronicle on a regular basis.

Each member of the class received a copy of my book Rules and Tools for Leaders (fourth edition) and the DVD Twice a Hero: The Jimmie Dyess Story. This DVD includes quite a bit of the history of Augusta.

After the session, class members were provided with the following list of recommendations.

Books for leaders to read and not to read:

The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell (the most insightful book I have read in years);

Leading Up, by Michael Useem (how to help your bosses do better);

Right from the Start, by Dan Ciampa and Michael Watkins (the best book on how to transition into a top leadership position);

Coping with Difficult People, by Robert M. Bramson (to be kept at your elbow);

The Courageous Follower, by Ira Chaleff (an excellent book on a largely neglected topic);

The Female Advantage, by Sally Helgesen (women leaders should go with their inherent leadership strengths);

The Power of Ethical Management, by Ken Blanchard;

Give and Take, by Adam Grant.


BOOKS HARDLY worth reading: Books by Paul Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Lester Thurow, John Lehman, Jeremy Rifkin or Donald Rumsfeld (ponderous writing or lack of objectivity).

Magazines worth reading on a regular basis: Business Week, The Economist and The Futurist.

Television news show of great value: The PBS NewsHour, with Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill.

Organization to join: The World Future Society (wfs.org).


(The writer – a retired U.S. Air Force major general – serves on the boards of the Augusta Warrior Project and the Augusta Museum of History. His website is genpsmith.com.)