Saturday, July 21, 2012

Being an example

Katherine E. (Katie) Boyd (1921- 2009) continues to inspire my leadership.

Katie volunteered for political and public-policy causes. She was reportedly at ease in activities ranging from attending state dinners (See, for example, Guest List for the State Dinner in Honor of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh) to handing out campaign leaflets at a commuter light-rail station. Katie was for decades perhaps the most successful fundraiser in northern California for Republican causes. She knew whom to ask, how to ask, and when not to push. She copiously sent thank-you notes. As far as I know, she did not ask for anything in return for her efforts. Also, she supported people who supported her causes.

For example, in 1989, I accepted an offer to serve as a Commissioner in the United States General Services Administration (GSA). An earthquake delayed my flying to Washington, D.C., to report for work. I called Katie. Without hesitation, she invited me to spend a night in her husband Bill's and her guest bedroom. I started the next day close to the reopening San Francisco International Airport.

Permit me to infer from patterns some principles I believe Katie exemplified:

a) Do whatever you can.
b) Ask for whatever you should.
c) Provide appreciation.
d) Support those who support your causes.
e) Try new outreach.
f) It may not be necessary to tout your role.
g) Lead by being an example.

Katie's success and practices inspired my work for (and beyond) my three plus years with GSA.
At an early staff meeting, I told leaders of our 2,000-person group that I was there to serve our country (g). Based on at least (a), (b), and (e), I introduced and advocated new or underutilized concepts. People brought many of these to fruition. In the case of one procurement improvement concept, people reminded me that the "opposite" political party controlled of Congress. During my service, I never publically mentioned that initiative (d) & (f). Today, the Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) is widely used.

Some people cautioned I should not advocate more change than appropriate. I tried to hone my leadership accordingly (b) & (d). Various career-employee leaders proposed initiatives. I endorsed many of these projects and avoided trying to have more role than that of advocate (a), (d), (f) and (g). We launched a nationwide grassroots initiative to improve governmental service to the public, even though we had neither charter nor budget to do so (a) & (e).

Principles (a) and (e) inspired my trying to establish new working relationships between GSA and other agencies. Some attempts worked. Others did not.

Years later, I send many "thank you" emails to current colleagues (c) & (g). Memories of Katie remain unique sources of inspiration.

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