In my last post I wrote about the opportunity that business leaders have to make a BIG difference in the lives of the people they lead. I surmised that many of us—maybe even all of us—deep down want our lives to make a significant positive difference in the lives of others.

This is what I believe so many of you alumni are trying to do through your leadership. I hope you know that we will do whatever we can to help you continue that journey, and by your efforts you’ll help dozens of people be so much more than they would have been without your leadership.

I ended last week’s post by asking, What if West Michigan became a region where we fully embrace this opportunity to be these kinds of leaders?

First let me explain why I think we can:

My experience in other areas of our country—though it may not be vast—and what I’ve learned listening to others who do have a lot of experience outside of West Michigan, has lead me to believe that there may be more of these amazing, people-development kinds of businesses here than in other places. This is what makes me believe that we could be—and should be—the best region in the country for identifying, developing, and releasing these kinds of leaders. Maybe I’m delusional or maybe arrogant (oh I hope not because I really dislike arrogance!), but I believe this enough to give a huge portion of my life to it.

Because I am a data-driven person, let me name a few examples of businesses that nurture the kinds of leaders I’m describing, which is always dangerous because I will certainly miss naming many worthy companies. I see DISHER, GMB Architecture + Engineering, Elzinga & Volkers, Royal Technologies, Feyen Zylstra, and Quality Car Wash as these kinds of companies. They seem to view business as a vehicle for helping people release all of the greatness that is in them.

Another piece of data that I believe relates to our potential as a hotbed of leadership is the often reported measure of philanthropy in various regions of the country. West Michigan always seems to rank among the top. This reflects a spirit I sense from many highly accomplished and often very wealthy people here in West Michigan—they want to help others have amazing lives. (By the way, I don’t believe the wealth is what makes their lives so amazing. In so many cases I think it’s their amazing lives that made them wealthy. This might be a topic for another blog post down the road.)

I think I have some good data and reasons for believing our mission is not only possible—it’s almost expected of us due to what we already have. As you know, our mission, and the reason I’m writing this, is to help all West Michigan leaders see this great opportunity to bring the world real value while also changing lives in BIG WAYS. This, of course, can’t be done by Leading by DESIGN alone; we’re just one of many great organizations working to help West Michigan leaders be amazing. I do think, however, that no one else has named this mission and started challenging West Michigan leaders to pursue it. Our team fully intends that every leader in West Michigan will have heard of this rallying cry and, by being aware of it, will feel motivated to play their part.

So, what will be different about West Michigan when we have the greatest density of great leaders in the country? Here are some thoughts:

  • Great people will want to stay in West Michigan more than they do today.
  • Great people will want to come here to live, work, and play more than they do today.
  • Tens of thousands of lives will change significantly for the better.
  • Tens of thousands of people will lead lives of great meaning rather than lives of quiet desperation, as Henry David Thoreau once said.
  • Mental health will improve. Families will be healthier. Wealth will be offered to make amazing venues and powerful social services; even more than today.
  • Leaders from our area will inspire and influence other areas of the world to do the same.

As I look at this list, I realize that many of these things have already been happening in West Michigan over the past one hundred years. This is due to the leaders who have come before us. It is on their shoulders that we take on this mission and take it even further.

So what do you think? If Grand Rapids can be known as “Beer City,” can’t we, even more so, be the hotbed of the best organizational leaders in the nation?

All it takes is to learn how to lead and then start the life-long journey of leading better every day, every week, every month, and every year. It will be hard, it will be fun, and most importantly, it will make a real difference in real people’s lives—including your own.

We are so blessed and fortunate to be able to work with all of you West Michigan leaders to pursue this purpose. Thank you for trusting us in this way AND thank you for who you are!

Let the journey continue…

Image by rkramer62. Used under CC BY-ND 2.0 license.