Wanting to Make a Difference

I was uplifted as I left the second monthly session of LEAD San Diego’s IMPACT program last Thursday.  I sat in the conference center at Sea World with forty or so leaders of San Diego who collectively expressed a need to share the benefits of the privileges we have to help our communities.  Said more abstractly, I felt a strong sense of responsibility for the public good!  What a stark contrast it was against the backdrop of gridlock in Washington, DC—elected officials with plenty of privilege failing to provide reasonable assurances for our economy and public servants—and a huge failure in mayoral leadership in our own backyard!

I am a man blessed with good health, a supportive family, and educators who cared about my growth when I was young.  Being a part of the LEAD Impact program, I was able to meet with and ask direct questions to the four leading mayoral candidates as we discussed our city’s future challenges.  But as one of my LEAD colleagues stated, not only did we meet with potential elected leaders to discuss how to “break up the pie” of civic resources, we also had the opportunity to learn from the San Diego Regional Association of Governments (SANDAG), the San Diego Tourism Authority, and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to talk about how to “grow the pie.”  The blessings compound exponentially with the level of expertise and broad exposure to which I have access simply through my forty or so classmates in LEAD.

I left uplifted because it wasn’t so important for us to count our blessings, as I just did, but rather to discuss how we could each take our blessings and channel them for the betterment of our communities.  Jason N. commented on our duty to take the information we had gained and to share it with our circles of influence.  I challenged the group to ask whether we are committed enough to our communities that we would be willing to “let go” a bit in some of our respective public policy positions for the collective good.  Unless I’m mistaken, I saw heads nodding and felt a shared sense of purpose as I left that day.  Clearly we each felt a responsibility for the public good because we were afforded privilege, not just through the LEAD seminar, but also in our lives in general.

If the forty or so of us spread this feeling of responsibility wherever we went, I believe we’d see tangible benefits.  Against the grain of self-interest as the overriding principle for maximized economic benefit, a Harvard Business School working paper suggested that those who share do feel happier.  These same researchers built on that to show that generosity in the workplace by giving to others or those in need result in improved job satisfaction and employee performance—higher sales, more wins, etc..  Thinking more broadly about our region and civic engagement, I suggest that sharing our feeling of responsibility for the public good will help us raise San Diego from its poor ranking in civic engagement in 2011 to a place where we are America’s Finest City because the social capital in this town helps us make better collective decisions with the challenges we face.  And there’s no time better than now as we elect our next mayor!