WANTED: Courageous Leaders with an Audacious Vision

| by Beth Briggs

As this new decade unfolds, fearless leadership is essential to meet the challenges facing our communities. Where are the innovative architects who will address our complex problems?  Perhaps the nonprofit sector offers some of the state’s best talent.   

Each year The News and Observer selects a Tar Heel of the Year, to recognize a “newsmaker” who contributed significantly to North Carolina during the past year. Days leading up to the announcement, the N&O publicizes the five finalists, a list dominated by representatives of the nonprofit sector.  

The 2019 Tar Heel of the Year was Gregg Warren, Executive Director of the Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation (DHIC) in Raleigh. Since 1985, Warren’s extraordinary commitment to affordable housing resulted in DHIC building or rehabilitating more than 400 single family homes and development of over 44 complexes consisting of 2,700 apartments in eight Triangle counties. 

The four finalists for the honor are noteworthy as well and included:

  • Bob Phillips, Executive Director of Common Cause of North Carolina since 2001, recognized for his work to end gerrymandering and create nonpartisan and fair voting maps for fair elections in North Carolina. 
  • Sandi Macdonald, President and CEO of the North Carolina Symphony, a statewide treasure with over 67 professional musicians presenting 175 performances for adults and school children across 90 North Carolina counties.   
  • Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games, and creator of the “Fortnite” video game that revolutionized the video gaming world and qualified Sweeney for the honor. However, equally notable is his role as an environmentalist and philanthropist who purchased 50,000 acres of North Carolina forest for conservation purposes.  
  • J. Cole, CEO of the Dreamville record label and a Grammy-nominated rapper and recording artist, was honored for bringing 40,000 fans to Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh to the inaugural Dreamville Music Festival.  A native of Fayetteville, J. Cole was the headliner and performed along with other national artists to benefit the Dreamville Foundation that benefits youth in Fayetteville and the Dix Park Conservancy.

As we embark upon the new decade the challenges are extraordinary and demand leaders who deliver clarity of vision and a commitment to transformational change that advance our national, state, and local communities. The nonprofit sector is a leading force in addressing many of the issues that foster fear and anxiety. For instance:

  • Climate instability looms large as a major crisis. In the past decade the planet endured major earthquakes in Haiti, Japan, and Alaska; dramatic heat, fires, and drought in Australia and Africa; and devastating hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean. Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change. According to National Geographic, from 1990 – 2015, the planet lost 502,000 square miles of forest. Since 2010, North Carolina lost over 120,000 acres of bottomland hardwoods and 2019 was the state’s hottest year on record.  
  • Violence in America continues to haunt our nation with horrific mass shootings in Sandy Hook Elementary School, Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub, Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, San Bernardino, California, the University of North Carolina Charlotte, and Virginia Tech to name but a few.  
  • Improving healthcare requires more than just improving the delivery of quality medical care. According to WHO it means “improving the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.”  Social determinants of health, the social and physical factors in life, are necessary to promote and stabilize the health and well-being of Americans to reduce US healthcare cost. Creative thinking is critical to provide access to healthy food, education, affordable housing, livable wage jobs, and recreation. 

To address these issues, leadership in the next decade will require demonstrated experience as volunteers, and engagement in the not-for-profit world. The great leaders of tomorrow will make decisions based upon what is best for all citizens and be chosen not for their financial worth but for their love for humanity, empathy, compassion, passion, and commitment to service.

At Armstrong McGuire we are privileged to work with North Carolina’s greatest leaders, those serving the nonprofit sector, individuals who will lead North Carolina to a great new decade. We salute you and wish you a happy 2020.

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