Guilty as Charged

by | Jun 8, 2018

This post appeared on The City Club of Cleveland’s blog on June 8, 2018, and is shared here with its permission. See the original post here.

Earlier today, Jon J. Pinney, Managing Partner of Kohrman Jackson Krantz, gave a stirring and compelling presentation at The City Club of Cleveland. He provided an honest reckoning of our economic position and challenged the community to reach higher in its aspirations.Towards the end of his remarks, he specifically called out eight leaders by name to step up their game and better align efforts.

I was one of those named. And we are all white men.

As Jon went down his list, there was a palpable, growing expectation (horror?) in the room that the list would end where it did: all white men. That this occurred cannot simply be chalked up to a failure of imagination on Jon’s part; instead, it is a sobering indictment of the power structure in our business and civic community. Basically, Jon pointed to some of the most well-funded, best-networked economic development organizations. Those he left off the list are largely led by white men as well.

I could not agree more enthusiastically with Jon’s call for us to lead more effectively. But I think our greatest act should be to change the power paradigm. Therefore, I call on each of us – Dave Gilbert, Chris Ronayne, Brian Zimmerman, Will Friedman, Ray Leach, Steve McHale, Bill Koehler, and me (as well as the unnamed others who are likely to be invited to the to-be-formed “table”) – to nominate someone to lead on our behalf. Someone who is NOT a white man. And it should be an individual who is well-positioned to lead for the next 10 to 15 years. Furthermore, I call on each of us to enable these emerging leaders by placing the full weight of our influence behind them.

If any of you need help thinking of someone, please reach out! A wealth of talent exists in this community that is waiting to be tapped. No, I don’t have anything against white men; ultimately, I am sure there are going to be many who will be in the room anyway. But one way to get over what Jon characterized as the Greater Cleveland “ego-system” is to share our positional authority more broadly and more inclusively.

At the end of the Fund for Our Economic Future’s 2 Tomorrows report on regional priorities, we note that being average is a choice. So is being extraordinary. Broadening our power structure is a critical first step towards choosing extraordinary.