There are few things as important and misunderstood as leadership. Without effective leadership communities, families and organizations of every kind will fail to achieve any real measure of success. It is possible for movement to take place without effective leadership, but it is the leader that turns that movement into vision accomplishing, life altering momentum.
I have been privileged throughout my adult life to work with and observe a number of extraordinary leaders. I am a better person because of their influence on my life. I have learned that the best way to continue to grow in this area is to get around and ask questions of those who are actually leading.
Over the next several weeks I will present a series of interviews with men and women in our community who are not only leading but are leading effectively. It is my hope that what we learn from them will equip each of us to more effectively point the way for those we are blessed to lead.
Our interview today is with Newark Mayor Alan Nagy. Mayor Nagy was elected to his current position in 2011 but has served our community throughout his life. First elected to the Newark City Council in 1980, Mayor Nagy has been a part of nearly every city committee and task force for the last thirty-five years. While he has won many awards, two that clearly indicate his heart for service are the Newark Volunteer of the Year Award (2009) and the Distinguished Service Award for Community Service.
Few people embody the qualities of servant leadership like our Mayor and it is a privilege to get his thoughts on this important topic.
What were some of the events that led you to your current position?
Becoming a member of the Newark Jaycees in the early 70’s. The purpose of the organization is leadership training through community service. The Jaycees are one of the few organizations with an age limit and at the time it was 21-36. We conducted hundreds of community service projects working with others. Through these projects one learns how to manage money, time, resources, and the work of others. The premise of Jaycees is that the organization can provide training in leadership and then expects the members will apply that training to their community.
I involved myself in the “political” side of Jaycees and gained an understanding of how to run a campaign for local elected office. That training was put to the test when Dave Smith ran for his first term on the Newark City Council in 1976 and asked that I chair his campaign. Subsequently, I was elected to the City Council in 1980.
What is your favorite thing about your current role?
There are many exciting things about being Mayor. A part of the Jaycee Creed is “Service to Humanity is the Best Work of Life” and being Mayor allows me to practice “Service” on a daily basis.
Another important aspect of being Mayor is the personal growth that comes from applying myself to the job.
How would you define leadership?
There are many ways to define leadership. Working for, through, with, and sometimes around others to accomplish worthwhile goals would be one definition of leadership. Another would be taking people where they didn’t think they wanted to go and having them appreciate being “there.”
How has your position as Mayor changed the way that you view leadership?
I don’t think it has changed my view of leadership. Having served as a Councilmember for 32 years was a good prelude to being Mayor.
How do you deal with criticism?
Understanding that people’s view of those involved in politics is not very high. It kind of goes with the territory. I try to understand that different people have different opinions and while we should value each person’s opinion we still need to arrive at a resolution to a situation.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
The legacy of respect and honor to the position of Mayor. Knowing I did my best to leave the position of Mayor in good hands for the next person.
If you could sit down with someone and tell them one thing, what would it be?
To believe in and practice the tenets of the Jaycee Creed:
That faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life,
That the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations,
That economic justice can best be won by free men through free enterprise,
That government should be of laws rather than of men,
That earth’s greatest treasure lies in human personality,
And that service to humanity is the best work of life.
Who are some people that you look up to?
Martin Luther King
Those who have served our country
What is the single most important thing to you?
What is the most important element of leadership?
Understanding that what you do has an effect on others whether that is residents, city employees or others that you are involved with. It is critically important that you always operate at the highest level of integrity.
Thank you Mayor for the leadership that you provide in this community! Your example of faithfulness and service is an example that everyone who leads others would do well to follow.