Smith: WHY THINGS WORK: Leadership is key to state's ample progress

Smith: WHY THINGS WORK: Leadership is key to state's ample progress

April 22nd, 2013 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith, former Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and congressional candidate.

As our hearts have been burdened with the Boston terror bombings, the industrial accident in Texas that destroyed a rural community and the vitriol around the issues of the Second Amendment and legal immigration in Washington, a few things happened in Tennessee that should be praised.

Recently, Chattanooga had its local elections and the transition of leadership has occurred. Despite the embarrassment of low voter turnout, the swearing-in ceremony at Chattanooga's Tivoli Theatre featured a crowd hungry for Chattanooga's success.

In that crowd were those who worked tirelessly for their candidates. There were even some losing candidates graciously showing their support.

The common hope: Let's move Chattanooga from success to significance.

In Nashville, a flurry of activity closed a very short but productive legislative session that yielded a balanced budget that includes a 1.5 percent pay raise for state employees, a reduction in the sales tax on food, a first step to eliminate Tennessee's double-taxation inheritance tax and even $100 million added to our state's rainy-day fund for emergencies.

Wow. It can be done. A legislative body and the executive branch of government are able to work together after all to produce a functioning government that serves its people. Tennessee continues to move from success to significance.

How did such a feat occur in today's politically charged environment?

Granted, there were moments of contentiousness during the last few months of Tennessee's General Assembly. The back-and-forth over TennCare expansion and the lobbyists who pushed too hard on the school voucher proposal are just two of several examples. Yet, there were always two ingredients involved: leadership and collaboration.

These two essentials are non-negotiable for our hope as a city and our desire as a state to live, work and raise our families in a great area. These two ingredients reside in the nucleus of any great organization, political, charitable, commercial. Period.

"Leadership is action, not position" is emblazoned as a caption under a photo of a majestic eagle gliding over a body of water.

Leaders are individuals who are consequential in more than their words. In our day, soaring rhetoric and talking points too often serve as an empty substitute for acts of leadership. A well-spoken, well-marketed individual can make promises and set expectations with little effort and no results.

Collaboration is a term that gets shelved for the famous "compromise." When the term "compromise" is used, it is a mandate that those engaged in actions must mutually sacrifice beliefs and principles.

Contrast that to collaboration, which involves identifying areas of mutual agreement and shared goals that result in willful cooperation. Granted, collaboration is more time-consuming and involves more effort than compromise. In collaboration, there are no losers.

Chattanooga deserves continued growth that serves our citizens and region, which has established its reputation as a Phoenix - now a city of potential and vigor.

Chattanooga also deserves leadership and collaboration that moves along the path of the Tennessee tradition we've enjoyed that produces enterprise and opportunity.

Issues confronting our city such as youth violence and the creep of organized unions are two obstacles that could stall and actually halt the forward motion of this area.

Henry Ford said it best, "Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success."

Success to significance is a catchy phrase but should be the shared goal for our new Chattanooga leadership.

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the Smith, Waterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm.