Rochester mayor's chief of staff discusses leadership qualities

On Jan. 25, G. Jean Howard, chief of staff for Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy, gave a lecture called, "A Journey through Leadership and my Pearls of Wisdom" to students in Newton Hall. She started with an emphasis on the importance of being a leader in today's society, giving a brief background of her personal experiences and accomplishments.

She grew up during the Civil Rights Movement, which she said, "sparked leadership on the streets and advocates for a cause." This era served as a turning point in her life, and marked the beginning of her drive to be a leader. Howard was involved in numerous community service programs, assuming the role of executive director at Wilson Commencement Park, senior manager at the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Rochester, and manager of welfare reform at the Life Skills organization, providing single-parent families with necessities. Howard also served six years under Governor Mario Cuomo on the Development Disabilities Advisory Council and executive committee of the New York State Office on Mental Retardation.

"Leaders can come from many avenues in life," she explained, including leaders such as parents, relatives and professionals. Howard listed several "fundamental characteristics" worth following to become a leader. She explained that a leader is bold. Boldness doesn't imply loudness. A quiet intensity can be just as bold as a high volume. True boldness, according to Howard, brings together respect and empowerment in such a way as to inspire others.

Along this vein, Howard further defined a leader as "one that motivates" by possessing well-driven energy for a good cause and faith in those around them. In this way, an effective leader "views all of us the same, from the man in the street to the boardroom." For people to practice their leadership skills, thus structuring their life on their own terms, she suggested making a written list of goals and checking each one off when completed. "Daily rituals such as these display discipline," she said. Howard practices what she preaches. Within her disciplinary rituals, she discussed getting up early, reading the newspaper, and keeping a careful schedule which can be attributed to a person's "accountability."

"Success is a magnifying glass on your personality," she explained. By realizing inner values, people become closer to themselves, and closer to success. In this context of self realization, she discussed the concepts that she feels are core to her values. Such concepts include the value of all people, the importance of giving second chances, and the balance of time and energy.

Leaders must start out somewhere, and with this starting place, pearls of wisdom are helpful, if not necessary. Howard had devised a plan based on seven pearls, each representative of a different guideline to follow in daily life. She linked these guidelines directly to her values and success as a leader, and when a student asked what single thing, if nothing else, the audience should take from the lecture, she simply said, "I hope you take with you one of my seven pearls of wisdom."

With the leadership potential among Geneseo students, such insight from such a credible source is invaluable. Junior Merrissa Wilson found the lecture "very informative," and junior Dan Slakes said, "I thought it was great. Very good insight." Indeed, the pearls of wisdom and the lecture itself inspired, challenged, and provoked the thinking of the students who attended.