One of the toughest parts about exercising civic leadership is that one try to change a situation is usually never ever enough. Tackling the toughest, most daunting problems requires us to keep intervening, through a process of trial-and-error, to pave a pathway for progress.
It’s a dynamic that some officials in southeast Kansas looking to turn the tide in their region for the better seem be taking to heart, as well. The region has, of course, long lagged behind the rest of the state in terms of affluence and health.
As reported by KHI News Service, several hundred people from region packed into an Iola parish hall last week for an economic summit organized by four state senators. They talked about “what it would take to turn the region’s 17 counties into a unified economic force.”
But while there was optimism and consensus there, State Sen. Jeff King, a Republican from Independence, also acknowledged the difficulty of the region’s task.
“We will take two steps forward and one step back a lot in this process,” he said. “If we can learn from the one step back and move forward after that and realize that we don’t have to agree on everything but we have to work together on everything, it will stick. The question is, can we overcome those differences? And that will be what the next five or 10 years is about.”
That quote captures how, in the absence of readily available answers, those exercising leadership have to invent them by acting experimentally. And because it’s so unclear what will ultimately work, we have to hold to purpose by continuing to push for the progress we wish to see happen, even in the face of failure.
It’s a leadership lesson that’s relevant not to just to southeast Kansas, but to so many of us throughout the state trying to built stronger, healthier, more prosperous communities.