From the Chairman

Creating Change in a Transformative World

Fellow ACCE Member:

A week or so ago Facebook reminded me that last year at this time, my wife and I were in Long Beach at the ACCE Annual Convention. I remember the two of us thinking this was the beginning of a highly anticipated year of service to the industry, more frequent contact with long-time friends and colleagues and being intentional about messaging that focused on catalytic leadership. That vision lasted about six months, and ended abruptly in March, when the world changed for all of us, and leadership took on very different proportions and direction.

I have often said I thrive on change. I particularly like it when I am the change agent; and, particularly dislike it when change is thrust upon me. So, you can imagine the mixed messages my psyche was getting when the arrival of Covid 19 forced change that I had to create. How does that work? Being both responsive and catalytic at the same time? 

As if the world wasn’t already weird enough, horrific events that raised awareness to the lack of progress in eliminating racism in this country, mandated another change – but once again demanded that the change be of our own making! A double pandemic of virus and racism!  Of course, let’s not forget about the resulting economic damage that has been felt around the world. This provided us another opportunity for change that would be different in every community.

I know. None of this is new, but I needed to set the stage for this question one of my staff asked me this afternoon: “How has your leadership style changed as a result of all that has happened in 2020?”

I asked her to answer her own question and she responded she has had to be more comfortable with innovation, encourage herself and her teammates more, work hard to engage more and be more strategic in the tactics used to accomplish her tasks. But, she didn’t let me off the hook. I finally said, in retrospect, managing the response to three major crises – and trying to come up with catalytic answers to all of them – proved to be a challenge. It got even more complicated when I took into consideration that I had additional responsibility to support the boards I was on – and a particular responsibility to those, such as ACCE, where I was serving as chairman of the board. How could I help these organizations make it through? 

I realized there was one area where my leadership process had changed. It was in the level of collaboration that was required to be effective. I am not talking about garden-variety collaboration we all know and practice. I am talking about the strategic and intentional seeking out and finding of other leaders that you trust to help you think through these monumental issues. I used to call folks together for input. Now, I find myself surrounding myself with people who, like me, are looking for answers. I will never forget – and always appreciate – the groups of ACCE members I spoke with weekly as we were trying to solve problems that were similar across the country. We shared experiences, ideas and our passion for finding the right answers and it helped all of us move past the angst and on to the answers. This experience helped me do the same here at home. 

The nuance here is that collaboration on a grand scale is a valued tool for all community and business builders. We always seek out other organizations who are in the same sand box as we are and engage them in finding tactical solutions to strategic problems. The leadership collaboration I am writing about is about surrounding yourself with leaders whose brain you respect and need to tap to make good and right decisions in real time.  The chamber world is full of remarkable brains and hearts, and unlike many other professions, we are wired to share and help each other solve problems.

So, to end this final chairman’s message to my colleagues across the country, I want to say thank you. The country has been able to weather these three pandemics better because of your insights, generosity, brains and hearts. Your communities owe you a debt of gratitude that they might never offer.  So, I will here.

Thank you.  Be safe.




David G. Brown is chairman of the ACCE Board of Directors and president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber, one of the largest, most highly accredited chambers in the nation and ACCE’s 2015 Chamber of the Year. Under David’s steady leadership, the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership has successfully landed more than 760 projects, representing 37,090 jobs and more than $8.6 billion in capital investment since 2004.
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