Ambassador James A. Joseph on what it takes to lead

Ambassador James A. Joseph on what it takes to lead

Posted on June 13, 2013 by Pam Truitt

Recently, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County hosted Ambassador James A. Joseph to share his insights on everyday leadership to a distinguished group of nonprofit executives and board chairs. I’m neither, but fortunately, was able to participate through my work with The Patterson Foundation. What Ambassador Joseph has accomplished in his lifetime is simply amazing. Most mortals (me) couldn’t check-off half of his achievements in three lifetimes. The man it totally awesome and down to earth!

The focus of Ambassador Joseph’s talk was on what it takes to lead—as a way of being. He shared many observations and lessons learned. I could write 10 blogs on his 60-minute presentation. Fortunately, Kathy Silverberg, a columnist in our local paper—attended and wrote a great article, too.

My ears perked up as he described the four qualities that good leaders must possess in order to cope with the dynamics of change: emotional, social, moral and spiritual intelligence. Most are familiar with the concept of emotional intelligence, but as Ambassador Joseph observed in his leadership development work, without the other three components, it is nearly impossible to lead in chaos.

Many before me have written or opined about the chaos in our nation’s capital—expressing their own frustrations. I feel the pain too. It may not be possible to have a direct effect on what’s happening in Washington, but gosh-darn-it, it is possible to have an effect in our local communities.

As I reflect on TPF’s work with nonprofits interested in exploring working smarter/better, my thoughts are drawn to the local nonprofit community—and what I know about the nonprofit partnership field. The leadership qualities identified by Joseph are pretty much the same needed when an executive or board member is ready to initiate change it knows will be good for the organization.

How many of us possess all of these qualities in the quantities needed? I don’t know. But my guess is not many. Knowing my own limitations, I subscribe to the team approach—bringing to the table those with the right skills so that collectively we can get the job done.

When Ambassador Joseph began his career, he hadn’t carved out a leadership niche—and never saw himself as one. He started volunteering—getting involved in the issues and from there he rose to the top. Along the journey, he asked frequently asked himself ,“Why me? Why here? Why now?”

How do you answer those questions?

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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