February 2024 Guest Editor, Rob Clarke (LT 6)

Leadership and Community Advocacy

            As a proud graduate of Leadership Tallahassee Class 6, I am excited to begin my year as Chair of the Chamber. The mission of the Chamber is “To lead and promote the success of business, driving a higher quality of life for our community.” Leadership Tallahassee plays a vital role in accomplishing this important mission.

The Leadership Tallahassee program has produced over 1800 graduates over the span of 40 years. This is an immense and impressive network of strong, talented, and committed leaders who care deeply about our community. As a result of the LT curriculum and programs, no other group in Tallahassee has such a keen awareness of our community’s challenges and opportunities. Each and every LT graduate is well-positioned to help Tallahassee achieve its full potential.

            With that in mind, I’d like to share a few thoughts on how we can best advocate for our community. In my leadership journey, I have concluded that there are four principles that, if followed, are most effective when engaging in community advocacy. I hope these principles help you as you continue your leadership journey. These principles are summed up in four words, all beginning with “P:” (1) Be Positive, (2) Be Prepared, (3) Be Passionate, and (4) Be Persistent.

Be Positive

            Community advocacy requires a strong and inspiring belief that change for the good is possible. Try to avoid the tendency to be negative and needlessly critical of others as you advocate for change. Above all, avoid the “us versus them” mentality that divides people into “camps.” Instead, focus intensely on the positive aspects of your solutions. By focusing on what is possible, you will distinguish yourselves from most other people who are simply mired in complaining about problems and people. Simply put, leaders work towards solving problems – not just complaining about them. Develop a message that will help people imagine a world with the solution that you are advocating for and inspire people to believe that the goal can be achieved. Leaders are positive!

Be Prepared

            Preparation is essential to effective community advocacy. A learned trial court judge once told me that “one must educate before you advocate.” This is so true. You must study and gain an in-depth knowledge of the pertinent issues. This preparation can take many forms, such as reading the applicable law, studying background materials and data, and visiting with experts and others engaged in the issue. As you prepare, remain receptive to different perspectives and adjust your position as appropriate. This preparation will allow you to discover obstacles to achieving your goals and help you figure out how to best deal with these obstacles. By preparing yourself through research and education, you establish immense credibility in your advocacy efforts. As a prepared advocate, you will distinguish yourself from most other people because your arguments will be based on well-reasoned analysis and not mere opinions with no support. Leaders are prepared!

Be Passionate

            Passion for a solution that is reinforced with preparation is a potent force. Passion does not mean pounding the table or loudly arguing. Passion is amply demonstrated with positive arguments that are well prepared and a willingness to confront naysayers head on with the logic of your solutions. True leaders fueled by a passion ignite the vision and inspire others to join them on the journey. Leaders are passionate!

Be Persistent

            Finally, persistence. Keep at it! Change, especially meaningful change, may take time. If you remain steadfast in your advocacy, more people will be exposed to your ideas and others will accept them as you continue to advocate. By demonstrating persistence, you will distinguish yourself from others who will lose interest or otherwise fail to persevere once they run into resistance. Leaders are persistent!

Closing Thoughts

            As a member of the Leadership Tallahassee community, you have demonstrated your value as a leader. We need you! We need leaders who desire a better community and who are positive, prepared, passionate, and persistent. As Chair, I am most excited to work with you as we do our very best to move our community forward in 2024 and beyond.


P.S. For further information on these principles and other community advocacy ideas, there is an excellent video on YouTube entitled, “Advocacy Strategies” by the Connecticut Network TV.