Davidson’s Leadership Lesson: To Succeed, Be Willing to Risk Failure
Preparedness and risk-taking are key components of effective leadership, according to Jo Anne Davidson, former Ohio House Speaker, during her Nov. 6 visit to The University of Findlay as a visiting executive.
Sponsored by the Colleges of Business and Liberal Arts, Davidson gave a free, public lecture at Old Main’s Ritz Auditorium; spoke with University students, staff and community members at a lunch held in her honor; provided insight to students in communication and marketing classes; and was interviewed on camera in UF’s television studio.
At age 87, Davidson, also the former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, continues to live by example. She operates a consulting firm that assists with strategic planning and political campaigns; serves on one of three college boards of trustees, including The University of Findlay’s; remains actively involved in the Ohio leadership institute that she created for Republican women; and provides valuable knowledge at various venues.
“Don’t be afraid to take a risk,” particularly while attending college, where diverse opportunities abound, and don’t be afraid of failure, she said at UF. “I’ve run a number of elections and lost. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go do it again. I’ve probably learned more from campaigns that I ran and lost than those that I ran and won.”
Her drive to succeed and interest in public service were cultivated and encouraged years ago in Findlay, Davidson said. She credited former Findlay Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Floyd Habien with being her first and most influential mentor.
“I thank him for recognizing women and the important role that women can play,” said Davidson of Habien. “Because of him, I had many opportunities to learn and educational training…”
Davidson also encouraged future and existing leaders to put down their phones and “really get to know people,” not just to assist them with their civic needs, but to build alliances and find mentors who can provide further guidance.
Making tough decisions, regardless of criticism, is also part of being a good leader, said Davidson. Not everyone will like those decisions, nor will they like who made them, she added.
“I think what you should want (instead of to be universally liked), is to want people to respect you,” Davidson said.
She emphasized that being a unifier instead of a divider is important. Criticism shouldn’t be the final answer to a problem, she said. Collaboration to find a solution should happen instead.
Education, however, is the cornerstone of advancement and success, Davidson advised. Informed decision-making is essential.
“The real power you have in leadership is knowledge. If you’re prepared, you’re more self-confident” and you’ll make wiser choices that will better assist others, she said.