Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

The Leadership Experience – Leadership Lake Norman

ImageThe poet Archibald MacLeish once said, “There’s only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that’s not learning from experience.”  How many times have we seen people who have made mistakes in the past, turn around and make the same ones again.

This past month, the Chamber graduated one of its largest Leadership Lake Norman classes.  Created in 1996, with the first class in 1997, Scott Lawrence and his Board saw the need to create and nurture future community, elected, and business leaders of our region.  The program was developed to expose these individuals to the resource agencies, history, and community infrastructure of our communities, county, and state.  The program has seen graduates emerge as town elected officials, a North Carolina State House representative, Civic Club presidents (Rotary and Kiwanis), and Chamber Board Chairs as well as members of the Board of Directors.  Several of our key town staff including two town managers, assistant mangers, police chiefs, parks and recreation, and planning staff  have graduated.  Not to mention the many business leaders in both corporate and small business.

If Leadership Lake Norman focuses on one thing, it is to learn from your experiences.  Those experiences begin with the team building exercises, continue with the sessions, and culminate in graduation.  Those who make it a practice to reflect on personal experience, evaluate those experiences, and learn from them, distinguishes those who lead and those who will follow.   It reminds me of the parable of the fox, the wolf, and the bear.  One day they all went hunting together, and after each caught a deer, they discussed how they would divide their spoils.

The bear asked the wolf how he thought it should be done.  The wolf said everyone should get one deer.  Suddenly the bear ate the wolf.  Then the bear turned to the fox and asked him how he proposed to divide the rewards.  The wise fox offered the bear his deer and said the bear should also take both his own and the wolf’s deer as well.

“Where did you get such wisdom?” asked the bear.  “From the wolf,” replied the fox.

After facilitating fifteen leadership classes there are a few take aways that I have:  First, an effective leadership class has members who complement each other and leaders always emerge in every group.   At every leadership retreat a leader will appear, sometimes several, with a couple of common characteristics: they know exactly where they are going and they persuade others to follow.


Children from Ramah Christian Classical School make a presentation at Leadership Lake Norman.

A great leader earns your trust and inspires confidence in their followers  It’s been said, a good leader inspires their followers to have confidence in them.  But an outstanding leader inspires their followers to have confidence in themselves.   At this past graduation, a friend attending a later reception of current and past graduates noted the enthusiasm and chemistry of the class members. This particular person, a chamber member themselves remarked, “it must make you feel really proud.”

Yes it does, …intensely.  Knowing that in 1997 a group of people developed a program based on a vision of the community we could become – and in the process – 287 people have participated and today each play a vital role in leading our communities and its businesses.  Yes, I’m very proud!

Download the Leadership Lake Norman application from the Chamber’s website.


July 9, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Lessons | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hugh Torance House and Store teaches lessons of the past

In 1997, the late Rev Jeff Lowrance contacted me at the Lake Norman Chamber and said there was a piece of history in Huntersville that desperately needed the help of local volunteers.  Set back just off Gilead Road in Huntersville is an old two story house that thousands of people drive past each week – the Hugh Torance House and Store.  Located at 8231 Gilead Road, the store dates back to 1779 and is the oldest standing store and residence in North Carolina.   It was owned by Hugh Torance and his wife Isabella, and their son James operated a store there from 1805 until 1825.  By the early 1960’s the house had fallen on hard times.  Buried under layers of Kudzu, its once sturdy sides had given way.  The Mecklenburg Historical Association and local volunteers including, Dick and Belle Banks, worked to raise money to repair the old home.  In the spring of 1989, the Hugh Torance House and Store was again opened to the public.

Rev. Jeff Lowrance with Huntersville Commissioner Isaac B. Thompson

When Rev Lowrance contacted me a decade later, the energy of volunteers had faded, and the house again was in need of attention.  Walking into the house for the first time, I was struck with both its simplicity and craftsmanship.  Long before laser guides, power saws, and our wide assortment of power tools, carpenters created fluted paneling and carved intricate wood molding by hand.  The outside of the house is fitted with basket weave plank doors with exposed rose headed nails.  It’s really hard to imagine a craftsman using the chisels and gouges to create the chair molding and detail around the fireplace that I examined for the first time on that summer afternoon so long ago.  Jeff’s eyes lit up with a passion as he spoke of Hugh who fought in the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill and whose captain was killed in the skirmish.  It was his captain’s widow, Isabella, that Hugh would later marry, helping raise her four children and their own son James.

This past week, I served as a tour guide for the first and fourth grade classes of Ramah Christian Classical School.  It was a real experience for the young people as they peered into life before computers and cell phones.  Instead they marveled at the staple items of the store:  the sugar cones, blocks of tea, and ungrounded coffee.  They played with the simple wooden children’s toys and asked a litany of questions about the spinning wheels and tools of the time.  Too soon our tour was over and the children were headed back to the school leaving me to close up the house once again.  As I walked upstairs, my fingers traveling along the soft wooden rail of the staircase, I thought about the small fingers which ran along that same wood two hundred years ago.

I paused at the bottom of the steps in a chair by the window and wondered how many times James might have sat in the same spot, waiting on that customer to ride up for needed supplies.  Possibly leaving a note on the message board of the store, trading goods, and then perhaps enjoying an ale in the tavern next door before their long ride back home.

Perhaps John Kennedy said it best when he reminded us, “History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.”

As I turned the key in the door, securing the past, I looked back at the stately old house.  Closing my eyes tightly, I imagined that Hugh, Isabella and the kids were standing as silent sentries, watching over the home until our next visit.   As each of us go about our day, we are reminded of those who came before us, providing us with the blessings of liberty and opportunity, and we have the responsibility to leave our community better than we found it.  It is the legacy we were left and the responsibility we owe to the future.

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , | Leave a comment