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Tucson Opinion: Time for our leaders to refocus
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Tucson Opinion: Time for our leaders to refocus

The President and CEO of the United Way of Tucson & Southern Arizona has some advice to offer

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The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Now that this challenging year of 2020 is almost behind us, leaders should readjust their focus toward the most pressing needs in the way of a true economic recovery. As a veteran who proudly served, and a patriotic American, I say it is time for us to come together. It is time to put away the deep division in our nation, our state and local community. Certainly, there are many broader issues that need our attention, and our collective focus.

No matter whether your organization is a nonprofit, public company, or small business, leaders are under increasing pressure to explain where they stand on major issues such as racial justice, gender equality, climate change and many others. Yes, with most of the challenging year of 2020 in our rearview mirror, nonprofits and corporate leaders need to live up to the often-competing expectations of employees, customers, shareholders, donors, stakeholders and the community, all while being effective, efficient and authentic.

Now is the time for leaders to take on the concept of shared value required to help positively impact their businesses and their communities equally. Now is the moment to not be silent about the need to turn our focus toward the issues that can help our most valuable resource, which is the health and wellness of our staff/employees, and their families. It is time to focus on the issues that truly can help or harm our impact and the bottom line.

Now that there’s promising news on a vaccine for the coronavirus and a plan for widespread distribution soon to come, we must begin to consider key issues to facilitate a genuine recovery of our economy that begins with supporting our workforce, such as the recovery of our child-care system and getting kids back safely to the classroom.

Courageous leadership can sometimes leave us exposed in times where divisions run deep. No leader wants to draw the ire of social media users. Yet we must be cognizant in today’s hyperbolic environment, where messages are amplified and weighed with even greater scrutiny. As leaders, we must be mindful that our words matter, and so does context.

We’re expected to lead the way on a variety of social issues, from income inequality to climate change. Yes, leaders are expected to weigh in, and to help move us forward.

It is true that any position taken on a social issue can impact the organization’s investors, employees, customers, shareholders and communities. However, taking a stand on behalf of children, families, and seniors is a must. For us as leaders, it is a difficult needle to thread at times, but as leaders we need to embody empathetic leadership now more than ever to navigate the tricky waters that still lie ahead for us all.

Tony Penn is the president and CEO of the United Way of Tucson & Southern Arizona.


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