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Your loyalty is to the mission alone

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in Leaders & Managers

When the citizens of Richmond,Va., overwhelmingly decided to switch from a “weak mayor” to a “strong mayor” government and picked former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder to run it, he responded by pledging allegiance to the city and nothing else.

Now that he’s in, Wilder pursues his own agenda. He fired the city manager and police chief. Famously independent, he is scrutinizing the pet projects of the very business leaders who supported him. Every week sees a high-level departure from a city agency, amid talk about the whole agency’s fate.

Not only the magnitude but also the speed of the changes underscore Wilder’s independence. Of that, one local columnist wrote:

“Rule No. 1: Doug Wilder owes only Doug Wilder.

“Rule No. 2: Doug Wilder will not do anything unless it benefits him or his cause (in the current case, the city of Richmond).

“Rule No. 3: See Rules 1 and 2.”

“The good thing about him,” adds a longtime executive, “is that he isn’t loyal to anyone.”

Lesson: What actions would you take if you owed your loyalty to no one except your organization?

— Adapted from “Wilder’s Last Crusade,” Rob Gurwitt, Governing.

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