Contributor: John David Mann
You’ve heard it said that “leaders are readers.” Not all in leadership positions would agree. (As President Schwarzenegger says in The Simpsons Movie, “I vass elected to leaaad. Not to reaaad.”) But the mayor of Longview Texas takes a long view on leadership — and reading has just become a central strategy in his civic leadership toolbox.
Longview is a booming little city. Two hours east of Dallas and an hour west from Shreveport, Louisiana, it manages to hold its own quite fine. Considered a major hub for the entire region, its Amtrak station is the second busiest in all of Texas. The economy is thriving, and has been so, even in tough times. In 2014, Forbes magazine ranked Longview as the sixth fastest-growing small city in the United States.
You can’t help wondering if its relative prosperity has to do with its governing values.
Longview likes to invest in its people. (All roughly 81,000 of them.) The city designates approximately 10 percent of its annual budget toward community services that directly benefit its youth. Its public school system is its third largest employer. In 2008 and again in 2011, Longview was named one of the “Top 100 Best Communities for Young People” by American’s Promise Alliance.
Some famous people come from there. Matthew McConaughey is from Longview. Forest Whitaker, too. So is Miranda Lambert. So is Andy Mack.
Wait — Andy who?
Andy Mack. A surgeon with an active practice in Longview, Andy is a native of the city. Since May of this year he has also been its mayor (a volunteer position), and will be for the next three years.
Which brings me to that leadership strategy.
Mayor Mack has done something fascinating. To help lift the city, he has started a city-wide Mayor’s Book Club, the idea being that if the citizens of the city and he study an uplifting book together, perhaps they can help lift the city even further.
The first book Mayor Mack will be studying together with the people of Longview is The Go-Giver.
“I recently read a great book called The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It got me to thinking: This would be a great thing to share with the city council, and the city staff. Then I thought, This would be a great thing to share with the citizens of Longview.
“So, we’re going to try something new — start a book club.
“We’re going to discuss it once a week in a new Facebook group titled Mayor Mack’s Book Club. I would hope that you would all read it and this will help our city become a better city.”
These days we’re hearing a lot about people who are trying to tap into billions of dollars to campaign for president. I don’t know how much was spent on Andy Mack’s mayoral campaign, but given that the position itself is voluntary and he finances it through his own medical practice, my guess is: less than a billion.
Mayor Mack is proving that it doesn’t take a war chest of billions to create positive change. Sit down with your people and read a good book together.
What a radical idea!
John David Mann is the New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Red Circle, Among Heroes, Flash Foresight and The Go-Giver. His Take the Lead (with Betsy Myers) was named by Tom Peters and the Washington Post as Best Leadership Book of 2011. He is also Editor-in-Chief Emeritus for Networking Times.