Monday, April 21, 2014

The Only Way Big Things Happen

My all-time favorite quote about leadership:

"You surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere as long as the overall policy that you've decided upon is being carried out."
- Ronald Reagan

Admittedly, it may not be the best idea to quote Ronald Reagan two months before a Democratic Primary, but the quote stands up against partisan scrutiny.

I was thinking of this quote as I attended the ribbon cutting of 3D Maryland last week.  I had been invited by my friend Alan and was so glad I went.  It was inspiring.  From Amanda Yeager's article in The Baltimore Sun:

3D Maryland, the HCEDA initiative that is coordinating 3D printing projects in the county, plans to use the new space to offer workshops, seminars, classes and personalized training for businesses and individuals interested in learning more. 

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said the lab put Howard County "on the leading edge of what many are calling the next industrial revolution."

I consider myself pretty tuned in on what's going on around the County, but I had no idea this was in the works.  In fact, I had never been to the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship off Bendix Road between routes 108 and 100.  The air feels charged over there (although that very well may be related to some endeavor by a local entrepreneur).  If you follow the line of thought that Maryland's next Fortune 500 company needs to be grown locally as opposed to enticed from afar, this is the type of place where you would expect that to happen.

Throughout the ribbon cutting ceremony, attended by probably 200 people, we heard the name "Jan Baum".  Jan was a professor at Towson University's 3D printing lab before being hired as the director of the 3D Initiative here.  When it was her turn to speak, it was clear that she not only knew the science and engineering backwards and forwards, but she also knew the industry and its future.  She talked about collaborative meetings at the lab between Under Armour and Black + Decker.  While engaging and informative, listening to Jan speak you got the feeling that this whole presentation was just taking time away from some amazing exciting things that were moving in the background.

This is our County Executive's greatest skill set and why he has cross-partisan appeal.  Whether they be Republicans, Democrats, cross-industry transplants, or unproven staffers, Ken Ulman repeatedly hires the best people available, delegates, and leaves them alone to make it work.

This should be the aspiration of any executive - make good decisions early on in the process and don't interfere after that.  We're not yet at the point where we can call 3D Maryland anything other than an "initiative", but based on the track record we have in Howard County, I'm confident it will be a success.

Have a great Monday doing what you love!