You don’t often you find yourself face to face with a bona fide community icon. Even more interesting, I found myself at this particular community icon’s kitchen table. Invited.
This summer, I was given an interesting writing assignment. I was to do four interviews with Jim Leventis, one of the founders of First Community Bank, to fuel a blog series about leadership. As a mostly-native Columbian I knew of Jim, but I really didn’t know much about him. So, in the days leading up to the first interview, I absorbed a lot of information about the many, many career and community service accomplishments of Jim Leventis.
The son, political candidate, USC graduate, entrepreneur, Eagle Scout, fraternity brother and all around hard worker had a career that launched with the Brennen Elementary School Safety Patrol and actually never ended, even though he formally retired in 2009. By the time I learned about the blue bandana, his backyard farming aspirations and the stand-up desk, it was clear. I was delving into the memories and experiences of a Midlands legend. Not only that, I had to organize those hours of great stories, opinions and experiences, and then share them with the rest of the world.
I learned so much in those hours of interviewing this summer. I would often find myself swimming in his stories, listening rather than taking notes or formulating follow-up questions. I enjoyed getting to know him, his wife Laura and, in one later interview, their daughter Laurie, one of their four accomplished children. That I got to experience his earnest honesty, homespun pluck and mindful drive first hand are gifts I will forever cherish.
The series, called Lessons in Leadership, has much to offer whether you approach it as a manager, employer, dreamer, parent, activist or community volunteer. Six posts strong already, the series will continue on into the next year.
I now understand Jim Leventis is a rare breed, both a community and business leader. His methods of achieving success — both personally and professionally — are simple and effective. Listening intently. Working diligently. Caring for fellow community members. Inspiring others. Showing, not just saying.
These lessons aren’t being shared to glorify him or his legacy. It’s actually far simpler than that. Lessons in Leadership is for the up-and-coming generation of community volunteers, business people and community members that will work to leave Columbia better than they found it.
That single, noble goal is the purpose shared by generation after generation of Leventises. Isn’t it a goal we all could stand to embrace a little tighter?