By LISA WHALEY
For Adam Dickson, Leadership Tennessee is just one more step on his journey to become a better servant leader.
“The guiding force I guess for my life has been service,” explained Dickson, who is not only vice mayor of Jonesborough, but also director of the historic Langston Centre in Johnson City. “(It’s been) the idea of being a servant leader. The idea of giving back and trying to lead in such a way that you are working with people, you’re helping people, you are empowering people.”
As part of that quest, Dickson was excited to be chosen this month by Leadership Tennessee to become a member of its 2020 Class VIII, a group of 38 movers and shakers from across Tennessee whose goal is to honestly assess and look for solutions to the state’s current challenges.
“Now more than ever, we need to facilitate constructive engagement and discussion in Tennessee to support future success and prosperity,” said Leadership Tennessee Executive Director Cathy Cate in last week’s announcement of the new class. Leadership Tennessee is an initiative of the College of Leadership and Public Service at Lipscomb University.
It is also a project in which Dickson has high hopes.
“These folks (in Class VIII) are people that are CEOs and mid to senior managers across the state from some of the most important employers like Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Eastman, Bristol Motor Speedway, TVA, Erlanger,” Dickson said. “These are some very accomplished individuals.”
“It was humbling and it’s an honor in my mind to be in their company. We hope to have constructive conversations in a very non-partisan atmosphere about serious issues affecting the state of Tennessee and how as leaders can we address these issues.”
Though the group will begin meeting officially in January, Dickson said he had already been a part of a preliminary call and was gratified at what he witnessed.
“It was relevant, it was fresh, it was instructive,” he said. “The participants were very interracial, very respectful.”
In the coming year, he said, “I’m hoping to grow a network of individuals throughout the state; stakeholders, movers and shakers, people who really want to find sensible solutions to serious issues.”
Sensible, workable solutions are the key, Dickson said.
“I think it is important at this stage of where we are as a country, we’ve got to connect in terms of sensible solutions,” he explained. “There has to be some degree of – it’s a dirty word in today’s society – but there has to be some compromise as to how we deal with healthcare, education. . . any of these issues that affect our society.
“I want to interact with people who have that like mind. I want to interact with people who listen, who are willing to hear various perspectives and people who also understand that there is a need to find a consensus on some of these issues.”
Dickson believes this network will not only benefit the state, but also those he works with day in and day out in both Jonesborough and Johnson City.
“The Leadership Tennessee experience will make me, I believe, a better listener; it will make me a better consensus builder. It will make me a better collaborator.”
This goal to serve, to make a difference, is something he places directly at the feet of his parents, Fred and Evelyn Dickson.
“It was Fred Dickson that taught me how to treat people and to treat people the way you want to be treated. And respect people,” Dickson said. “Now my mother, on the other side, Evelyn, she was the one who taught me to trust in the Lord. And as we were reading the Bible, as you’re growing in your faith, you begin to realize that Jesus was the perfect servant leader. It is that blend of real world experience from father, but also spiritual teaching from mother that shapes me.”
It is by their example, as well, that Dickson hopes to not only learn to truly listen to others, but to encourage others to listen to and work with each other.
“One of the things we suffer from in today’s society is we don’t understand the need for collaborative leadership,” Dickson said. “And so when you have this network of people across the state and you have sharp minds that are able to look at an issue, there comes a point in time where you may have initiated the meeting, you may have initiated the conversation, you may have a roadmap of how to reach a goal, but at some point in time, one of these other people that you are interacting with, they are going to say ‘Instead of making that left turn, I think we need to go straight.’
“Or maybe we need to make a right turn. Or maybe we need to back up and get on the interstate as opposed to staying on the highway. And you’ve got to allow for those changes to take place. It all can’t rest on one person.”
(As part of six candidates who have filed for a seat on Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor & Aldermen to be voted on in November, Dickson is seeking re-election to the board. Look for more articles on candidates Jason A. Greenlee, Terry Countermine (incumbent), Fred F. Kemp, Bill Graham and Lucas Schmidt, as well as the upcoming election itself, in upcoming issues of the Herald & Tribune.)