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VOL. 35 | NO. 24 | Friday, June 17, 2011

Road trips strike right chord for leadership

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The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, as I wrote last month, conducts leadership study missions in which various community leaders embark upon a pilgrimage to a different city in order to observe and understand defined practices and policies of these communities.

Certainly each mission yields its own fruits, but few have been as productive as the visit to Denver two years and three cities ago. It was there that Mayor Dean was exposed to regional cooperation shared among the different municipalities in the Denver and the structure of the regional partnership. As a result of the trip, Mayor Dean formed the Regional Caucus of Mayors, an initiative lauded by the leadership of Nashville’s surrounding counties.

Additionally, the delegation was educated as to the value that a convention center can bring to a city. Obviously that presentation did not fall on deaf ears. And we have the cranes to prove it, although negotiations were well under way.

Foremost, many were curious about Denver’s mass transit. Ed Cole, who was the director of environment and planning for the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), also participated in the study mission. He has since left his position at TDOT and was appointed as executive director of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee.

“We were interested in Denver because we felt the city and the region were size that Nashville would be in the next 10 to 15 years,” Cole recalls. “We learned that the first step was form a caucus of mayors that would work together on this endeavor.”

The second step according to Cole was to “form a transit alliance of members of the private sector and leaders from the non-profit community that would support public official when the time came to dedicate funds for mass transit.”

Also in attendance was Don Klein, chief executive officer of the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors (GNAR) and a longtime proponent of mass transit. There is often a pool collected as to how long it will take Klein to ask the “mass transit question.”

Don Klein and his association are not likely to sit on their hands on issues of this magnitude. So, Tuesday, the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee received a $10,000 grant from the Greater Nashville association of Realtors.

This grant will be used to help fund Transit Leadership Academy, a joint venture of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee and the Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership at Lipscomb University. The check was presented by GNAR President Alice Walker who spoke of the value of the alliance and the Leadership Academy.

With apologies to Rolling Stones fans, there always seems to be a Beatles correlation to any important event and the same to true in this case. It seems that when John Lennon and Paul McCartney were in their late teens, early in their partnership, that they heard that a certain lad across town in Liverpool had mastered a new chord on the guitar. That chord was a B7.

While Lennon and McCartney had written scores of songs by then, neither could read music. Nor did they possess an understanding of the structure of the music. They knew all the major chords and most minors, but the B7 was new territory. They caught a bus through the city and arranged a meeting where they learned the chord.

About 40 years after that day, famed guitar instructor Gary Talley of the 1960s band the Box Tops (Cry Like a Baby, The Letter), was teaching one of his students how to play the Beatles’ song I Want to Hold Your Hand. As he listened to the song in order to learn the chords, he noticed that the song followed standard chord progressions up to the “I’ll think you’ll understand” line. He could not determine the chord for the word “understand.” He rewound the CD several times in attempts to configure a chord that would work. Finally, it came to him. It was B7.

So, not only did the Beatles hear of a new development and seek to understand it, they incorporated into their work, thereby making it fresh and original.

Understandably, Music City leaders are following this musical example. The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce locates the B7 and takes their Lennon/McCartney’s to that locale and exposes them to the new information. In Denver, the B7 resonated and Karl Dean, Ralph Schultz, Don Klein and Ed Cole formed a new Fab Four and are presenting a new movement to the area, the Mass Transit Invasion.

Richard Courtney is a broker with Pilkerton Realtors and the author of Come Together: The Business Wisdom of the Beatles. He can be reached at richard@richardcourtney.com.

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