Monday, October 25, 2010

Cowtown History and the Cowboys

Last Wednesday I walked the three blocks east from Trinity over the the Will Rogers Memorial Center to give the invocation for a meeting of the Tarrant County Historical Commission.  While I know some of my pastor friends don't really enjoy doing these sorts of public events I see them as a good opportunity to meet people and network in the community.  Additionally, they provide a reminder to the community that the historic congregations and denominations are by no means dead in the community, for if I don't do it, someone else will.

This was the first time I had been inside the Will Rogers Coliseum.  It is an art-deco masterpiece built as part of the 1930's celebration of Fort Worth and also in honor of Will Rogers by his friend (and Fort Worth baron) Amon Carter.  It was a public works project of magnificent proportions for the time, and still allows the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo to be one of the premier events of its kind in the world.  This was the first rodeo to ever be on radio and television live thanks to Amon Carter's NBC affiliate, WBAC (known affectionately as "We Bring A Program").

So what does this excursion into history have to do with leadership in Fort Worth or anywhere for that matter?  Well the speaker spoke about how the leaders of the community have striven, been victorious and often failed to promote and build up Fort Worth, while also preserving its significant history.  The leadership lesson I took away was that so often as a leader you will lose your initial goal.  Your vision, whether it be to build a Coliseum, or to preserve a historic building, will have to be flexible and subject to change.  To do anything in a public arena you must be willing to change your initial plan.  You cannot control everything.

Some might see this as being a flip-flopper, but the principle of the matter is key.  You must decide what is the key thing you will fight for, what will you lay it on the line for.  To lead effectively, to preserve buildings, to build buildings/organizations, you must be willing to lose some battles to win.  The wisdom of those who built Fort Worth, although imperfect, was to know they couldn't win them all.  Fort Worth never became Dallas, although in the 30's they might have hoped it would, but in the long run they created a livable city with significant history and culture.  Is it a perfect place?  By no means.  But the wisdom of those who are trying to preserve it is to make sure we do not lose those things that connect us to that past, while moving us toward a significant vision for the future of Cowtown which includes the dramatic Trinity River Vision.  (see  To do this, the vision must be flexible and compromises must be made.

In contrast to this vision of allowing for compromise, recognizing that absolute control isn't the road to success, are the Dallas Cowboys (who just happen to be playing MNF tonight).  Tonight they introduced Jerry Jones as Owner/President/General Manager.  While some might debate me on this, I would argue that the lack of success the Cowboys have had over the past 10 years is directly proportional to the control that Jerry has exerted over his team.  He has not allowed for others to have significant control and I believe that has stifled creativity and created a culture in which pleasing Jerry, not winning football games, is the most important goal.  While I still root for the 'boys, I do not hold out much hope for their long term success until Jerry relaxes some control, allows for creativity and flexibility.  So long as his vision is of himself holding the Lombardi Trophy able to claim that he, and he alone, is responsible for the success that vision will never come to pass.

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