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I have worked with CEOs for more than 35 years as an Executive Coach. It’s a wonderful profession and I find great joy in being around decisive leaders who fire up their staff and gather support for their vision. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a team led by a wise leader who cares about them as can rally the people around a common goal. These types of leaders get things done, push through obstacles with passion and have a high level of integrity in dealing with people and issue. They leave behind legacies that books are written about and used for leadership development in others.

I’ve also worked with some who struggled to lead. Some who were weak and relied on others around them to do the heavy lifting. Those were the ones who lacked courage usually due to some internal fears that kept them in their office while others close to him/her managed the business and the people. Those leaders were making a tragic mistake. They were turning over their company to someone without a vested interest in it. Someone who could walk out the door, leave a mess behind and would never be held responsible for the collateral damage they had made in the business or the lives associated with the company. These types of leaders were also written in books — to encourage others “how not to run a business.”

As I watch Mayor Curry and his “leadership style,” I see a man who desires to lead and yet is handing over the reigns to others. Others who were not elected by the people. Others who have no vested interest other than their own. Others who hold their heads high in pride and believe they are smarter and wiser than him (and us). Others leading him down a path that might destroy his career but will not destroy theirs. It’s painful to watch as an Executive Coach. It is more painful to watch as a citizen of this wonderful city I love.

In the last few months we have seen too many stories about the men around the Mayor: Brian Hughes, Sam Mousa and Tim Baker — to name a few. They are creating problems for the Mayor and he’s letting them do it.

Brian Hughes who once was the Mayor’s Campaign Manager is now one of the top paid Administrators in our City. Brian Hughes is unqualified for the job and has been accused of using bullying tactics to get agendas done. Bullying tactics are used by campaign consultants and should NEVER be used by a City Administrator.

Sam Mousa was handed a single source contract of $120,000 a year with the Mayor to help him lead AFTER he recently retired from the same gig as an employee. In our world we would call that double dipping. Yet the Mayor excuses it and poo poos away dissent.

The most recent breaking news is Sam has ALSO been approved by the Mayor to work with the Jaguars as a consultant. So Sam Mousa will get money from the city to help the Mayor, money from his city retirement and money from the Jaguars who negotiate with the city on contractual issues. Plus there are rumors Sam has a gig with Florida Power & Light who is interested in purchasing JEA. The optics on these stories are dangerous and highly disturbing and MUST be investigated by the State’s Attorney. MUST!

Ad let us not forget, Tim Baker and Sam Mousa were caught trying to shake down the school board for a huge consulting contract too. When that came out in the news, bullying tactics were used against the school board instead of fessing up to their wrong doing.

Plus — the JEA board filled with the Mayor’s friends who recently created news that kept our heads spinning trying to keep up — for instance…

The board puts out for bid — a new building for JEA. Then immediately thereafter we hear they are considering selling JEA, laying off people, raising rates, and hiring consultants to work with the CEO because the utility is imploding. (Yet we are building a new facility?) At the same time they are discussing layoffs, the CEO was handed a huge $520,000 contract plus other benefits. And the CEO is a friend of the Mayor’s who was not the most qualified candidate for the job. Imagine how that looks to the people employed at JEA and the rate payers who pay their JEA bills every month. Mind-boggling.

And what does the Mayor say about all these “stories?” He applauds them. He stands with all these guys who are his friends and at the end of the day — have nothing to lose. To top it off, he gets mad when others point out “this doesn’t look good, right or ethical.”

That is what weak leaders do.

You see friends, weak leaders must stand with those who are doing the work or they will have to come out of hiding and do it himself. And here’s the issue with that: “He can’t do the job. He doesn’t know how. He wasn’t qualified for it. He was appointed by the string holders. His mask has fallen off.”

The results of a leader in hiding is this: He loses respect. He can be taken down when the others’ antics are exposed by investigations. He can ultimately lose everything. And the collateral damage for Jacksonville residents is waiting to be seen.

I’m watching from afar and doing what I can by pointing out these issues. It’s not that I have a vendetta against the Mayor. I don’t. He and I did great things together at one time in the past. I have a desire to see him succeed and finally see the truth about the situation he is in. There is always hope he will find the courage to stand up and do the right things. And one of those “right things” should be to clean house and cut the strings that bind him.

Hint to Mayor Curry: You don’t need to stand up to us. We are not your enemies.

Mayor Curry tweets a lot of scripture verses and I’ll offer one up to him today: “Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

He may be devoured by them and books will be written about his legacy… “How not to Lead a City: The Story of Jacksonville, Florida.”

NOTE to Mayor Curry: There are many others who have successful business experiences, strong leadership qualities, and deep roots who care about Jacksonville’s success and yours. I am certain they would be happy to coach you on the optics of these stories and help you stand up and snip those strings. They’ve had their own wolves to contend with and will make suggestions to protect you. You just need to ask for help. And great leaders are not afraid to ask.

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Billie Tucker Volpe Founder of Eye on Jacksonville and Leadership Consultant to CEOs/Executives

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