Leadership Lessons from the Mayor Who Put an Obese City on a Diet by Tanya Benedicto Klich at Entrepreneur.com on 17 January 2014.

An article on how Mayor Mick Cornett took Oklahoma City from being listed as one of America’s ten fattest cities to one of America’s ten fittest cities.  Those of you who have read Chip and Dan Heath’s book ‘Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard’ will see how the mayor was very successful at leading change:

  • Direct the Rider (intellectual component) – pointed to the destination (a city that’s one million pounds lighter, being removed from the list of America’s fattest cities)
  • Motivate the Elephant (emotional component) – spreading the weight loss over an entire city, making a public announcement (the citizens didn’t complain when a 1% tax hike was introduced to support the initiative)
  • Shape the Path (the way ahead) – this is where he excelled.  He added wider sidewalks, bike routes and parks to encourage physical activity.  He created a website to ensure group accountability.  He also worked with local business to offer a greater range of healthy eating alternatives.  This in turn led to an increase in business for fitness-related businesses.

The article’s author provides four reasons why the mayor was so successful:

  • He led by example (his own weight loss)
  • He set a clearly defined goal (there’s just something about 1M that makes it magical)
  • He kept the budget in mind
  • He stayed true to his message, even if it’s a tougher stance to take.

A person made a city lose 1 million pounds of their own free will, and they even happily paid an extra 1% tax to do it.  That, my friends, is leadership and change management in action.

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