2012 Global Leadership Summit Session 7b: Geoffrey Canada

Geoffrey Canada - 2012Session 7 – Changing the Odds
Geoffrey Canada

President and CEO,
Harlem Children’s Zone

  • Pioneering leader in urban education and fervent advocate for U.S. education reform
  • Featured in the acclaimed documentary, Waiting for Superman
  • Targeting a 100-block municipal area with educational and social services, the Harlem Children’s Zone has become a model for effective community engagement
  • Coming from the poor and sometimes-violent South Bronx, he graduated with a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Education

Session Notes

  • We have allowed parts of our nation to become areas of hopelessness.
  • You can’t just change the school but must also change the neighborhood.
  • Started with 1 block in Harlem. Then said, “Can we change 2 blocks?”
  • Must start with familys starting at birth.
  • In these communities they hear 1 good message, but the culture gives them 20 negative messages. We need to change the culture.
  • “Tipping point” is where we “reach” 60%-70% to change the culture.
  • Grateful for his grandmother who saved his soul.
  • One of the hardest things is to work really hard and fail and fail publicly.
  • I had to remember that I wasn’t working for our staff, I was working for the kids.
  • Its easy to fire someone who is lazy or disagreeable. It’s much harder to let someone go who is working hard but just not doing the job well.
  • People who like me like me less when I’m raising money.
  • There’s a line where getting the money from someone is actually worse than not getting the money. But it’s hard to see that line when you have no money.
  • I feel a greater sense of urgency. I’ve become more impatient with failure.
  • Succession planning – At American Express, they create a succession plan the moment the new CEO comes in.
  • If you want to attract a potential successor, you’ve got to tell them when you’re leaving.
  • I believe we are on a path towards victory, but you never know at what point on the path you are.  Some people fight there entire lives without seeing progress.
  • It’s easy to have faith when everything is going great. The real test of faith is when you’re facing something that only your faith in God will get you through.
  • You are being watched all the time. You compromise either once.
  • When a leader has a moral failure it hurts everyone in a similar place of leadership.

What impacted you from this session?  What action will you take as a result?

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