Russell Richard: Why leadership is so important

Published 11:41 am Wednesday, October 13, 2021

By Russell Richard

When COVID-19 was announced, no one imagined how it would alter our lives. We did not foresee a paradigm shift that would affect everything. In fact, it is difficult to identify anything that has not been affected by the pandemic.

Now, almost two years into the pandemic and with no end in sight, we are still adjusting our work environments and personal lives. We find ourselves at an inflection point with important questions we must answer: What does the moment demand of us? What are we called to do? The current situation creates enormous opportunity for all of us to act, but are we willing to do the work that is needed? What is the work? These questions can be answered in a word, L.E.A.D.

The future depends on us all. We each have an important role to play in shaping the future, and, if we disregard our role, we bear some responsibility for what it becomes. If we are actively involved with issues of the highest importance and we collectively work to create a better future, then the future will indeed be better than the present day because of our efforts. Conversely, if we do nothing, then the future will not be as great as it could be because it lacks our personal contributions.

Let’s be realistic. There are still difficult days ahead and our cultural, social, and economic futures are inextricably linked to how we navigate the challenges of today and the days ahead. So, let’s L.E.A.D.: Leadership, Engagement, Action, Determination.


The present-day that we enjoy was created by leaders of the past; the future we desire will be created by us. That future can be as bright and remarkable as we can imagine it. However, it requires three things: selecting higher-caliber leaders, honing our individual abilities to lead, ensuring our willingness to train those who follow us. Building and maintaining a world-class future is perpetual. The future must be constructed and reconstructed by every generation to satisfy the needs of the times and its citizens. That means we all have work to do. Leadership is not optional, and our deepest conviction should be to leave our community better than we found it or, certainly, no worse.


Our challenges are intractable. They will not be solved quickly or easily; however, it is encouraging to know there are people and organizations working to find solutions to these challenges that affect us all. Notwithstanding, they need our time, talent, and resources, but they also need our ideas, imagination, and creativity. They need people with drive and passion. Find an important cause and devote your whole self to help create solutions. Our challenges may be great, but they are not insurmountable; collectively and collaboratively we can make positive change.


Our future success requires deliberate action by committed, dedicated people with unflinching resolve to create positive change. Leadership is active. Positive outcomes are the result of positive, appropriate action. We are change agents, architects of the future. We cannot predict the future, but we can imagine, influence, and build it. There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we lay aside our differences and focus on our collective interests and future.


Let’s be steadfast. The challenges created by COVID-19 abound, but collectively we have the answers to our challenges. If we are willing to work together with a singular focus, we can overcome the present-day challenges and any challenges that may lie ahead. The future depends on this work. Our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are depending on it. Every generation should work on the behalf of the generations that follow, to ensure they have the best opportunity for success. Today is a starting point for some and what we accomplish in the days ahead depends on how we begin today. Let’s start where we are, use the resources available, and do our best.

Russell Richard, a Lake Charles native is senior vice president for the Center for Houston’s Future in Houston, Texas. He is the author of “Leadership: The View From Here” and “Beyond Words: An Intersection of Philosophy, Inspiration and Poetry.” Contact him at