Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with
David J Harrison
helps you in your leadership.
David J Harrison
Name: David J Harrison
Title: President and Founder
Organisation: Harrison TDM
Association Board Director and privately operated public mass transit General Manager. Successful at increasing profits and membership (individuals and businesses) and implementing effective turnarounds. B2B and B2i sales and support. In addition, I have consistently developed strategies and managed teams that turned failing programs around and maintained multi-cycle contracts across several states. As an Association Board Director, I have served on various governing boards, including the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) national board and the Georgia state board of the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association.
(ALS). In addition, I excel at defining an organization's mission, vision, and purpose while ensuring that these values are internally applied from top to bottom and back up again. Finally, I love helping people & firms be their best! I have also worked with local, municipal, county, state, and federal government agencies and stakeholders to successfully refine laws, policies, and regulations consistent with an organization's needs and the communities they serve. These activities have been performed through service on local planning commissions and direct work with various levels of legislative staff, from elected officials to line staff experts, to craft appropriate language.
As a General Manager, I have direct experience procuring and managing contracts from concept to operating programs in federal, state, local, and private sectors. My achievements have included advocating for, designing, and implementing technical solutions to keep people doing their best: working with others. I have always tried to operate as a Servant Leader. With experience spanning over 30 years in both Non-Profit and Private Profit corporations and government contracting at the Local, State, and National levels, I am also an experienced General Manager and Sales/Marketing Professional.
I have actively managed the pipeline from prospecting through bidding and securing profitable contracts with net revenue generation of over $2MM each, including multiple operations in several states. Additionally, I have taken privately operated public mass transit projects from concept and startup through mature processes while building teams to run them. David is an avid photographer and graphics artist. His portfolio includes over 30,000 images. Published works have been used in textbooks, non-profit organization marketing materials, newspapers, and trade association publications. In short, a well-rounded ENTJ.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
The most challenging thing I have faced is resetting an organization so used to the concept of "this is how it has always been done here" to the exclusion of new ideas and people. A mix of fresh, old, and borrowed ideas produces the best combination and the most growth for any organization.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
That's a long story! In short, going back to grammar school, I have always risen to leadership positions, even if I've only sometimes not been the first one selected. This was true in JROTC and when I started working full-time at age 17. In my earliest career, I always took every opportunity and excelled. With my earlier background in leadership (the most challenging group to lead were always schoolmates, who often were older than me), I could readily lead, mentor, and coach staff into ever better places than they had started with me.
This continued throughout my career at the University of Illinois (from Student Employee through Civil Service Chief Clerk and Coordinator of Traffic) and when I moved to Georgia and took interim positions (starting as a Lot Security Officer and ending as a Director of Parking and Traffic) was hired by a new Chrysler Corporation Division, VPSI (rising from Project Manager to Program Manager, eventually over multiple Programs in multiple states). The same guiding principles of always hiring people who know more than you do at something, and stay out of their way, and supporting them worked well there, as well as in my positions with Board membership on the ALS Association of Georgia and the Association for Commuter Transportation. This also helped while working with VPSI in developing its new strategic vision and mission and ensuring that subordinate goals and objectives are tied directly into each other from the top of the food chain to the bottom and back up again.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
The first thing I do upon waking is to take my required medications and then switch to my role of caregiver and ensure that my wife gets her medications and has a freshly prepared meal. Next are the pet component (I am the Guardian of the Dears). I get some exercise walking up and down the stairs between the main level and my basement office, doing laundry, and the like. And, of course, any errands I need to do and housecleaning. (My wife is immunocompromised due to the chemo she gets for her Rhemoatooid Arthritis and Asthma, a fresh course every two weeks, she is not very strong and has difficulty walking from the bedroom to her office in the den, some 20 feet away, so I try to pick up the slack.) Usually, by then, its time to start my workday at about noon, and then I am at it until about 9 pm—reports, then back to cooking and cleaning. I get to bed usually around 1-2 am. Then start it all over again.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
A recent lesson revisited is one I received from one of my uplines, "you aren't alone. All you have to do is ask." One is seldom an island of one. Others know more about something than you do, and the hardest thing to do is sometimes to remember to ask.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
"My Early Life" by Winston S. Churchill. I latched on to this book at a young age and kept reading and re-reading it. The most powerful lesson I learned from it was that despite any supposed benefits coming from birth or position (I had neither), making the most of where you might find yourself (he did so poorly in school that he was forced only to study English, rather than the Latin and Greek a scholar would typically pursue at the time) and to take advantage of what skills and wits you had about you (he could "play toy soldiers," so he ended up applying to Sandhurst, the English Military College/Academy) and then maximizing what experience could throw his way (always seeking postings to the front and battle.) I have always tried to apply those principles to my life - make the best of where you are, learn by doing, and when a new task appears (especially if people don't want to), embrace it and learn.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Especially when posting to a new position, LISTEN. Your instinct might be to push people around and demonstrate authority, but that is a LONG way from leadership. LISTEN to your staff and what they tell you. They should be comfortable enough, to be honest with you. A lesson I learned from JROTC (there was a crawl line in the Drill Hall on a small display above the lectern) was "Leadership is the ability to elicit the willing obedience of those under your influence." Keyword WILLING. Be that type of leader!
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
A fundamental principle is to know your WHY. This could be (and should include) WHY do you like a particular field? WHY is what you do meaningful in promoting not only the goals of the organization but your own goals as well? If you aren't helping your team promote their personal and organizational goals, WHY NOT? Believe in what you do and the way that you deliver it. If not, WHY NOT? If you aren't aligned? CHANGE IT.
This was how I got involved in revising the strategic planning initiative for my organization at VPSI. The trick? Regardless of where you find yourself in the particular food chain of where you are now, the goal is always to find someone who can say "yes." Anyone in an organization can be approached. It's just a matter of when and how!