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7 More Questions on Leadership with David J Harrison

Name: David J Harrison

Title: Founder

Organisation: Harrison TDM

With over 30 years of experience in supporting community needs and infrastructure issues, I also have a proven track record of increasing profits and memberships, implementing effective turnarounds, and managing successful contracts from concept to operation. I am a nationally recognized subject matter expert in public/private partnerships and transportation demand management. I have worked with multiple levels of government and stakeholders to refine laws, policies, and regulations. I have served on various governing boards, including the Association for Commuter Transportation and the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association, where I have helped define and align the organization's mission, vision, and purpose. I love helping people and firms be their best!

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

We’ve gone through the interviews and asked the best of the best to come back and answer 7 MORE Questions on Leadership.

I hope David's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. As a leader, how do you build trust with employees, customers and other stakeholders?

First by listening more than I speak. Next by just being myself and interacting frequently with everyone. I make it often enough that it's not a case of "Oh my, am I in trouble?" it's more a case of "Hi, you're back!"

2. What do 'VISION' and 'MISSION' mean to you? And what does it actually look like to use them in real-world business?

Vision is the definition of why you as an organization exist. The mission is the defined concrete steps to get there. It is essential that these values are internalized. Everyone from the factory floor to the Board has what they do tied directly to the mission and vision. It it is a working document that becomes a lifestyle to guide decisions every day.

3. How can a leader empower the people they're leading?

Authority commensurate with responsibility. Don't micro manage. Guide, but only when asked for assistance. You must allow people to DECIDE THEMSELVES. Sure, mistakes will be made, but each mistake is a chance to learn. And you'll probably be delighted at the end results.

4. Who are some of the coaches or mentors in your life who have had a positive influence on your leadership? Can you please tell a meaningful story about one of them?

I have previously mentioned the influences of leaders such as CW4 Lesch and MSG Mautner. Another strong influence was a Supervisor I had, Mr. Farnsworth. Hammond Organ had employed him. He had spent his last years in charge of the tool crib for the manufacturing operation. I met him when he was close to a second retirement from the University of Illinois Parking Department. What he taught me was the power of morale. We were packed, 5 staff, floor to ceiling file cabinets and you could only get through by having chairs shoved under our desks as you couldn't open a file cabinet if a staff member was seated at a desk. So Mr.Farnsworth would whistle. We'd join in. He'd tell truly awful jokes. We learned to appreciate the humor. We'd talk about everything from girlfriends to politics. Productivity was through the roof. We should have been miserable. But Mr.Farnsworth taught me how to make work a pleasure rather than a toil. Priceless!

5. Leadership is often more about what you DON'T do. How do you maintain focus in your role?

By delegation. This gives you the ability to focus on things only you can do. Then avoid the temptation to keep asking "are we there yet?" Good people will let you know if they've arrived or if they're blocked somehow.

6. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Everyone plans differently. How do you plan for the week, month and years ahead in your role?

I start with the vision. It's akin to a dream. I then back into the store needed to get there. I add granularity proportional to the length of time remaining to reach a milestone. The shorter the timeframe, the greater the granularity. Edit the written plan regularly. It's a living document!

7. What advice would you give to a young leader who is struggling to delegate effectively?

Embrace that no matter how gifted you might be, you cannot do everything by yourself. Accept that you might not know as much as you think you do, especially if there are team members with years of experience on your crew. It's ok to ask for opinions. This doesn't mean you must manage by consensus. Opinions can guide you, particularly if there's a system in place that works. Have the faith to let go, and let your team handle particulars for you. You can always revise the procedures if need be. You can all learn together. Mistakes WILL be made. Congratulations. Your team (as well as you) are human! Now, go ahead and delegate. See what works. Fine-tune if necessary. Delegate! Now you can do stuff only you can do!

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