Leadership guru John Maxwell has noted, “Great vision precedes great achievement.” The leader’s vision clarifies for the team what “hill” they are trying to climb. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, a leader and war hero during World War II, wrote that “every single soldier must know, before he goes into battle, how the little battle he is to fight fits into the larger picture, and how the success of his fighting will influence the battle as a whole.” When there is clarity of purpose and people know their role in accomplishing the purpose, you have a well aligned team poised for success. Part of vision casting is painting a picture of what is possible and providing hope that the objective can be accomplished.
I recently visited with Dr. Kristi Hendrix, who is executive director of Midtown Partners Inc., a non-profit organization whose mission is to transform the lives of Midtown Jackson residents by building resident capacity, expanding opportunities and serving as a catalyst for improving the quality of life. This entity is the result of a merger in 2010 of North Midtown Community Development Corporation and Good Samaritan Midtown. Hendrix and her team of 28 employees are making a substantial difference in Jackson and the lives of people in the Midtown neighborhood. Hendrix’s training is in the world of education, but her true passion is community development. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Mississippi, a master’s from Mississippi State and her Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi in educational leadership.
Hendrix’s experience includes working in community mental health, assisting the Band of Choctaws with their Head Start program and serving as a national educational consultant. In 2007, Hendrix and her family moved to Madison, and she joined Good Samaritan Midtown as executive director. Under her leadership, Midtown Partners has expanded significantly to serve the 2,400 residents of this community. What struck me about Hendrix was her “can do’ attitude and the vision that she had for her organization. Midtown Partners’ services range from child care to workforce development to Meals with Wheels for seniors. The organization’s key focus areas are education, economic security, community engagement, economic development and housing and health. They are also pioneering an exciting “creative economy” project with the Mississippi Arts Commission and Millsaps College.
Several things stand out to me about Hendrix’s success and leadership. First, Hendrix actively seeks out the “best of the best” solutions from around the country to solve the challenges in Midtown. Her team finds successful programs wherever they may be and adapts them to the local needs. This has allowed the organization to create first-class programs and not “reinvent the wheel.” In addition, Hendrix knows that her team can’t do everything themselves so they have built extensive partnerships with numerous organizations. Partnerships are never easy, but Hendrix knows the value in good partnerships so her organization is highly intentional about creating and nurturing these relationships. Finally, Hendrix has the drive and passion to make a difference. She helps unlock the potential of her team and the residents of the area by her enthusiasm and vision.
It is easy to just sit around and complain about the problems that exist in our state. I am excited to see leaders like Hendrix who have the courage to tackle the challenges head on and create real positive change. If we simply take the attitude that it is someone else’s problem then nothing will ever change. It takes bold people of vision and action to create a better future. I hope more leaders like Hendrix and her team will rise up to work together to help our state reach its potential.
Up Close With Dr. Kristi Hendrix
Title: Executive director, Midtown Partners Inc.
Favorite Books: I really enjoyed Max De Pree’s Leading Without Power
First Job: “I served as a volunteer at a nursing home.”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “I am so proud of the leaders that are developing in the Midtown area, and I am extremely excited about the programs and successes yet to come.”