As I go through life, I find that there are “basement people” who drag you down in life and there are “balcony people” who lift you up and encourage you to be your very best. Great leaders are balcony people who help lift the vision of those around them. They see what people are capable of and help them “unleash their greatness.” Balcony people go through life seeing where they can make a difference – and they DO IT! Dr. Cindy Townsend is a great balcony leader who leaves you feeling motivated about life after being around her.
Townsend is a Jackson native and serves as the director of Jackson Preparatory School’s Global Leadership Institute. She obtained an undergraduate and master’s degree from Mississippi College before going to earn a Master’s and Doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. In her professional career, she has extensive experience as a writer, speaker, and ministry leader.
She shared, “The Global Leadership Institute was formally established in the fall of 2008. The dimensions of the program were actually created when I lived in Texas before serving at Jackson Prep.” The program evolved as Townsend was working on her doctorate in leadership administration and servant leadership.
When Townsend’s family moved back to Mississippi, Head of School, Susan Lindsay, and the Board of Trustees asked her to customize what I had developed to meet the needs of Prep’s students. The Institute was the first of its kind in the state of Mississippi, and it was recognized by former Gov. Haley Barbour with an official Proclamation in 2008. The goal of the Institute is “to cultivate leadership in all students by encouraging them to discover their unique personalities and giftedness and helping them pursue lives of service to their community and beyond.”
As a leader, Townsend stresses four important principles. She believes in the value of teamwork and collaboration for a more productive and creative outcome. She teaches that great leaders choose to do hard things on a consistent basis, and they do the right thing the right way with the right motive. Finally, she emphasizes that discipline is the difference between good and great! Her philosophy on leadership is that, “Great leaders encourage the heart and stimulate the mind of those they lead. They challenge people to accomplish the desired tasks with intelligence, creativity, and heart-felt purpose and passion.” In her work, she encourages young leaders to find their passion, work hard, play hard, and remember life is not about having and getting but rather it is about giving and becoming.
Townsend’s passion for life is contagious. She views each day as a gift! She said, “I try to live each day with a real passion to make a difference somewhere for someone in some way that really matters.” Townsend shared a quote by Emerson which inspires her — “For one life to have breathed easier because I have lived, that is to have succeeded.” Townsend is certainly making a difference in her corner of the world. As Director of the Global Leadership Institute, she is inspiring students to grow and develop as leaders. I came away encouraged and inspired by my time with Dr. Townsend.
We are fortunate to have her skills and enthusiasm for life back home in Mississippi inspiring tomorrow’s leaders.
Up Close With Dr. Cindy Malone Townsend
Title: Director, Global Leadership Institute, Jackson Preparatory School
Favorite Books: Leadership – Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others By Kouzes and Posner; In Life- The Bible has influenced me more than any other book. .
First Job: ““17” Magazine teen rep. and Fashion Teenboard coordinator for Gayfer’s Dept. Store in Jackson, MS.”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “When I receive calls from former students telling me they are using what they learned about leadership to better themselves and their world.”
Hobbies/Interests: Music-playing guitar and piano, traveling, speaking and writing.
Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.