I n my study of leaders, I have found a simple but common theme — they CARE. They think beyond themselves and work for the greater good. They have a servant mindset and want to elevate others. Some leaders extend their sphere of influence to impact the communities around them as well. They take an interest in civic matters and use their knowledge, skills, and motivation to make a difference. Business leaders who are civically engaged are the bedrock of a community. They serve on boards, engage with politicians to cast vision, and provide financial support for charitable organizations. These humble leaders agree with Harry S. Truman’s quote, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” I am inspired and appreciative of these leaders who spend their discretionary time choosing to serve the common good for all of us.
David Pharr is one of those civic-minded leaders. Pharr founded his own law firm in 2012 after rising to equity partner with a large regional law firm. Pharr grew up in Jackson and earned his undergraduate degree at Millsaps College before obtaining his law degree from Ole Miss. He shared, “One of the reasons I wanted to become a lawyer was that so many effective community leaders were lawyers.” Pharr believes that leadership is about building consensus around clearly defined goals and assembling a team that can achieve the goals. He said, “The most effective leaders are more concerned with empowering others to lead than glory-seeking. I accomplish more with teams when I willfully ignore the question of who is getting credit for a positive outcome. I can’t say I’m always great at this but when I reflect on collaborative projects, it is often clear that success hinged on a leader’s willingness to forgo credit for a major contribution.”
In addition to a busy life as a successful lawyer, husband to his wife, Michelle, who is a physician, and his role as father, Pharr invests himself in making Jackson a better place. He has served in leadership roles with the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, the Jackson Chamber of Commerce and the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District to name a few. One of the projects he is most engaged with right now is Alignment Jackson, which is a new group focused on providing an education support framework. Pharr is also active in the Fondren community and is in the process of developing commercial property in that area.
Pharr shared, “In starting my law practice and working on real estate development in Fondren, I have met the future leaders of the creative economy in Jackson. These are bright people in their 20’s and early 30’s who have faced serious challenges and their leadership response has been incredibly resourceful.” Pharr went on to note, “I am inspired by their courage and innovation, and they make me hopeful about the future of Jackson.” For growing leaders, Pharr wisely shared, “Do not be afraid to take ownership of causes you feel strongly about. Do not wait for someone to extend an invitation or hand you authority.” Pharr is one of those leaders who sees a need and steps forward to be a problem solver. I know I have been guilty too often of recognizing the need for leadership, and I just hoped someone else would “raise their hand.” Through his law practice, real estate development, and civic engagement, Pharr will be making a positive contribution to his community for years to come. I know he will serve as an inspiration for aspiring leaders who want to make a difference.
» 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.