Mike Ritz, the longtime executive director of Leadership Rhode Island, announced last week that he has accepted a new job heading up a government leadership institute at Gallup, one of the best-known analytics firms in the world.
The good news is that Ritz is leaving LRI in the able hands of Michelle Carr, who was previously the organization’s deputy director. I asked Ritz to share his thoughts on Rhode Island and tell us a bit about his new job.
Q: I always think you of you as one of Rhode Island’s leading optimists. How did your work at Leadership Rhode Island shape your outlook?
Ritz: What you refer to as optimism, I call vision. Witnessing the passion, experience, skills, and commitment to the betterment of Rhode Island from the 1,000 leaders across all sectors and most industries who graduated our leadership programs over my time always gave me insight and confidence in Rhode Island’s potential. Supporting the results of our more than 70 class-driven and alumni-supported “Leadership In Action” projects since 2010 has always given me inspired proof that we can lift Rhode Island in significant, meaningful ways that benefit all who reside here.
Q: Leadership Rhode Island has been an important voice on so many issues over the years. What has been the organization’s biggest accomplishment during your tenure?
Ritz: LRI measures impact by the changes we make happen in five ways: attitude, knowledge, condition, status, and behavior. All five are still being felt from our assisted transformation of Central Falls during bankruptcy from 2012 to 2014, our statewide “Make RI Stronger” initiative to increase Rhode Island’s workforce and psyche from 2014 until now, our Publick Occurrences series of public discussions in which balanced viewpoints on current – often controversial – topics were presented, and the more than 1,000 emerging and established leaders who have graduated from our classes since I began.
Our operating budget and net assets have grown threefold and our staff has grown from two-and-a-half to 11 under my leadership. When mission-driven impact is felt and change measured and expressed, relevance is raised which has resulted in our sustainable growth.
Q: As you prepare to depart, is there an issue or a topic you wish that Leadership Rhode Island could have done more to address in the last couple of years?
Ritz: I’ve long been a believer in Stephen Covey’s concept of, “Change happens at the speed of trust,” and after experiencing the lack of trust in Rhode Islanders for nearly two decades, I’ve sometimes wondered, particularly in light of the decline of objective and investigative journalism, if LRI shouldn’t play a more focused role in exposing deliberate, overt, and unintended actions and results of corruption. I think there’s much less of it in Rhode Island today, but trust is at the very heart of a healthy community and leaders should not lose sight of the fact that when it’s broken, progress is negatively affected.
Q: You’re heading to Gallup. Tell us about the work you’ll be doing. Does this mean you’re leaving Rhode Island?
Ritz: Measuring the results LRI has made by applying strengths-based development to the whole state of Rhode Island in only eight years, Gallup’s CEO and chairman Jim Clifton recruited me to be the world’s best workplace analytics company’s founding executive director for a new leadership initiative to do a similar thing for the federal government.
Imagine the impact made when the United States federal government, the largest employer in the world – 4 million federal employees – identify and own what they’re uniquely and naturally good at and then put those strengths into action at work and in their communities every day. The ripple effects of strengths-based leadership, higher employee engagement, and higher well-being will be felt around the world, but will especially benefit, we, the people of the United States.
I’ll spend a lot of time commuting to DC to make this happen, but thanks to remote working possibilities, Elaine and I can also continue to be active, good citizens and residents of Rhode Island.
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.