Author Gladwell Marks Nonprofit's Anniversary
Philadelphia, Feb. 4 (Philadelphia Inquirer) — Best-selling author and social-change guru Malcolm Gladwell urged local leaders yesterday morning to make the most of Philadelphia's "human potential."
Speaking to a sold-out gathering of about 540 at the Union League of Philadelphia, Gladwell offered three reasons he believes this potential, in general, is underused: the limits of poverty, "stupidity" in how leaders often approach problems, and negative attitudes.
"The question of how much we want to achieve in a certain area is up to us," he said, arguing against the idea that some people are destined for success.
Yesterday's event was the first of several planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nonprofit Leadership Philadelphia. The organization runs training programs for business and public-sector leaders in the region. Noted alumni include Mayor Nutter, who went through the training program in 1989.
The organization is also known for its "Connector Project," in which Leadership Philadelphia staff compiled lists of the region's most effective leaders, or "connectors." The project was inspired by Gladwell's 2000 best-seller on social change, The Tipping Point.
Liz Dow, executive director of Leadership Philadelphia and a 1986 program alumna, said Gladwell's role in shaping the agency's programs made him a natural choice to kick off the anniversary celebration.
His ideas "informed the way that we teach leadership," Dow said.
Gladwell is on tour promoting his newest book, Outliers, which explores the qualities of successful or extraordinary people, such as Bill Gates. Gladwell, a regular writer for the New Yorker, also wrote the 2005 best-seller Blink, about decision-making.
Philadelphia is one of the last stops of his tour, which began in November. He also spoke Monday night at the Free Library main branch.
In an interview before his speech, Gladwell - who wore sneakers with his jacket, button-down shirt and slacks - said he was not aware of another program inspired by his work that was "as large or sustained" as Leadership Philadelphia's Connector Project.