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EDITORIAL: Michael C. Threatt’s Blog, Jan. 2019 – “Transformational leadership at the Sylacauga Housing Authority”


I consider it a privilege and an honor to be the first African American to serve as the CEO of the Sylacauga Housing Authority (SHA). I am standing on the shoulders of giants and have big shoes to fill. Speaking of giants, this brings us to our topic of this month’s blog, Transformational Leadership. Transformational Leadership is a theory in which a leader works with teams to identify needed change, create a vision to guide through inspiration, and executes in tandem with committed staff and partnerships.

I would like to start with the transformational leader, the late Virginia West. West became the first Executive Director of the SHA and served for 50 years. West set the tone for SHA and for women serving in a male dominated culture of public housing authorities (PHAs). West was the true epitome of a transformational leader; she played a huge role in neighborhood revitalization through urban renewal initiatives that transformed commercial and residential developments in the City of Sylacauga and Talladega County.

Moreover, I would be remised if I did not mention the late Billy Hay, former Sylacauga Police Chief, another transformational leader who revolutionized policing in the City of Sylacauga. Hay played an instrumental role in establishing the Northeast Police Precinct, which implemented a community policing environment for the Drew Court community. The Northeast Precinct provided funding for a Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Police Athletic Teams (PAT).

The theme of transformational leadership reminds me of my 2019 Leadership Sylacauga Cohort. Transformational leadership focuses on change agents who are individuals that embrace the challenge of change. Change agents do not believe in the status quo and think outside the box. As a transformational leader, I am a huge proponent of the five practices of exemplary leadership model which includes the following characteristics: model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart.

As a next generation transformational leader, I plan to take SHA to the next level and change the perception of public housing in the City of Sylacauga and Talladega County while simultaneously moving toward the paradigm shift of providing quality affordable housing choices for all stakeholders. I wholeheartedly believe that a transformational leader leaves their agency or company better than they found it. Therefore, I approach the housing authority through a multifaceted lens: as a social entrepreneur, real estate developer, public administrator, and social worker.

SHA is the housing engine of Sylacauga and to reach its full potential, modernizing our current housing portfolio must start now. As a transformational leader, I feel that SHA must begin to evolve, specifically through rebranding. To enhance this process, we have built our workforce capacity with talented and skilled individuals who are committed to the mission and vision of the SHA who will play a paramount role in bringing the “Housing Authority of Tomorrow” model to fruition. As we move forward with the comprehensive rebranding campaign for SHA, we have improved our social media platform and plan to release our new SHA website. Throughout this rebranding campaign, we will have Resident Meeting Listening Tours. These listening tours will include site visits and listening sessions to hear from the community stakeholders and residents as we move forward with the “Housing Authority of Tomorrow” model. Finally, during the week of January 21, 2019 through January 25, 2019, the SHA will have our first annual Week of Service which will end with our first annual Transformational Leadership Luncheon that will be held on Friday, January 25, 2019, at the J. Craig Community Center from 12:00 Noon – 2:00 p.m. During the Luncheon, SHA will present a special presentation to Priscilla Cleveland, outgoing Board Commissioner, who has served as a Board Commissioner for 24 years. SHA will also introduce, transformational leader and New Board Commissioner, James Adams, President and CEO of the Sylacauga Area Habitat for Humanity. SHA will also reveal its new logo and branding platform, along with a sneak peek at what our website will look like. We look forward to seeing the entire Greater Sylacauga community at the events. As always, here is my quote for this month’s blog, by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

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