Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins at the LEAD San Diego Visionary Awards / Image courtesy of F&L Media

This post initially appeared in the June 15 Politics Report. Get the Politics Report delivered to your inbox.

At the LEAD San Diego annual Visionary Awards on June 6, a diverse group of community leaders got deserved recognition. Journalists got a shout-out for their value to the community. (All events are better when they include praise for journalists, in our humble opinion.)

But LEAD’s thing is leadership. It’s the name and all. To speak about that, the Chamber invited state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins. (Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who gave a notoriously unfriendly speech to the Chamber a few months ago, was not there.)

Atkins is one of the highest-ranking elected leaders of one of the largest governments in the world. But she has faced criticism for how she has used that power, or not used it. For Atkins, who identifies as a leader on housing policy, recent barbs from housing advocates must have been especially tough after she refused to save SB 50 from a committee chair’s decision to scuttle the reform.

Her speech provided an insight into how she thinks about leadership. She decided to focus on several words that define her perspective on leading. One stood out to us: restraint.

She said:

“The words that matter to me are: responsibility, intentionality, focus, passion. If you’re not passionate about what you do, you will never be a great leader at that thing because people, we all are drawn to authenticity.

“That’s a good word today. It has made a comeback and people crave it. Passion to do that work. And one word — I asked someone recently who had grown up in Apartheid Africa, South Africa, and as we saw the exit of a president and the entry of another one, I was asking him about African-American leaders, and his thoughts on that. And he talked a lot about President Obama and I said, ‘What do you think his greatest leadership skill was?’ And he said, ‘restraint.’ And I thought that was a really interesting word. We served at a time at city hall when there needed to be a little restraint by some individuals.”

Click here to watch the full speech.

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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