When you decide to go into public service, you don’t usually expect a lot of glory. Particularly if you’re running for state attorney general. But fame and attention have caught up with Washington State’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, who recently sat down with our Jackson Leadership Fellows to talk about making tough decisions as a leader, learning from past failures and mistakes, and having empathy and understanding for your opponent’s position.
Why such acclaim for Attorney General Ferguson, who retains a good-guy, low-key and approachable persona despite being the focus of numerous hero stories? Ferguson has made Washington State one of the battlegrounds for court cases challenging the current Administration, most notably regarding the Muslim-ban for several countries directed by President Trump. Ferguson talked to the Fellows about the need to reach decisions quickly, even when one would prefer to have more time to sift through pros and cons. “Most of the time in leadership you’ll need to make hard and fast decisions,” Ferguson advised the Fellows. “You better get comfortable with it.” The Attorney General, who spent his young adult years as a chess champion, tends to see challenges through a chess prism. “Assess your losses first,” he counseled. “Be objective about your mistakes and learn from your defeats.”
Ferguson also places ethics at the top of his list of key leadership qualities. “Pay attention to your behavior; your team is watching you,” he warned the Fellows. Character counts, he said. He emphasized, “There are clear lines to delineate right and wrong,” something that drives him as a politician and as a public servant. “Trust your instincts,” he stressed.
In conclusion, Ferguson urged the young Fellows to consider public service – be it full-time or part-time careers – as a valuable path in life. He was drawn to it in order to help people.
The Jackson Fellows were rapt as Ferguson discussed leadership challenges. They understood and valued his perspective on current political affairs. We are grateful to the Attorney General for sharing his views with our Fellows. He has sat down with every cohort of our program!
I think it’s fair to conclude that Bob Ferguson has used his public life well to date, and we can expect much more from him. He is truly a leader in the Jackson tradition.