CASE STUDY | Economic Development, Enterprise and Civic Leadership

LNJ 1990 Douglas Forrester, CEO and Chairman, Integrity Health


LEAD NJ:  What do you believe makes an effective and inspirational leader?

DOUGLAS FORRESTER:  I believe an effective and inspirational leader is principally someone who cares about the organization or the project at hand. It's very difficult to lead anywhere with indifference. An affection for the organization or the purpose is the first quality of a leader. Certainly there are tactical, managerial, and mission-related decisions that are important, and being well-organized is a part of being a good leader, but first and foremost, I think it's born out of an affection for the purpose of the organization.

LEAD NJ: What makes Lead New Jersey special to you personally and how have you benefited as an alumni throughout your career?

DOUGLAS FORRESTER: I think Lead New Jersey is essential to the wellbeing of the state. There are very, very few organizations, certainly less than one hand would count, that are focused on the longevity of New Jersey and decision-making over time. How do we prepare for the future as a whole state? There are organizations focused on different pieces of the puzzle, of how we make sure that New Jersey prospers. Lead New Jersey brings it all together. It provides a way of thinking about ourselves as New Jerseyans over time and that's very rare now. I believe we've substituted dealmaking for policymaking, and it has done untold damage to the state and our ability to bring our children and grandchildren the kind of inheritance we want to offer them. Lead New Jersey, I believe, is essential in providing for the future of the state.

LEAD NJ: Can you comment on where you hope to see New Jersey progress in the future, and what are some of your aspirations for the New Jersey economy?

DOUGLAS FORRESTER: I’m concerned about the future of New Jersey because I don't think we're spending a lot of time talking about it in practical terms. I think that Lead New Jersey nurtures that kind of mindset, as I mentioned, which is very, very important. The future of New Jersey is troubled, and it's troubled because we have not honored basic principles of intergenerational equity, an idea of each generation shouldering its own obligations financially. We aren't planning for the future. We are kicking the can down the road. We can only do that so long. People assume that somehow the state will always be around and be able to function. That isn't necessarily the case.

It's important that we plan for the future financially and that our public officials are held accountable for this principle of intergenerational equity—every generation shouldering its own burdens. I believe that as we look to the future in New Jersey, the only way that we will be successful is if we start thinking through the public policy ramifications for each of the departments of state government and have those stated in very explicit terms. What do we expect the Department of Corrections to look like over 15, 20 years? Likewise banking, agriculture, the environment, on down the line. If we don't have them describe to us the future they see for us to evaluate, then I don't think it really matters what people do, because as the old phrase goes, "If you don't know where you're going, any road'll get you there.

LEAD NJ:  How would you encourage LNJ fellows, current or past, in civic leadership or public service?

DOUGLAS FORRESTER: How can we have best of breed solutions for various public problems? Those are the kinds of things that people need to take seriously. There's a temptation, I think, on the part of a very fragmented population to think that other people will handle public problems. They won't. We will not be able to survive together unless we include a wide variety of decision makers in that process, and those are not professional decision makers. Those are average citizens. People who are concerned about their communities. They are concerned about healthcare, environmental equality, concerned about economic opportunity and public safety. They are concerned about transparency in government, and the ability to allocate public resources efficiently. Those problems require much more than just elected officials to solve. It requires citizens to hold elected officials accountable but even more so participate by bringing their own talents and skills to that process of decision-making, implementation and a no blame philosophy, making sure that people understand that partisan conflict doesn't have to drive every decision.

Douglas Forrester  

LEAD NJ: What have you enjoyed most about Lead New Jersey?

DOUGLAS FORRESTER: The moments I've enjoyed most with Lead New Jersey are the individual interactions with people from various parts of the state and walks of life, whether the for-profit sector, not for profit sector, public sector—getting to know them. I found Lead New Jersey to have a paradoxically humbling influence, which I find very, very positive. Often when leaders are called together, they are very pleased that they've been selected, designated and enjoy the recognition. Yet, by coming together and seeing people who make major contributions unheralded, which allow for the state to be successful, is a humbling event, so my most proud moments are actually the most humble ones of being in awe of so many people who have gone through the program who are keeping the state alive.

LEAD NJ: Anything else you’d like to add?

DOUGLAS FORRESTER: Leadership New Jersey has an opportunity to continue to press the point that if we are going to succeed as a state, we need to do it by bringing all of the disparate elements together at the same table for purposes of discussing how we can nurture opportunities and allocate fairly the resources that the state has to offer. I'm very pleased that I've been involved with organizations, like Rising Tide Capital, as well as Lead New Jersey, both which are focused on bringing opportunities for all of New Jersey's families, not just some of them. It's that commitment to bringing the state together that I think needs to be uppermost in everyone's mind.

Find out more about Douglas Forrester