Remembering David Jones Sr. “What I learned from one of Louisville’s great leaders”

Originally published in BG Magazine, December 2011 – written by Holly Prather, vice president of Leadership Louisville Center, following Mr. Jones’ presentation to the Leadership Louisville Class of 2011

David Jones Sr., speaking to Leadership Louisville Class of 2012

It’s not every day that you get the chance to have bagels and coffee with a leader like David Jones, Sr., so it was an honor to hear his recent presentation to the Leadership Louisville Class of 2012.

Mr. Jones shared passionate remarks on issues, however, the focus of his dialogue with the class was leadership, specifically the lessons he’s learned along the way. As the founder of Humana, Mr. Jones has contributed greatly to economic development in our region. He was also one of the founders of the Leadership Louisville Center, created to ensure that future leaders would be knowledgeable about issues, well networked and passionate about the success of the community.

Mr. Jones’ leadership lessons are simple, but not easy, and had to be learned through trial and error. His remarks taught me a little more about balance, discipline and values – essential building blocks for any young professional.


Not quite sure what to expect, it was surprising to hear his first lesson, “Family is first – do your job, but enjoy your family and other interests. Have a life!” With a husband, two children, a career, friends, community engagement and everything else that fills my life, this is a delicate balance for me, as I’m sure it is for many. But, time spent with family, friends and in the community fills my spirit so that I am better at work, more creative, more empathetic and more dedicated to the mission I’m hired to fulfill.

Perhaps Mr. Jones’ best teaching on balance was focus, and taking time each day to think. It’s so easy to go through the day and check off tasks – by taking time to think, I see the big picture more clearly.


It became quite apparent that discipline was a key ingredient in Mr. Jones’ success. He was clearly not from the school where excuses get in the way of results. In his world, either you have measurable outcomes or you don’t. He strongly discouraged procrastination and said, “Complete today’s work today.”

However, Mr. Jones clearly values a high level of engagement with others. His messages about soliciting feedback, communicating regularly with every team member and having a focus on morale made it clear that he sees people as the biggest asset in an organization. All of these practices require a disciplined approach and structure to make them a reality.


I see Mr. Jones as a person who leads by example and puts his values and principles into action. As a relatively new manager, his ideas about integrity and creating conditions where colleagues can do their best work were helpful. Delegation – particularly delegating authority – and following this up with sincere thanks and recognition are actions based in humility.

Finally, it was Mr. Jones’ optimism that left me particularly inspired. His strong positions regarding the urgent needs around education and infrastructure were tempered by his hopeful commentary.
No matter where you stand on the issues, I think we can all agree that in Louisville, it is possible with leaders like Mr. David Jones, Sr. We are the next generation of leaders, and these lessons provide a roadmap for making our own significant impact on the community.

“Leadership Lessons Learned” presented by Mr. Jones:

1. Family is first – do your job, but enjoy your family and other interests. Have a life!
2. Be optimistic! A leader must inspire confidence.
3. A leader must have clear and sufficient authority to accomplish assigned tasks.
4. Integrity is the most vital character trait, and strength of will is a requirement.
5. Focus! Have a clear idea of the goal you plan to accomplish. This will require thought, so take time each day to think. Action changes the world, but it should be thoughtful action.
6. Communicate goals repetitively, with brevity and clarity, to each team member and solicit honest feedback.
7. This enables each team member to understand and appreciate how individual effort contributes to achievement goals.
8. Always thank your colleagues – earned recognition is a powerful motivator.
9. Every element critical to success must be measured.
10. Always try to create conditions to allow your colleagues to do their best work!
11. Make decisions quickly, once you have the facts. Nothing kills morale and momentum like bureaucratic lassitude.
12. Profit is never a mission, vision or an end, nor is it a dirty word. Enterprises which fail to cover all costs, including the cost of capital, soon perish, along with their jobs and pensions.
13. Complete today’s work today.
14. Leadership requires authority, integrity, optimism, strength of will, a clear vision that is effectively communicated to the entire enterprise so that each member understands what is required of her/him and how such individual efforts contribute to mission success. Then, the leader must say thanks.
15. Summary – Inspirational leadership requires:
• Authority
• Integrity
• Optimism
• Strength of will
• Clarity of vision/mission
• Clear, continuous two-way communication
• Recognition, when earned
• Operations – if it’s critical, measure!


September 18, 2019: In loving memory of Mr. David Jones Sr., a Louisville legend and one of the founders of the Leadership Louisville Center.