Organization & Leadership Consulting

TW Leadership Profile: David Cavazos, City Manager of Santa Ana, CA

Teaching Leadership

Is it possible to inherit the leadership traits needed to manage a city from your parents? David Cavazos believes so. “I learned confidence from my father,” says David, “and self-reliance from my mother.” And those two traits have brought him a long way.

With almost three decades of public management experience, David’s journey has had pit stops at Carnegie Mellon University, starting as an intern for the city of Phoenix, Arizona, and then becoming its City Manager. After a few years leading there, he is now the City Manager for the city of Santa Ana, California since 2013. “I encourage a team approach to problem solving,” he says, “and believe that solutions are achieved by working together.”

As I walked out of the meeting a younger man walked me to the elevator and asked if there was anything else they could do for me. Curious. Especially, because I had visited the same offices years before Mr. Cavazos was its City Manager and found a team in dire need of a leader.


Mr. Cavazos’ approach illustrates the common trait found amongst leaders, namely, they are preoccupied with how to move a group of people towards a united goal. While achievers single-mindedly focus on accomplishments and try to drive their teams to help them arrive at the destination, leaders try to find ways to maximize the strengths of the team and minimize its weaknesses. Leaders still have goals like Achievers, it is just that leaders like Mr. Cavazos are fascinated with how to get the whole team across the finish line.

This may seem like a very subtle shift in perspective but it makes all the difference in the world. The consultant team at TurningWest are experts at helping high Achievers learn the people and process skills to become great leaders. We shorten the learning curve by introducing the insights, techniques, and tools that our clients need to help them become great leaders. While they are honing those skills in their unique leadership setting, we guide them through the inevitable detours and obstacles that arise.

Achievers can take the “trial and error” approach to becoming leaders but will suffer much collateral damage due to their mistakes. Or, they can engage a professional navigator to accelerate their acquisition of leadership skills and thus propel their career forward.




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