K-State alum publishes book focused on leadership in the heartland

The cover of "What's Right with Kansas." Image courtesy of Carrie Lindeman.

Ed O’Malley released his new book, “What’s Right With Kansas; Everyday Citizens Transforming Their State,” with hopes to inspire citizens to take on leadership roles in their communities.

The Kansas State alumnus described himself as “somebody that loves the state, and really believes in it, and [wants] to do my little part to make it stronger and better healthier and more prosperous.”

The root of his passion for his home state was influenced greatly by the setting he grew up in. Despite being in a family that wasn’t deeply involved in politics, O’Malley reflected on the impact they still had on their communities.

“It starts with a belief that we all have to do our part,” O’Malley said. “We all have a responsibility to improve the lives of those around us and improve our community. I grew up watching a lot of people make a big difference in their community, [and] a lot of family members making a big difference in their communities. We were all kind of raised with an expectation to kind of figure out how to do your part.”

Taking that ideology, O’Malley went on to be elected twice to Kansas’s 24th House District. While representing the 24th district, he gained valuable insight into politics. That eventually would lead him to found the Kansas Leadership Center.

“I got involved in politics and realized that the only way you mobilize people is by influencing them,” O’Malley said. “You can’t force them to do anything. Leadership is really about influence, it’s not about commanding people.”

During his time at K-State, the Johnson County native realized how important connecting to the rest of Kansas was. O’Malley said he felt that many Kansans overlooked the importance of the symbiosis between urban and rural sectors.

“Today it’s so much harder to find people in Johnson County who have a natural connection to rural Kansas,” O’Malley said. “There’s just almost a total disconnect now. … The main thing I want folks of Johnson County to know is that rural Kansas is there, and it’s important. And it is in Johnson County’s self interest for rural Kansas to thrive, and vice versa.”

One of the effective results of the Kansas Leadership Center is that it provides a space for both rural and urban civic leaders to collaborate and communicate together, as well as leaders across political spectrums, O’Malley said, opening communication paths between two sometimes-isolated societies.

In 2018, O’Malley said, 2,000 Kansans travelled to the KLC for leadership training from various areas of the state. Along with local leaders, the KLC has also attracted the attention of global leaders.

O’Malley said he has a hunch that they see the KLC allowing everyday people to improve communities, something that is easily translated across international borders.

With the third book, Ed O’Malley said he wanted to focus more on the story of local civic leaders that aren’t necessarily political figures.

“I think it’s a huge dose of optimism at a time when national civic life is so disheartening,” O’Malley said.

The book follows the story of four Kansas civic leaders and how they navigate the sometimes-treacherous maze of leadership. What was most exciting for O’Malley though, he said, was that this was just the tip of iceberg.

“I think people will read it, they’ll be inspired, and it’ll force them to think about how do they live out the leadership principles they are reading about,” O’Malley said.

All profits from book sales will go toward scholarships to receive training at the KLC. O’Malley said he hopes individuals and groups alike that want to exercise more leadership in their communities can access the scholarships and grants.