Throughout my life I’ve had the opportunity to observe and work with skilled leaders and have readily assumed leadership roles, doing my best to apply what I’ve learned and thankfully to have achieved positive results. I’ve also had to opportunity to observe how leadership is applied in local and regional government. All too often local government waits for circumstances and situations to reach a critical level then reacts after the fact. This reflexive type of leadership forces action through default. The bricks have been overloaded and government must act before the bottom falls out. While I believe this strategy is shortsighted (as in both unwise and short-term) I recognize that there are some positives:  it keeps options open until the last minute, and; it requires the least upfront investment, and; it may occasionally work.

In my experience, leadership that is planned rather than waiting for the worst to happen is much more effective in terms of outcomes and overall cost. Leaders can develop effective projections to anticipate changes and then act rather than react. In the near term, they can reposition government through effective allocation of funds, manpower or facilities to the areas most impacted by the changes. In the long term, positive change is more enduring by modifying internal structures; by training and education; by selection, (both in terms of hiring and firing, but also by who is chosen for tasks and committees); and by calculated efforts to design a government culture that exemplifies helpfulness, customer service and cost effectiveness.

Of course for this to work, leaders must have the trust of both government workers and the citizens at large. Trust flows to those who are accountable, predictable, and reliable. The growth of trust is a key measure of leadership. It cannot be mandated or purchased; it must be earned.

Some Thoughts On Leadership