Post #5 – A continuation of thoughts on “Distributed Leadership” this time involving both glue and WD40 – in a continuing thread on the roles of a Mayor and Council in local governance. I’m not trying to be overly pedantic here. These are my take-aways from the table.
Distributed leadership is all about responsible and effective collaborative decision-making. I get that that’s a motherhood statement right up there with commonly held thoughts on community health and prosperity. It’s also something that all politicos will claim that they are capable of – Check Check Check all of those boxes of personal attributes.
Joking aside though, it’s critical to distributed leadership in our Weak Mayor governance structure that effective decision-making is happening and that those at the table are engaged in productive collaboration – because of the important tasks that are faced by a local government.
Local govts set strategic direction, allocate valuable resources by adopting formal financial plans and decide what services (and levels of) that will be delivered. Local politicos indeed represent citizens, promote ideas and engage our communities but in the end, the important decisions are collaborative.
This sometimes conflicts with public perceptions. No, the mayor, or any one elected official, is not solely responsible for taking the blame for decisions one might not agree with or for things that are perceived as “going wrong”. It’s a collective decision and one tenet of effective collaboration is that individual council members accept the good faith decisions of the majority. Similarly, decisions that are viewed as “going right” are collective decisions as well.
For sure, individual politicians may champion specific initiatives that are subsequently adopted but, in the process, it takes a lot of hard collaborative work, commitment and investment of energy to reach these collective decisions.
So, I would argue that solid decision-making, a hallmark requirement of distributed leadership in our governance system, requires collaborative skills to listen closely, positively influence others and to be an effective leader.
And therein lies, imho, the general criteria for voters to use in whatever ranking scale they might want to adopt come election time.
– Are there examples that aspiring politicos are collaborative?
– Do they listen closely? How do they communicate?
– Do they offer a wide or narrow approach to matters?
– How might they manage differences and disagreements?
– How will they positively influence others?
– Is there an ability to accept the decisions of the majority?
– Is there evidence of effective leadership and not just campaign statements or PR?
Do our prospective political leaders have the glue to bind a community together as well as the WD40 to reduce friction and engage in collaborative – and better – decision-making required by Distributed Leadership?
Upcoming posts will be on political visions and the desirability of Slate Politics at the local government level.