Leadership whether it be of our country, province, city, business, education or our local communities and families all have something in common. It isn’t easy and in order to be effective it requires some of the same characteristics. Have you had the good fortune to see the dedication and strength of a parent as they put the needs of their children and family ahead of their own? It takes hard work, commitment, dedication and honesty. It sometimes means making tough decisions, it may mean doing without because of unexpected expenses or just the cost of living. It requires planning, organizing and communication.
This fall Winnipeggers will be going to the polls to elect a new mayor, city council and school trustees. People that have tremendous influence, yet the percentage of people taking advantage of their democratic right to vote continues to decline. It has become blatantly obvious that we need to do our due diligence by not only voting but also electing quality people. Many voters have lost their faith that we can elect someone with the integrity, intelligence and energy to make a difference at City Hall, in government at any level for that matter.
People have grown tired over the last few years of what appears to be a litany of broken promises, back door politics, favoritism and some serious financial over-runs that will negatively affect our City now and moving forward. One could go on at nauseam about the problems plaguing City Hall, but in the end, the current issues will be the starting place for a new mayor and council. The question we need to ask ourselves is which candidate, if any, has a vision for Winnipeg that is sustainable and creates a form of governance and leadership that will instil confidence in an electorate that no longer believes they have a voice. Governance is about more than what we need today, it must also be about ensuring that we create a sustainable future for our children and future generations. It is about balancing a budget and protecting our important assets so that we can have a city that is vibrant now and in the future.
In essence from the outside looking in, if we are to bring about the change required to create an effective municipal government it demands a unified effort by those elected to recognize our municipal government is broken and then put a plan in effect that will have community voice as an integral part of our local government. A daunting task to say the least. Winnipeg’s most valuable asset is the people. We need to value what they have to say about the needs of their community, their local neighbourhoods as well as their views on what our city’s priorities need to be.
It will require a mayor that can create a vision and belief in our city that people matter. All people. Many issues will require a leader who can partner with the other levels of government to put together a cohesive effort to unravel the complicated issues related to our faltering infrastructure. Examining the fairness of our current taxation system including the city’s ability to raise the needed capital to fund the projects required to put our city on its feet again. A mayor able to work with all levels of government, including civil servants, and businesses (please note that is plural) to create a strong and vibrant Winnipeg which will help make our province stronger. It is no easy task facing any newly elected officials.
What are the characteristics we should be looking for in our Mayor?
1) A Vision for the future. The mayor should be able to look at where the city is now and where it needs to be in two years, five years and even twenty-five years. It is looking at the city from above and identifying what pieces of the puzzle are missing and put a plan of action together that allows us to finish that puzzle. We don’t ram puzzle pieces in places they don’t fit.
2) A great communicator. It is one thing to have a vision but can our mayor articulate that vision and convince others to join in making that vision a reality. The vision needs to become a shared vision. In order for this to happen it means meeting and talking with community groups, business leaders and developers as well as those everyday people who pay taxes to keep our city running.
3) Be an inspiration to others. In the end it will not be the mayor who does great things but the mayor who creates an atmosphere where the people of Winnipeg are able to make each community a great place to live. The mayor needs to be the leader and facilitator in putting the vision into action.
4) Is surrounded by good people. Decisions need to be made by people who can make the vision and plans happen. We must take the politics, out of action. It easy for a mayor or political leader to lose their way as a result of political and media pressure. An individual who makes promises they can’t keep or is willing to sell off assets to keep the city’s head above water, is not the kind of person or mayor we need. The mayor must have people who keep the vision moving ahead and not get side-tracked because of an issue of the day or the day-to-day management of the city. If we have good people, the management of the city should take care of itself. If the management of the city’s daily affairs isn’t working, then that is another problem to be fixed, another plan of action to put in place. Do the civil servants and leaders in the city’s departments have the ability to advise the mayor and if so, do their voices count? If they don’t have the skills why not? All individuals both political and non-political, need to be focused on what is best for the city and set aside their personal interests and agendas.
5) The mayor must be a person of action. Change is difficult. If what we are doing isn’t working we need to do something different. It must be done strategically and with an eye on the long-term vision. We don’t do something just to do something. It must fit into where we see our city going or it will cause more problems and cost more than the issue it was supposed to solve.
6) The mayor must have Integrity. Michael Josephson in his article HIRE FOR CHARACTER, TRAIN FOR SKILLS: Character is an Essential Competence he states, “If you were hiring a new CEO, what are the most important qualities you’d look for? Surely you’d want a high level of demonstrated competence – knowledge, experience, intelligence, vision, communication, and relationship skills and the ability to motivate, manage, and solve problems. But what about qualities such as honesty, moral courage, accountability, and fairness?”
Each of us can make our own decisions as they read this article as to if any of our current candidates meet any or all of the criteria listed above. In essence it doesn’t matter if it is for government, business, or education, the qualities of a good leader do not change. It doesn’t matter what the situation, we need leaders with integrity, intelligence and energy. We need to have high expectations of our leaders. We don’t need someone whose goal is politics, saying what they think people want to hear. We need someone whose goal is to make a difference, create a better Winnipeg. Give people the facts about our current financial situation, be transparent with the data about our crumbling infrastructure, poverty and openly discuss possible solutions as we work on developing our shared vision for Winnipeg a reality.
We need someone who is willing to put the needs of our city and its people ahead of their own. We need a leader.