Working Together to Make Change Happen

by G. Ronald Gilbert

The following is a preview of a Leadership Training Institute seminar that will be conducted during the 2012 Congressional City Conference. Ron Gilbert will lead, "Problem Solving with Councilmembers in Teams" on Saturday, March 10, from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The challenges of leading local governments to excellence are rarely captured in current popular leadership literature, because excellence in public management is not the result of just one "heroic type" leader. Unlike private sector leadership contexts, where CEOs are expected to frame the organization's vision, create guiding principles and establish strategic plans for which they will be held accountable, those who lead in the public sector, whether elected or appointed, must be catalysts of never-ending, ever-evolving public policies. Although some mayors have been recognized as great leaders of their cities, they are rare.

Today's municipal leaders are more like mediators of shifting public policy interests, rather than chiefs single-handedly framing the directions of their cities and counties.

The role of today's leaders is to serve the public good by identifying and advancing the interest of those they serve, not just for the moment, but for the century. Yet the arena in which they function teems with conflicting directions to take and policies to enforce within the communities they serve.

These communities are faced with the ever-increasing challenge of finding ways to establish common purposes among the multiple and competing interests of people from diverse backgrounds, all expecting that their leaders meet their needs. These leaders function in a complex paradox of their constituents' expectations. They are challenged to find meaning and establish policy that makes sense, even though the expectations held of them often do not. And they must work together to make it all happen - perhaps the greatest challenge of all.

G. Ronald (Ron) Gilbert, Ph.D., is a senior partner and principal management consultant for GEMS of Florida. He is widely recognized for his unique expertise as a management consultant and trainer, and has served more than 1,000 organizations with his expertise.