North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

May 24, 2011

City council leaders represent governed, not government

By Teresa Vise
The North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — City council leaders, this one is for you.  As we stand on the cusp of continued development here in the north Jefferson area, I would like to offer sincere and heartfelt congratulations to all who hold an elected position in our community.  

Now get busy.  

We have discussed here before that when accepting an appointment to be on a board or agreeing to hold membership on a council as an elected official is not the time for a Cinderella appointment or a full blown exhibition of the Peter Principle. It is indeed a privilege and one that should be approached with strength and humility. The challenge here is to realize that all goals and jobs come with training and this role is not any different. Please seek out tools to help you understand how to do this job at a very high level, and to grow in the value that you bring.  

You will be under scrutiny, but that is not a bad thing. Think of scrutiny as a fancy word for campaigning and holding people to account for what they said or should be doing. You are of course representatives of the people to the town hall. You are not representatives of the town hall to the people.  

And of course, no one will tell you what to do, but they will blame you when something does not get done. Previous New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani put it best when he said, “Give me a leader whose nose has been bloodied over someone who is totally perfect.”  

Sometimes, you may be told what to do, but beware the snare of “consensus” thinking. According to Margaret Thatcher, “Consensus is the negation of leadership.” Most think this fine lady knows what she is talking about still. Even President Ronald Reagan took the time to listen to her.

Your purpose is to not do things to people, as it is to engage people in the change.  It can be seen in something as fundamental as a Community Development Plan. Did the plan come from some educated and high advised third party? Is it dusty and 20 years old? That may be fine, but it will only be effective if the city leaders get buy-in from the community. Simply put, take the time to ask. This means recognizing that people are the heart of directing resources and making decisions, therefore people, rather than strategies or theories, should be at the heart of transforming outcomes in a place.

As our north Jefferson area continues to grow and develop, we cannot take for granted what it will look like in 20 years. As Freud would say, there are no accidents. There are also many political realities to continue to simmer and ponder upon as we move into the next election cycle. Mr. Councilman, do you have a succession plan? Ms. Council Woman how will you control the change? And can you both recognize the talent that you will need to end up where you aim? Groucho Marx said it well when he quipped, “Only one man in 1,000 is a leader of men, and the other 999 follow a woman.”

You can find additional readings on Teresa’s blog at Teresa works for Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals and supports the Fultondale Chamber of Commerce.