407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481  NJLM logo 
William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director
'Guides To Governing"

By: Richard W. Deaney
Manager, Ocean City
Past President, NJ Municipal Management Association


"I talk a lot about leadership, and when I do, I speak from experience, having interacted with innumerable leaders in the business world, the military and sports. One thing I know for sure is that being a leader isn't easy: It takes patience, persistence and courage, as well as the ability to deal with ambiguity", so says Charles Laver, Publisher of Modern Healthcare.

He goes on to say, "It all starts with attitude. . . . .attitude is everything. Leaders don't let doom-and-gloomers take their dreams away; they devise a plan and then persuade others to join them in accomplishing their goals."

If leadership starts with attitude than leaders must be positive. Leaders must choose to feel comfortable. In the face of uncertainty they must choose to approach each new day with enthusiasm.

Nelson Mandela said in his 1994 inauguration speech "Your playing small does not serve the World. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own Light shine; we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

As mayors, new mayors or seasoned veterans, I believe it's all about governing, and governing is leading. I know you are effective politicians because you have each won an election. You hold my greatest admiration for you all have placed your name on the ballot line at least once and for many of you several times. Running for office takes courage, requires a dedication of time and personal resources and requires an ability to persuade others of your potential. These are positive characteristics that you can use while governing but governing is different and requires additional skill sets. For the next few minutes I want you to think of governing as leading and your position as mayor as one of leadership.

What qualities can a community expect from you as your community's mayor? I will suggest five qualities, the A, B, C, D and E qualities of a successful mayor.

A. Achievement Oriented
Do you know that many of the most successful world leaders in the fields of business, government, education, science or athletics share a common attribute and that is an orientation toward achievement. Much to the surprise of many, this attribute far overshadows an orientation toward power, competitiveness, or a need to serve mankind. Achievement oriented persons have a high regard for others, clearly stated expectations, a can do attitude and a focus on the objective. Even the best of todays world class athletes is more achievement oriented than competitive; they believe that if they set the right goals, obtain the best training, take care of their bodies and practice enough that they will succeed and in game or event situations they will win. When they don't win they most often congratulate the "winner" as the better achiever and go back and refocus on the characteristics of achieving. Leaders are focused, detailed oriented and steadfast; all characteristics of achievers.

B. Believable
A local government leader must be believable. Credibility may be the single most important word for a mayor or other local government official to keep before him or her. To be believable one must be consistent, clear and competent. A mayor can best achieve the needed confidence from the public by being worth their trust. Believability comes from a clear set of principles and the ability to consistently conform to these principles. One must follow a steady course that is value driven.

A mayor must have personal and professional values and principles and be able to clearly communicate them to others. Only if you can articulate them for yourself and others can you be believable.

C. Change Oriented
While to be believable requires consistency, to be effective requires a readiness to change. How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction? Being consistent as a mayor is being consistent to principles, values and truths. Being change oriented as a mayor is being flexible regarding methods being open to new ideas, being able to relate to measured outcomes and being able to make difficult budget decisions.

Once we are sure of our principles and our values we become more confident and more able to take risks regarding our methods. Only when we feel comfortable enough to question our methods and to take risks can we grow and be more creative. Only when we feel comfortable ourselves can we encourage others to take risks and to be creative. In other words a mayor needs the confidence to be flexible and to create an atmosphere that encourages risk, and an atmosphere that tolerates mistakes. Consider that the last person to bat .400 in the major leagues was Ted Williams more than 60 years ago; and he did not succeed 60% of the time.

D. Decisive
The art of decision-making is an essential skill for all mayors. In order to make a good decision I believe you need three elements: values, goals and facts. You need a personal value system that sets limits; limits on your methods and your choices. You need a clear vision of your mission, an understanding of your goals and objectives and of what you would like to accomplish. Lastly you need facts, which also by their nature limit your choices because they usually describe your resources whether those resources be physical, financial, human capability or time. In other words the three elements of decision making when applied help narrow the choices enabling the decision maker to select an appropriate choice. When this pattern is followed it is much easier to come to a conclusion and not to look back. Monday morning quarterbacks have the advantage of hindsight a resource not available to a mayor.

E. Ethical
Ethical conduct is an essential characteristic of any mayor. What do we mean by ethical behavior? Is it the adhering to local ordinances? Is it following the state law? Is it holding to our personal religious beliefs or a particular professional code of conduct? Is it filing the disclosure form that New Jersey officials are now required to execute? It is I believe all of these and more. Let me suggest some ethical considerations for those that govern.

  1. The Ethic Of Honesty And Conformance To Law. A municipal mayor is pledged to be accountable to the people and expected to be qualified to interpret and follow the rules.

  2. The Ethic Of Conflict Of Interest. Most of you know these limits and when in doubt you need to consult your professional legal advisor, review available codes of ethics, ask professional colleagues and openly disclose your potential conflicts. When in doubt ask how would I feel if my spouse or my children heard about this from a friend or how would I feel if this were the headline in tomorrow's newspaper.

  3. The Ethic Of Service Orientation Or Procedural Fairness. This one is most interesting. As mayor we make the rules. Do we make the rules for the benefit and convenience of ourselves, or our friends, or are the rules designed to assure fairness to all citizens.

  4. The Ethic Of Democratic Responsibility. This is a basic recognition that all power is derived from the people and we are just stewards for those who will follow. It should be a guiding light for all that we do when we govern.

  5. The Ethic Of Public Policy Determination or stated differently, equity does not always mean equal. In any public policy consideration there are two main questions to ask: What are the benefits and what are the costs? And then, what are the distributional concerns or who gains and who loses?

    If you ask these questions, public policy decisions are often brought into clearer focus. You will be surprised how much easier it can be to make the right decision.

  6. The Ethic Of Compromise And Social Integration. Consider that to compromise is an ethical statement because without concessions to those with whom we disagree, disagreement becomes stalemate. Stalemate unchecked ultimately leads to conflict; therefore compromise is often an ethical action.

    I do not wish to pass over the subject of ethics so quickly for it is very complex and very interesting as well. I would recommend that you engage in a continual pursuit of learning about this important subject. One author of interest to me is Stephen Carter, a Yale law school professor and a budding novelist as well.

An excerpt from an article I read called "The Insufficiency of Honesty" reads as follows:

"A couple of years ago, I began a university commencement address by telling the audience that I was going to talk about integrity. The crowd broke into applause. Applause! Just because they had heard the word "integrity": that's how starved for it they were. Integrity is that stuff that we always want more of. Some say that we need to return to the good old days when we had a lot more of it. Others say that we as a nation have never really had enough of it.

When I refer to integrity, do I mean simply 'honesty'? The answer is no; although honesty is a virtue of importance, it is a different virtue from integrity. Let us, for simplicity, think of honesty as not lying; and the definition of a lie: 'any intentionally deceptive message which is stated.' Plainly, one cannot have integrity without being honest but one can certainly be honest and yet have little integrity.

Integrity requires three steps: discerning what is right and what is wrong; acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right and wrong. The first criterion captures the idea that integrity requires a degree of moral reflectiveness. The second brings in the ideal of a person of integrity as steadfast, a quality that includes keeping one's commitments. The third reminds us that a person of integrity can be trusted.

But do you have to tell people everything you know. Lying and nondisclosure, as the law often recognizes, are not he same thing. Sometimes it is actually illegal to tell what you know, as for example, in the disclosure of certain financial information by market insiders. Or it may be unethical, as when a lawyer reveals a confidence entrusted to her by a client. It may be simple bad manners, as in the case of a gratuitous comment to a colleague on his or her attire. And it may be subject to religious punishment, as when a Roman Catholic priest breaks the seal of the confessional-an offense that carries automatic excommunication.

In all the cases just mentioned, the problem with telling everything you know is that somebody else is harmed. Harm may not be the intention, but is certainly the effect. Honesty is most laudable when we risk harm to ourselves. Integrity may counsel keeping our secrets in order to spare the feelings of others."

Fortunately, integrity and self-interest often coincide, as when a mayor of integrity is rewarded with our votes. When integrity and self-interest are at odds it is those moments that our integrity is truly tested.

So far what we have talked about is governing or leadership and certain qualities found in effective leaders both inside and outside of government. Those qualities being:

  1. A positive outlook

  2. A clear vision which is skillfully projected

  3. An ability to communicate with enthusiasm and purpose
    and,

  4. The ABCDE of leadership:
    Achievement Oriented
    Believable
    Change Oriented
    Decisive
    Ethical

Next, a word about professional management. The International City Management Association is a wonderful resource for you and your city. Its Executive Director Robert O'Neill, Jr. said last month "For a community to be successful, you need strong political leadership, strong policy development, a relentless focus on execution and results, a commitment to transparent and ethical government, and a strategy for representing and engaging every segment of the community."

While to do all these things well is difficult, many communities do get it right, and those that have risen to the top have committed over time to being effective in each dimension. Those local governments consistently ranked as those most respected have had both strong political leadership and effective management capacity.

Professional local government management plays a critical role in balancing the demand to operate at the speed of business with the speed of democracy. To quote political scientist and public executive Harlan Cleveland, "how do you get everyone in on the act and still get action?" This is one of the most important dimensions of the performance dividend of professional managers.

Having a vision for a community is key to its success and developing and articulating future directions is an essential element of strong political leadership but "Vision without execution is hallucination."

Therefore, an important element of the value of professional management is the ability to translate vision into results.

Many of you mayors have managers and administrators leading your staff. I encourage each of you to do three things when you return home:

  1. Develop an effective working relationship with your administrator and professional staff.
  2. Work with your administrator and lead the council to address difficult issues; those that deal with big picture problems.
  3. Articulate a set of values, which will set a framework for all that will follow.

Lastly, I leave you one final list - a top 10 if you will:

  • Choose to stop blaming other people
  • Choose not to make excuses
  • Choose to strive for excellence not perfection
  • Choose to everyday do something nice and try not to get caught
  • Choose to learn from the past, plan for the future and live in the present
  • Choose to approach each new day with enthusiasm
  • Choose to share success with others
  • Choose to embody patience and understanding
  • Choose to be open to new ideas
  • Choose to give and receive love easily

As mayors others have chosen you for the position. The challenge is yours. How will you choose to govern?

 

 

407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481  NJLM logo 
William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director
'Guides To Governing"

By: Richard W. Deaney
Manager, Ocean City
Past President, NJ Municipal Management Association


"I talk a lot about leadership, and when I do, I speak from experience, having interacted with innumerable leaders in the business world, the military and sports. One thing I know for sure is that being a leader isn't easy: It takes patience, persistence and courage, as well as the ability to deal with ambiguity", so says Charles Laver, Publisher of Modern Healthcare.

He goes on to say, "It all starts with attitude. . . . .attitude is everything. Leaders don't let doom-and-gloomers take their dreams away; they devise a plan and then persuade others to join them in accomplishing their goals."

If leadership starts with attitude than leaders must be positive. Leaders must choose to feel comfortable. In the face of uncertainty they must choose to approach each new day with enthusiasm.

Nelson Mandela said in his 1994 inauguration speech "Your playing small does not serve the World. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own Light shine; we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

As mayors, new mayors or seasoned veterans, I believe it's all about governing, and governing is leading. I know you are effective politicians because you have each won an election. You hold my greatest admiration for you all have placed your name on the ballot line at least once and for many of you several times. Running for office takes courage, requires a dedication of time and personal resources and requires an ability to persuade others of your potential. These are positive characteristics that you can use while governing but governing is different and requires additional skill sets. For the next few minutes I want you to think of governing as leading and your position as mayor as one of leadership.

What qualities can a community expect from you as your community's mayor? I will suggest five qualities, the A, B, C, D and E qualities of a successful mayor.

A. Achievement Oriented
Do you know that many of the most successful world leaders in the fields of business, government, education, science or athletics share a common attribute and that is an orientation toward achievement. Much to the surprise of many, this attribute far overshadows an orientation toward power, competitiveness, or a need to serve mankind. Achievement oriented persons have a high regard for others, clearly stated expectations, a can do attitude and a focus on the objective. Even the best of todays world class athletes is more achievement oriented than competitive; they believe that if they set the right goals, obtain the best training, take care of their bodies and practice enough that they will succeed and in game or event situations they will win. When they don't win they most often congratulate the "winner" as the better achiever and go back and refocus on the characteristics of achieving. Leaders are focused, detailed oriented and steadfast; all characteristics of achievers.

B. Believable
A local government leader must be believable. Credibility may be the single most important word for a mayor or other local government official to keep before him or her. To be believable one must be consistent, clear and competent. A mayor can best achieve the needed confidence from the public by being worth their trust. Believability comes from a clear set of principles and the ability to consistently conform to these principles. One must follow a steady course that is value driven.

A mayor must have personal and professional values and principles and be able to clearly communicate them to others. Only if you can articulate them for yourself and others can you be believable.

C. Change Oriented
While to be believable requires consistency, to be effective requires a readiness to change. How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction? Being consistent as a mayor is being consistent to principles, values and truths. Being change oriented as a mayor is being flexible regarding methods being open to new ideas, being able to relate to measured outcomes and being able to make difficult budget decisions.

Once we are sure of our principles and our values we become more confident and more able to take risks regarding our methods. Only when we feel comfortable enough to question our methods and to take risks can we grow and be more creative. Only when we feel comfortable ourselves can we encourage others to take risks and to be creative. In other words a mayor needs the confidence to be flexible and to create an atmosphere that encourages risk, and an atmosphere that tolerates mistakes. Consider that the last person to bat .400 in the major leagues was Ted Williams more than 60 years ago; and he did not succeed 60% of the time.

D. Decisive
The art of decision-making is an essential skill for all mayors. In order to make a good decision I believe you need three elements: values, goals and facts. You need a personal value system that sets limits; limits on your methods and your choices. You need a clear vision of your mission, an understanding of your goals and objectives and of what you would like to accomplish. Lastly you need facts, which also by their nature limit your choices because they usually describe your resources whether those resources be physical, financial, human capability or time. In other words the three elements of decision making when applied help narrow the choices enabling the decision maker to select an appropriate choice. When this pattern is followed it is much easier to come to a conclusion and not to look back. Monday morning quarterbacks have the advantage of hindsight a resource not available to a mayor.

E. Ethical
Ethical conduct is an essential characteristic of any mayor. What do we mean by ethical behavior? Is it the adhering to local ordinances? Is it following the state law? Is it holding to our personal religious beliefs or a particular professional code of conduct? Is it filing the disclosure form that New Jersey officials are now required to execute? It is I believe all of these and more. Let me suggest some ethical considerations for those that govern.

  1. The Ethic Of Honesty And Conformance To Law. A municipal mayor is pledged to be accountable to the people and expected to be qualified to interpret and follow the rules.

  2. The Ethic Of Conflict Of Interest. Most of you know these limits and when in doubt you need to consult your professional legal advisor, review available codes of ethics, ask professional colleagues and openly disclose your potential conflicts. When in doubt ask how would I feel if my spouse or my children heard about this from a friend or how would I feel if this were the headline in tomorrow's newspaper.

  3. The Ethic Of Service Orientation Or Procedural Fairness. This one is most interesting. As mayor we make the rules. Do we make the rules for the benefit and convenience of ourselves, or our friends, or are the rules designed to assure fairness to all citizens.

  4. The Ethic Of Democratic Responsibility. This is a basic recognition that all power is derived from the people and we are just stewards for those who will follow. It should be a guiding light for all that we do when we govern.

  5. The Ethic Of Public Policy Determination or stated differently, equity does not always mean equal. In any public policy consideration there are two main questions to ask: What are the benefits and what are the costs? And then, what are the distributional concerns or who gains and who loses?

    If you ask these questions, public policy decisions are often brought into clearer focus. You will be surprised how much easier it can be to make the right decision.

  6. The Ethic Of Compromise And Social Integration. Consider that to compromise is an ethical statement because without concessions to those with whom we disagree, disagreement becomes stalemate. Stalemate unchecked ultimately leads to conflict; therefore compromise is often an ethical action.

    I do not wish to pass over the subject of ethics so quickly for it is very complex and very interesting as well. I would recommend that you engage in a continual pursuit of learning about this important subject. One author of interest to me is Stephen Carter, a Yale law school professor and a budding novelist as well.

An excerpt from an article I read called "The Insufficiency of Honesty" reads as follows:

"A couple of years ago, I began a university commencement address by telling the audience that I was going to talk about integrity. The crowd broke into applause. Applause! Just because they had heard the word "integrity": that's how starved for it they were. Integrity is that stuff that we always want more of. Some say that we need to return to the good old days when we had a lot more of it. Others say that we as a nation have never really had enough of it.

When I refer to integrity, do I mean simply 'honesty'? The answer is no; although honesty is a virtue of importance, it is a different virtue from integrity. Let us, for simplicity, think of honesty as not lying; and the definition of a lie: 'any intentionally deceptive message which is stated.' Plainly, one cannot have integrity without being honest but one can certainly be honest and yet have little integrity.

Integrity requires three steps: discerning what is right and what is wrong; acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right and wrong. The first criterion captures the idea that integrity requires a degree of moral reflectiveness. The second brings in the ideal of a person of integrity as steadfast, a quality that includes keeping one's commitments. The third reminds us that a person of integrity can be trusted.

But do you have to tell people everything you know. Lying and nondisclosure, as the law often recognizes, are not he same thing. Sometimes it is actually illegal to tell what you know, as for example, in the disclosure of certain financial information by market insiders. Or it may be unethical, as when a lawyer reveals a confidence entrusted to her by a client. It may be simple bad manners, as in the case of a gratuitous comment to a colleague on his or her attire. And it may be subject to religious punishment, as when a Roman Catholic priest breaks the seal of the confessional-an offense that carries automatic excommunication.

In all the cases just mentioned, the problem with telling everything you know is that somebody else is harmed. Harm may not be the intention, but is certainly the effect. Honesty is most laudable when we risk harm to ourselves. Integrity may counsel keeping our secrets in order to spare the feelings of others."

Fortunately, integrity and self-interest often coincide, as when a mayor of integrity is rewarded with our votes. When integrity and self-interest are at odds it is those moments that our integrity is truly tested.

So far what we have talked about is governing or leadership and certain qualities found in effective leaders both inside and outside of government. Those qualities being:

  1. A positive outlook

  2. A clear vision which is skillfully projected

  3. An ability to communicate with enthusiasm and purpose
    and,

  4. The ABCDE of leadership:
    Achievement Oriented
    Believable
    Change Oriented
    Decisive
    Ethical

Next, a word about professional management. The International City Management Association is a wonderful resource for you and your city. Its Executive Director Robert O'Neill, Jr. said last month "For a community to be successful, you need strong political leadership, strong policy development, a relentless focus on execution and results, a commitment to transparent and ethical government, and a strategy for representing and engaging every segment of the community."

While to do all these things well is difficult, many communities do get it right, and those that have risen to the top have committed over time to being effective in each dimension. Those local governments consistently ranked as those most respected have had both strong political leadership and effective management capacity.

Professional local government management plays a critical role in balancing the demand to operate at the speed of business with the speed of democracy. To quote political scientist and public executive Harlan Cleveland, "how do you get everyone in on the act and still get action?" This is one of the most important dimensions of the performance dividend of professional managers.

Having a vision for a community is key to its success and developing and articulating future directions is an essential element of strong political leadership but "Vision without execution is hallucination."

Therefore, an important element of the value of professional management is the ability to translate vision into results.

Many of you mayors have managers and administrators leading your staff. I encourage each of you to do three things when you return home:

  1. Develop an effective working relationship with your administrator and professional staff.
  2. Work with your administrator and lead the council to address difficult issues; those that deal with big picture problems.
  3. Articulate a set of values, which will set a framework for all that will follow.

Lastly, I leave you one final list - a top 10 if you will:

  • Choose to stop blaming other people
  • Choose not to make excuses
  • Choose to strive for excellence not perfection
  • Choose to everyday do something nice and try not to get caught
  • Choose to learn from the past, plan for the future and live in the present
  • Choose to approach each new day with enthusiasm
  • Choose to share success with others
  • Choose to embody patience and understanding
  • Choose to be open to new ideas
  • Choose to give and receive love easily

As mayors others have chosen you for the position. The challenge is yours. How will you choose to govern?

 

 

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