• Positive Leadership in a Polarized World


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    The leadership skills of public leaders of all kinds — especially city or county elected officials and managers — are being challenged this week in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.  In the midst of this pain and conflict, some effective leaders are employing strategies to move us forward in a positive way.

    The purpose of this blogpost is not to take a position on the correct decision to make about Confederate statues; that is up to individual communities to decide.  Instead, our intention is to share wise leadership strategies to employ in the situation.

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  • The P4 Organizational Culture


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    The key to success in the workplace – for individuals and collectively – is building strong, trusting relationships. In the public sector, this is especially true. Our governance structures; the array of complicated populations and services we provide; our built in systems of checks and balances. It seems that just about everything we do requires interacting with other people.

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  • The Value of Being Wrong


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    Recently I received the results of my comprehensive strategic leadership survey and 360 assessment. The results allowed me not only to see my shortcomings as a leader, but also areas of untapped leadership potential.

    One comment stood out: “Wilson embraces being wrong.”

    Within Army culture, being wrong and failure are synonymous, so I took this comment to heart.

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  • Hidden Figures in Local Government Leadership


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    The hit movie Hidden Figures tells the story of four brilliant people — Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden — who, in the 1950s, advanced the state of computing and space travel for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The achievements of these experts were remarkable for many reasons, including that fact that they were women and African American. And that they achieved so much during a time when women rarely worked outside of the home and the civil rights movement was in its early stages.

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  • Four Suggestions for Polishing Your Crystal Ball


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    The recent surprise in the US presidential election results suggests that those who do not pay close attention to current trends and possible future events may be unprepared for sudden changes that can have a big impact. Here are four methods for polishing your crystal ball.

    1. Tap a variety of perspectives. This includes various levels of management, departments, advisory board members, governing board members, leaders of citizen’s groups and others. The more your organization brings together information from all parts of the system, the less likely it is you will be blindsided. Mapping these key perspectives and organizing systematic ways of touching base (e.g., surveys, visits, phone calls, etc.) is key to success in this endeavor.

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  • Collaborative Leadership for Economic Development in Alamance County


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    (Cover image from The Times-News, 3/22/2016)

     

    The N.C. Commerce Park in Alamance County, North Carolina is an economic development success story that underscores how vital interlocal and regional collaboration is for community and economic development. It also highlights the power of partnerships and collaboration, and the importance of local leaders that share a collaborative mindset.

    The N.C. Commerce Park is an 1,100-acre economic development zone located in the Hawfields area of eastern Alamance County. The area includes parcels owned by dozens of private land-owners who have voluntarily become partners with the N.C. Commerce Park in agreeing to easements and (very importantly) providing options on their properties. The 1,100 acres includes parts of Graham, Mebane, and unincorporated Alamance County. Site development involved $12 million for infrastructure, jointly funded by the three local governments and the N.C. Department of Transportation. Later the three local governments also each contributed $100,000 to the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce to oversee the site certification process.

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  • Nonpartisan Leadership in a Politically Polarized World


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    Here we are, one week past a particularly difficult election season, with some races still unresolved.

    Most of the readers of this blog are people who hold governmental positions that require non-partisanship behavior. Others are people who got where they are, at least in part, due to their affiliation with one political party. Still others might be might be nonprofit leaders whose primary allegiance might be to a specific mission or particular client group, independent of political affiliation.

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  • Appreciative Inquiry 101: Finding “The Flip” to a More Positive Outcome


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    Positive thinking is more than just a tagline.

    It changes the way we behave.

    And I firmly believe that when I am positive, it not only makes me better,

    but it also makes those around me better.
    -Harvey Mackay

     

    A fundamental practice of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is to focus on strengths rather than weaknesses. Doing so enables us open up our thinking to explore our successes and opportunities rather than obsess about our shortcomings or failures. This practice does NOT mean that we sugar-coat or overlook reality. It simply means that we build on our immediate and local assets rather than focusing on what is not there or not desirable.

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  • The Military Veteran’s Transition to a Leadership Culture in which Obedience is a Bad Word


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    Obedience is part of military culture, both as a legal obligation and as an instilled reflexive practice deemed essential to survival in combat. Circumstances might require following orders that go against natural instincts.

    Military training also encourages initiative and independent thought, and, when appropriate, expressing concerns about decisions or a state of affairs. But it also involves understanding that when a decision has been made you must do everything you can to implement it and influence others to act in the same way.

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  • What Am I Missing?


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    Pierre-Auguste Renoir -La Grenoullere (1869)

     

    Try an experiment. Grab three or four people and ask them to look at this painting for 30 seconds then close their eyes and describe what they saw. Don’t be surprised if each person sees the painting in ways others do not.

    If we see things so differently, what might each of us missing? Leaders need to be continually aware of what they and others may be missing. Our brains are constantly painting a picture of the world around us. Leaders need to understand what others do and do not see in order to tap into and shape a common picture of the future—whether that means convincing people to launch a new business or take action to protect the environment. Effective leaders look for ways to bridge their own and others’ mental pictures so everyone shares a sense of why their work is important, how they will get things done, and what they will accomplish.

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