If Mayors Ruled the World [http://bit.ly/1kq50ah] it would be a better place! This premise of a recently released book is becoming increasingly true as each day passes. As gridlock and a circus-like atmosphere permeates Washington, with many State governments not far behind, the important work being carried out at the City level chugs on!
During my two years of leadership and organizational development work at the City of Minneapolis, I witnessed first-hand smart, hard-working employees make this City run. A small subset of these efforts hit the papers. Rather, most of the stories we read about in the media concern highly visible construction projects, the latest neighborhood fracas and interesting tidbits a council person muttered at the last committee hearing.
However, these topics are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the practical work the City carries out that positively impacts citizens each and every day. I am talking about the folks who ensure that the water that comes out of your tap tastes good, the roads you take to work are quality, the building where you work is safe, the restaurant where you have lunch is a healthy environment, the park where you take your kids is enjoyable… You get the idea.
The combined impact of each and every service provided by our City, which we too often take for granted, is significant. Here are additional wins from a rush of other recent books about Cities:
- A Country of Cities: Ninety percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 86% of our jobs are generated in metropolitan areas. And, by the way, these metropolitan areas comprise 3% of the land in the U.S. [Chakrabarti, 2013, http://amzn.to/2rTZDKT%5D
- Green Metropolis: Cities are poster children of sustainability since density linked to infrastructure consistently lowers carbon footprints per person. This allows for the creation of walkable neighborhoods which builds community connections. [David Owen,2010, http://amzn.to/2r2GPrw%5D
- Triumph of the City: People with a powerful skill ready to tackle the problems of the day tend to migrate toward and settle in cities. Cities such as Minneapolis and Boston have capitalized on great schools and a highly educated workforce. [Edward Glaeser, 2012, http://amzn.to/2t1WBUu ]
The authors of these books praising Cities all make the similar point that City’s offer us solutions to the big problems of our day. These author admittedly down play the challenges in many major cities around public education, equity and inclusion and maintaining quality of life at reasonable price points. However, even on these fronts, Cities are diving in and making progress.
As a result of doing organizational development at the City of Minneapolis, I had a front row seat to the work cited in these books. At a leadership level, the City Coordinator function brings an outstanding level of strategic expertise. Regulatory Services, Planning, Property Services, Fire, Communications and Public Works leaders are paving new ground (In the case of the latter, literally!). To name just a few of the amazing leaders.
Combine all this with Human Resources leadership with a compelling vision for building Talent Management of the future. This capability allowed me to deliver one of the most innovative Leadership courses in the country hands-down – public or private sector. This six month program involves emerging leaders from across City Departments exploring how to increase skills and collaborate more. The program also involves bringing in some of the most experienced leaders from the Twin Cities in government, nonprofit and the corporate sectors. They deliver practical, real-world advice that hits the mark.
Equally impressive I worked with young up and coming leaders doing incredibly innovative work with their teams. A few examples of the many:
- Imani Jaafar is partnering with various City departments on Civil Rights Office efforts which are practical and get to the heart of challenges.
- Kim Keller’s Regulatory Services internal services group is finding new ways to move quickly from strategy to execution.
- Patrick Hanlon’s Environmental Health staff dedicate 20% of their time to cutting edge projects which have had sizable impacts. [Take that Google!]
These are the types of innovative leaders that every organization in the world is trying to attract and retain. Ramping up the level of leadership is the key to making great public organizations even better as pointed out in Transforming Public Leadership:
“Leaders possess the ability to structure conversations that create a sense of collaboration and a feeling of mutual support by their ability to communicate openly about what may be achieved in the future and what can be achieved through each individual’s purposeful actions so that those involved believe in themselves.” [Christine Gibbs Springer, 2007, http://amzn.to/2sRUnHP%5D
In the end, these local City efforts perhaps do not have the scope that national and state-wide initiatives make. However, given the latest news coming out of Washington, perhaps local public servants making a difference in our daily life is the real news!
Note: This blog does not express the views of my employer.