Viewpoint: What is a Strong Mayor?

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By George Hawthorne, CEO, Diversity Program Advisors, Inc.

Writing “strong memos” does not make a “strong mayor” in the absence of concise actions, transactional transparency and unambiguous communications. Strong mayors provide governance, policies and leadership that is effective and transparent.

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “A true leader is not a seeker of consensus, but, a molder of consensus.”

A “strong mayor” is ALWAYS out front in the various opportunities and define their “vision” for a City and acts as the key “matchmaker” and “team builder” for the city. They mold a collective “vision” for the city, that includes input and collaboration of key stakeholders that help deliver the “vision.”

Strong mayors campaign on “promises” however, they keep their promises and clearly define a “vision for their administration,” — not in flowery “PR-focused” memos and media “sound-bites” for the evening news or morning paper – however, in clear and concise terms and well-defined actionable steps needed to accomplish the mission and vision, that “everyone on the team is aware of and committed to achieving.”

A strong mayor doesn’t wait for the PR team to “craft a response” to criticism and controversy, however, deals with the issues of governance directly and clearly answers the questions posed surrounding “his decisions” and stand-by by those decisions. They are able to uphold those decisions, because, it was crafted with stakeholders in an open and transparent process – again, “leaders … are molders of consensus.”

Clear communication is essential to strong mayors and provides a platform for consensus building that is required to make progressive and innovative changes for community growth. Strong mayors seek and value feedback from the “opposition,” that most cases can provide valuable information and strategic guidance that helps the process.

Strong Mayors execute the tasks needed to accomplish that “vision” and operational “mission” in a transparent process, in order to avoid the “perception” of impropriety, corruption and/or neglect of duty. Strong Mayors COMMUNICATE and not ISOLATE themselves from citizens and media … when issues of importance and/or controversy arise.

Strong mayors are proactive in taking responsibility for their decisions and they NEVER govern and administer from a constant “crisis-management mode,” … that ultimately spends valuable time and resources “extinguishing self-started fires” originating from poor governance decisions and inexperienced management staff that is focused on image instead of substance.

Strong mayors engage and employ “qualified” people and staff that are mission driven and not just “yes men” that won’t challenge the strong mayor when he NOT right. Strong mayors hire people that are progressive “leaders” themselves and that possess unique skill sets in the critical path tasks of the vision and mission. Strong mayors embrace leadership from their staff and consultants and seek wise counsel from these individuals.

Strong mayors empower their people to do their jobs and provide them resources and “political support” in the execution of their respective tasks. These leaders understand that putting the right talent and skill sets in the right position with duties that are consistent with their skill sets and professional experience, are essential in executing any initiative.

Strong mayors engender loyalty from the staff and constituents by consistent and clear communications about their responsibilities in accomplishing the mission. They do not lead by fear and intimidation that demoralizes the troops and stifles innovation. Strong mayors don’t fire or “separate” or “throw under the bus” good employees, in order to hide from THEIR decisions and actions.

Strong mayors understand that they become a stronger mayor by building strong relationships based upon integrity, honesty and clarity of message. Strong Mayors share the credit for the community’s triumphs and accept responsibility for its failures and their political blunders.

Strong mayors understand that strong communities are the source of their strength … strong mayors build respect for their leadership based upon their deeds and not their title.