Leadership Is Not for Everyone
Experience, competency and temperament are required
There are too many of us, in communities across the state, who accept the notion that politics is the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary (if you consider it a profession, in the traditional sense, or is it public service by public servants – that is a different discussion altogether, though).
But – if we are electing candidates to public office without regard to their preparation, experience, competency or temperament, can we really be surprised with the results, or the job performance, once they are in office? Oh, sure, while they are campaigning, and even after being elected, these politicians act the part. They assure us they are “working for us,” that “now is our time,” and that “it’s all for the children.”
But the truth is that many of those we elect to public office don’t have the temperament needed to concentrate on large-scale, organizational change. They aren’t secure enough in their own beliefs to deliver the changes needed because they capitulate when faced with almost any political resistance to those changes and are more concerned about the preservation of their own power – and how they look in the moment – rather than how they can make a lasting impact in their community.
You see, leadership is not for everyone, but then again, we don’t have to elect them to office, either. According to Fortune magazine, 70% of CEOs fail because they cannot execute. They don’t get things done, they are indecisive and don’t follow through. And yet, we keep electing these same types of folks to lead our communities and nation year after year. As Senator John Kennedy once mused, “You can’t fix stupid, but you can vote it out.”
I mention all of this to tell you about an unnecessary, unprofessional, heated exchange between some members of the Shreveport City Council and a city department head during a recent council meeting.
You see, City Engineer Patrick Furlong was appearing before the council and reporting that, due to steep inflation, many construction and road projects are costing substantially more than was budgeted by last year’s council. One project rose in cost by one million dollars in just the one month, as an example.
That’s when first-time councilmember Ursula Bowman called Mr. Furlong a liar, saying that he was telling them (the city council) “lie after lie after lie” and that he wasn’t being transparent. Councilmember Tabatha Taylor followed up right in behind and said she (Ms. Taylor) is “not cutting” (projects), and she “not taking any more of that in the inner city.”
Although it’s not clear what Ms. Bowman thought Mr. Furlong was lying about, nor what Ms. Taylor wasn’t taking any more of, I do understand, to some degree, their frustration. Bringing money in for road construction projects, for example, is one of the ways that councilmembers “bring home the bacon” to their districts and show their constituents they are doing their jobs. In all fairness, last year’s councilmembers even budgeted an extra $9 million last year for anticipated cost increases this year – but it’s just not enough.
There’s only so much money to go around, and some of the projects slated for this year may have to be pushed back even further.
Those are the facts. Knowing what to do next requires leadership and maturity. Cooperation and honesty. Thoughtful planning and execution. Not name-calling or stonewalling. For decision-making, not denial. It calls to set aside the “what’s in it for me” to make room for “what’s best for the city.”
And none of that includes publicly accusing, berating a longtime city employee of telling “lie after lie after lie” without any indication whatsoever as to what was being lied about in the first place.
This is why, as voters, we must be in the “people” business in every election, every year, every time. As Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of General Electric, said, “We spend all our time on people,” he says. “The day we screw up the people thing, this company is over.”
The same is true for our government. Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple, now with a $2.5 trillion market cap, once said, “The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”
So, the question is – from city hall to Baton Rouge to Washington, D.C. – why aren’t we, as voters, doing the same?
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at email@example.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.