Anthony Hooper is a first-generation college graduate with a BA from Willamette University and a MPA from USC. After deferring law school to join Teach for America, he realized that public service was the only choice for him. He is the Support Services Supervisor for Lake Oswego, Ore.
What, in your opinion, makes a good leader? — I strongly believe in “Theory Y” management and leadership as outlined by Douglas McGregor in The Human Side of Enterprise (1960). The best leaders get out of the way of talented employees. They believe that employees are intrinsically motivated and that they want to do top-quality work. Great leaders create environments that allow employees to maximize their pursuit of purpose, mastery and autonomy. The exceptional leaders are typically honest, logical, passionate, inclusive, inspiring, humorous and confident. In sum, great leaders seek input, have vision, hire employees for talent and fit, encourage employee development, and communicate openly.
What trends/issues/challenges do you feel particularly apply to young leaders of today and why? — A trend that my Millennial peers talk about often is that Deputy City Manager and Assistant City Manager positions are being eliminated in communities throughout the nation as a result of budget cuts. The consequence of this is that young leaders are not receiving the same chances to develop as previous generations. There is more pressure for young leaders to jump to a City Manager position that they are not ready for or stay in a position in which they are not developing the skills needed to succeed at the top level.
Bridget Doyle is the Communications Coordinator for the Village of Lombard, Ill. Prior to becoming a government communications professional, Doyle was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.
The greatest leadership challenge you faced, and how you conquered it? — [One] leadership challenge, especially for young leaders, is working on the same level with professionals who have much more experience. This is difficult, as there’s a need to show respect to your older colleagues while also gaining some of your own. I think the best way to gain high opinion from older colleagues is to first acknowledge their experience and seek their advice in times when it’s warranted. These people have knowledge that comes with years of work that we as young leaders just don’t. I think young leaders can receive more respect simply by tapping into this advice and acknowledging value in experience.
What trends/issues/challenges do you feel particularly apply to young leaders of today and why? — I think leaders of today have a challenge ahead of them in terms of the future of technology and communication. Millennials in particular have been pegged by older generations as terrible with face-to-face conversation and instead reliant on technology. Those of us who grew up using the Internet and cell phones have to remember, as we advance, to hone our communication skills in person and over the phone. We must continue to sharpen our people skills and simultaneously stay conscious of proper technology etiquette. Except for casual emails, I hope young leaders avoid abbreviation and colloquial acronyms. We need to shake hands, look people in the eye and make a personal connection. I’m guilty of technology addiction too – we just have to stay conscious of our use.
Jim Lenner has been the Village Manager for Johnstown since 2011. Located outside the Columbus, Ohio, metro region, Johnstown has seen significant growth over the past 10 years.
The accomplishment of which you are the most proud? — I have been most proud of completing projects that increased the efficiencies of our staff. Although we have seen a small increase in revenue, we have been asked to do proportionally more with less. We have used our fund balance carryover in the last three budgets but have slowly reduced the amount without sacrifices in service or employee layoffs.
What trends/issues/challenges do you feel particularly apply to young leaders of today and why? — The major challenge for young leaders in government is the stigma of government lazy, incompetent employees. We often are ridiculed for actions of other government entities as well as other government employees. There are good leaders in the public sector that do great things everyday. However, one story of a bad apple in the government sector sets the rest back in the eyes of the public. I believe young leaders will look elsewhere for fear of the impact of unfounded negative public perception of government employees.
Marc Nelson serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Roanoke, Va. He has an MPA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has previously worked for Savannah, Ga., and the State of North Carolina’s Office of Budget and Management.
The greatest leadership challenge you faced, and how you conquered it? — I managed an internal team of city administrators tasked with crafting contracts and agreements associated with development of the city’s first new downtown hotel in over a century. Our team included just about every member of the city’s executive management team, including the City Manager, Assistant City Manager, Finance Director and City Attorney, as well as the Director of Economic Development. No one sitting in that meeting room each Friday was required to listen to me. But, leadership doesn’t have to be top-down in nature. In fact, “managing up” is a vital skill all young leaders should learn and master.
In this case, “managing up” meant being the backstop for anything and everything related to the project – serving as a repository for documents, keeping and maintaining razor sharp notes, attending and contributing to every single meeting or phone call, no matter how short or inconsequential ... Doing these things built up a sense of trust and reliability that proved extremely valuable when I needed something on a short deadline or called to discuss sensitive issues.
What trends/issues/challenges do you feel particularly apply to young leaders of today and why? — It’s vitally important for young leaders to be aggressive in seeking out the knowledge and experience that will equip them for future leadership roles. While much has been made of the impending wave of Baby Boomer retirements, many leaders from that age group are still relatively young, love their jobs, and do not plan on retiring any time soon. With the leadership landscape being so crowded, younger leaders simply can’t afford to wait for opportunities to be presented to them. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. But, be prepared to back up your words if you do.
Marissa Grass is the associate planner for Tigard, Ore., where she has worked in planning for seven years. Her time is spent on long-range planning projects, with River Terrace – the city’s urban growth expansion area – taking priority. Grass serves as Project Coordinator and Public Involvement/Communications Lead for this project.
The accomplishment of which you are the most proud? —
I served as the Public Involvement lead for our Urban Forestry Code Revisions project. This project is the recipient of the 2013 Professional Achievement in Planning Award (Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association), and 2014 National Planning Excellence Award for a Best Practice (American Planning Association).
As part of interviews for an APA award video, one stakeholder stated, “The fact that this diverse group could come to a consensus…was really remarkable.” For me personally, the success of this project is measured in the relationships that were built, the high quality of the work, and innovative nature of the results. I think this will always be a highlight of my career.
The greatest leadership challenge you faced, and how you conquered it? — Upon the sudden departure of the previous project manager, I was asked to take over the Urban Forestry Code Revisions project in the middle of the council adoption process. It was a particularly tough review process, and at the same time my supervisor left the city as well.
The following collaborative learning principles really helped me to keep a fresh perspective about the process:
- The task is to manage conflict, not resolve it.
- Consensus is not the only measure of satisfaction or success.
- Progress results from improvements rather than solutions.
- Improved decisions result from mutual and meaningful learning.
What, in your opinion, makes a good leader? — “Success is knowing the difference between cornering people and getting them in your corner.”
Matt Mueller is the Town Manager for Little Elm, Texas, one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation. Having served in local government for 15 years, he holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Central Oklahoma and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma.
The biggest challenge you’ve conquered? — I started in my first executive level position when I was 26, and a challenge that I have had to overcome has been my age. Since that time, I have been tasked with managing people older than me, and in many cases, with many more years of experience who aren’t excited about change. I realized that I had to earn their respect from my actions, not expect it because of my title.
Advice to young leaders? — The growing trend of social media as a communication platform...It used to be that you needed a strong relationship with your local media to communicate with the public, then it was important to identify the local bloggers, but now with the overwhelming growth of social media over the past five years, every citizen has a voice and a platform. If you are not able provide a high level of transparency, clarity, and communication, the local social media groups can spiral out of control with misinformation.
Michael Enloe works for the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) within the Capital Projects division. He is responsible for project management activities for design and construction projects and programs.
An accomplishment of which you are most proud? — Being a member of a design team for a large transportation infrastructure project. The project spanned approximately 4-5 miles of freeway improvements, five new bridges, and two interchange improvements and multiple city/county street improvements. The design of the project was 5+ years and the first part of my career. It wasn’t your typical freeway interchange improvement project that improved capacity; it was a project that built safe routes to emergency services. The area commonly floods almost on a yearly basis which blocks safe routes to the hospital and safe routes out of town. This project helped provide roadway during weather disasters. I am proud to be a part of this project because I feel it was a huge benefit to the local community in many ways.
What, in your opinion, makes a good leader? —Good leaders are those who know that to be successful they must promote and help others around them be successful. All too often we view “good leaders” as the individuals who are always leading, those who demand or think they are entitled to that leadership role; quite the contrary. A good leader is one that believes they are not entitled to or always grasps for that leading role (a good leader doesn’t presume that it’s their job to take charge every time there is a gathering of people). Good leaders take the role that is required to make their team or the situation a successful one. A good leader leads by example. They change people and influence them to become the best versions of themselves.
Patrick W. Rollens works in communications and social media at the Village of Oak Park, Ill. A recovering journalist, Patrick lives in Chicago with his wife Melissa, a public school teacher.
On the future of government communications — We have a critical mass of tech-savvy residents who are active on social media. These folks do a great job of keeping the conversation going throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages. In the future, I expect to see more and more residents active in the digital space, asking questions and seeking resources from their local governments. It is vital for local governments to recognize this service area and devote resources to meeting these folks online. Every question answered on Twitter is one more phone call saved or trip to city hall avoided.
Tony Richardson is a native of Lorain, Ohio, where he currently serves as a councilman at large. Tony is a graduate of Oberlin College ‘05 and The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law ‘09.
The accomplishment of which you are most proud? — At this point in my career, I am most proud of being elected to serve as a councilman at large. When I was elected in 2011, I became the youngest African-American in the city’s history to win an at large council seat. In addition, I am currently the youngest person of color holding a city-wide elected seat in the state of Ohio.
What, in your opinion, makes a good leader? — A good leader, among other things, must be a student of his or her profession, possess strong listening skills and be able to work in coalition with a range of people with various skills and backgrounds. Good leaders know when to defer and feel comfortable taking advice and direction from other people.
What trends/issues/challenges do you feel particularly apply to young leaders of today and why? — When I decided to get involved in my community back in my early 20s, I had to overcome the challenge of being labeled as inexperienced. I was able to overcome that challenge by being reliable, accountable and hardworking, which ultimately allowed me to earn the trust and respect of the more seasoned community leaders and activists. I stayed the course, but can easily see how a young, rising leader can get discouraged from the lack of opportunity for professional development. Hands-on experience is the best way to learn but the only way to actually get that experience is through opportunity.
In a field where experience is heralded as the supreme virtue, these young leaders are proving that fresh ideas and youthful perspectives are equally important to local government management.
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