One of the things I miss from the days when I was a Public Works Director was the sense of accomplishment I’d get from seeing the roads repaired, the bridges fixed or the new traffic signals installed. Actually seeing the end result of all your hard work made the trials and tribulations that it took to get there worthwhile. Plus, the citizens saw results — and in case they missed them we put up roadway signs that proudly declared Your Tax Dollars At Work. Results matter and just like anything else in life you have a right to expect results from your city government. I totally get that and we want to deliver. Results are fairly straightforward to see in Public Works but how do you measure the results of your City Council and City Administration? Here’s one way we’re working with City Council to do just that.
How do you measure leadership?
Pretty good question and judging from the abundance of leadership books on the best seller list it’s a question that many people are trying to answer.
From what I’ve seen leadership comes in many shapes and sizes but in city government it’s about fulfilling a promise to do the best for the community. To leave the city better than when you arrived. It’s about standing-up for what you believe, saying what needs to be said, and doing what must to be done because it’s the right thing to do.
Political leadership aims to find the right answers for the community. It listens and acts with respect and humility at the risk of being wrong for the sake of doing right.
Leading cities is rarely about choosing between right and wrong; it’s about having to face two “rights” and pick one for the good of the whole. This is tough stuff that affects people’s lives and tests the character, values and beliefs of each political leader on every issue.
Sometimes leadership is about planning ahead for tomorrow but other times it’s about making the decisions that are needed to make things right today.
So how do we measure that?
One way that we’re experimenting with is tracking what the staff is bringing before Council and how Council is spending their time. The question we’re trying to answer is are we focused on what matters most to the future of Kent? Are we working on those things that the community has said are top priorities? And if so, are we succeeding?
Here’s some quick statistics for how Council spent their time in the first quarter of 2008:
So what do all the numbers mean? To understand that, you’ve got to have a sense for what the community has said is important to Kent’s future. Rather than asking you to re-read all the raw data and reports, we’ve gone back and tried to summarize the results in a framework that we think will help us make sure what we’re working on is consistent with what the community wants.
This is a new format for us but I’ve always believed that the things you measure are the things that get improved, and improvement leads to results — which at the end of the day is what leadership is all about.