Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi was the source of many popular quotes, but his words of wisdom spoke to his many fans when he defined guidance: “Leadership is based on a spiritual quality: the power to inspire and the power to inspire others to follow.”
Some municipalities are initiating steps to bring that quote to fruition by training their government employees in their own leadership development classes. And those who may not yet have their own classes can take them at any number of universities or other facilities that train prospective supervisors and others in high positions to create similar in-house programs in their own municipalities. Such curriculum leads the way for leadership, increased teamwork and policy information and implementation.
Two reasons current high-level supervisors are handing the baton to younger generations include an increase of baby boomers’ retirements — police, fire chiefs, finance directors and more — and succession planning. Also, some younger people might want the opportunity to telecommute, or worse, may choose not to work in a government job.
The International City/County Management Association, based in Washington, D.C., has offered a large variety of such programs for many years through its university curriculum.
Amanda Relyea, director of professional development at ICMA, said that a big success of the association was that each year it reaches around 4,500 local government professionals through leadership and professional development.
Nedra James, ICMA program manager, provided a partial list of cities that had completed the Mid-Career Managers Institute, including Flushing, Mich.; Boulder, Colo.; Raleigh, N.C.; Hartford, Conn.; and Arlington, Va. An even longer list boasted graduates of Emerging Leaders Development Program, including Hewlett-Packard Company; city of Steamboat Springs, Fla., Department of Health; Charlotte County Board of County Commissioners; and city of Boston, Department of Innovation & Technology. And in a Leadership ICMA course, the association graduated the Office of Management and Budget, city of Largo, Fla.; Gwinnett County Government, Ga.; city of Shakopee, Minn.; Park City Municipal Corporation, Utah; and more.
One of ICMA’s 2016 graduates was Hadley Skeffington-Vos, assistant village manager of Niles, Ill., who was impressed by the value of education in her course.
“The best part of Leadership ICMA for me was participating in the Senior Executive Institute,” said Skeffington-Vos. “This intensive weeklong training combined personality theory and development, intellectual learning, leadership theory and real-life scenarios. The lessons and training modules were invaluable experiences. The network of professionals at SEI, from which I learned and associated, has proven to be a continued asset long past my participation in SEI.”
How did Niles benefit from Skeffington-Vos’ experiences?
“I am lucky that my position in Niles affords me the possibility to practice some of the leadership qualities that I learned through Leadership ICMA,” said Skeffington- Vos. “Empowering my staff to take a larger role, hold themselves accountable, celebrate their successes and work with those whose qualities complement them has been very fulfilling.
“I think too often working teams are people who look and think the same. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of employees allows me to put individuals together on a project who complement each other and ‘think’ through an issue, not just ‘do’ the normal steps. A lot of the exercises, lessons and mantras that I learned at Leadership ICMA I was able to bring back to Niles and use in staff meetings or with my own staff. I also review my notes from the program and keep in touch with the colleagues that I met so I myself stay refreshed and on track.”
Two cities see benefits to their leadership development programs
According to Phyllis Fauntleroy, human resources director of Rock Hill, S.C., her city’s nine-week leadership development program curriculum “undergirds our success as an organization because it lays the foundation for everything else we do in delivery of high-quality public service to citizens.” She added, “We have run the program for about 30 years and have developed it in-house so costs might be around $5,000 for startup with 25 participants per class, and then taper off to very little per year.”
Practical application on the job was the biggest challenge her city encountered, said Fauntleroy.
What was the biggest success of Rock Hill’s leadership development endeavor?
“We are considered ‘a best place to work’ designation because of our outstanding leadership, and we are limiting legal liability because supervisors know policies, state and federal laws,” said Fauntleroy. Fort Wayne, Ind., offers an eight-month Leadership Fort Wayne course each year, according to Justin Clupper, director of signature programs of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
“This is a community leadership development program that has existed in our community for nearly 35 years and has graduated nearly 1,300 alumni. We have had both city and county government participants in this program,” said Clupper.
PJ Thuringer, redevelopment manager for the city of Fort Wayne, is a LFW graduate.
“Each class chooses a community project and our project was bringing a bike share program to downtown Fort Wayne,” said Thuringer. “We met once a month, and sometimes twice a month, and the biggest thing we learned through our projects was the connection to other members of the community. This is essential to getting the job done and knowing that each person matters.
“Participating in this in-house group was a valuable tool and helped all of us feel more a part of the community with a better understanding of what people do within the city to make it a community. And especially the new-found knowledge of how important nonprofit work is. I highly recommend it.”
Georgia propagates leadership
“The city of Atlanta is a good one to check with as it has certified a couple of trainers to use ICMA’s ‘Effective Supervisory Practices’ materials to provide training to many employees,” said Relyea.
This particular webinar, a six-part series on the ICMA website, www.icma.org, is designed as a primer for new supervisors “to lead change, improve customer service or strengthen communication between supervisors and staff” and is an alternative to hiring high-priced consultants that otherwise might be used.
Atlanta, Ga.’s, “Rising Stars Development Program,” which was created in 2007, consists of two tracks. One is the “senior management track for current managers who have the potential to move into executive level leadership” and the other is “the aspiring leaders’ track for employees who have not had city government management experience or whose skills may need refreshing,” according to its website, www.atlantaga.gov.
This nine-month program helps participants:
• Gain in-depth knowledge about the challenges and issues facing city government
• Experience new levels of self-awareness and opportunities for change
• Develop new relationships and contacts within city government
• Prepare for leadership opportunities within and outside city government.
Also, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia offers leadership training curriculum customized for state and local governments, said Amy Henderson, director of communications and marketing of the Georgia Municipal Association.
Bringing leadership lessons home
Skeffington-Vos, when asked if Niles had any plans for creating its own in-house leadership development program, answered that some changes had been implemented.
“While Niles has not dedicated funds to a formal leadership development program, we have budgeted for annual department head/ supervisor staff training, including personality tests, like Meyers-Briggs, and supervisory skill training from professionals,” said Skeffington-Vos.
“Niles is devoting more funds to staff training and promoting professional learning and growth. We have revamped our tuition reimbursement program and are encouraging staff to attend training and network with their colleagues,” she added. “Finally, as the organizer of our department head meetings, I try to incorporate a 10-15 minute lesson or discussion on a leadership topic, or simply show a clip or read an article, in order to get the leadership staff of Niles thinking more about leadership on a regular basis. This is something small but impactful that can be done each month or two times a month with your staff.”