Leadership Required - Right Now
This is John F. Kennedy. This is where he made one of the more influential speeches of his presidency. He was announcing the bold and visionary idea of sending astronauts to the moon, landing and returning to earth. He state the goal was to be accomplished before the end of the decade, it was September 12, 1962. On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon uttering those famous words "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
I use this as inspiration during many of my strategic planning sessions. I share that the public sentiment of the day was certainly not all in favour of the trip. Public opinion polls of support hovered around 50%, some being below that. The United States did not need to complete the mission and there were little stories shared about the benefits that might be realized for taking the mission on. Largely "we" wanted to beat the Soviet Union to the moon as "we" lost the race to orbit in space first. This was largely a mission for pride and accomplishment rather than defined deliverables.
What has happened since this mission is nothing short of remarkable however. We often lose site of where a spark of creativity or innovation comes from. Economists have estimated that investments into the technology required for that mission sparked a tremendous surge in the tech industry of the time. In fact, the beginnings of what we know as Silicon Valley started as a result of the demands placed on that mission. And, today we still see upwards of 8 times the return on that initial investment into the mission.
I share this today because I feel there are many leaders waiting in the wings for their opportunity to shine. And the world, in general, is lacking leadership. It seems to me ideology is stifling new ideas. There are so many warring factions and the gap between "left" and "right" seems to be ever widening. This is not allowing for any logical compromise or contemplation of the other sides', potentially great solutions. This is where leadership needs to trump the more emotional motivations around us.
Perhaps what prompted me to share was mostly a recent conversation I had with a close colleague in the municipal sector. For those of you not from Alberta, it is particularly challenging time for municipalities and their leaders currently, due to issues you are aware of like dealing with COVID-19 but also having the Provincial government seizing their parochial relationship with municipalities and constraining their ability to recover tax revenue from abandoned oil infrastructure, reducing grants and downloading several service responsibilities. All of these issues seem to be mounting at the same time and really have some great people questioning themselves and their leadership.
However, your leadership is needed now more than ever. The tables are set for more creativity and innovation than ever before. My conversation with this colleague of mine lead to many great ideas and they knew what needed to be done. They however felt somewhat paralyzed for fear of either frightening those around them with being bold at a time when some want a safety net or making a mistake at such a precarious time. There is a reason you have been placed in a leadership role. To make leadership decisions. Involve those around you in those decisions, for certain, but trust your instincts because they more often than not serve you well.
This time could well be remembered for not just COVID-19 but a perhaps a shift in how municipal governments go about their business. Our moonshot could be partnerships with private enterprise in areas we never contemplated before. For example, what does recreation look like when we contemplate ever changing priorities for our public: ease of access, affordability, diverse offerings and the synergies between physical and mental health to name only a few. We are likely to reinvent how we provide administrative services to our public facing service departments and the community at large. Do we continue to need to hire staff in the traditional way with office space, at 7 hours per day, with a parking spot or can we leverage the fact we have proven the home office can work fro many of our staff?
Remember you are never wrong doing the right thing. During this time of enormous upheaval our citizens are looking for leadership. Municipal leaders have a huge opportunity to fill that void. Create a dialogue with friends you know in this sector that inspire you and take up this challenge. You have before and you can again.
And, of course, if you see value invite me into your conversations. I believe we can do this as well. And am excited about the opportunity.