Inspiring others key for municipal leaders

Friday, February 22, 2013

By Hugo Rodrigues, Brantford Expositor Friday, February 22, 2013 10:49:29 EST PM Jeff Fielding (left), CAO for the City of Burlington and Ron McLester (right), aboriginal education and student affairs at Mohawk College listen as Brant Community Healthcare System President and CEO Jim Hornell speaks during a leadership development forum for local government staff held Thursday at the Civic Centre auditorium. (BRIAN THOMPSON The Expositor) BRANTFORD - A room full of current and future leaders working for municipal and First Nations government were encouraged to keep improving their leadership skills Thursday as part of an innovative course meant to prepare them for the job. The session, which featured City of Burlington manager Jeff Fielding, Brant Community Healthcare System president and CEO Jim Hornell and Mohawk College aboriginal educator and student affairs manager Ron Deganadus McLester, was moderated by Mohawk College Enterprise's Juanita Gledhill. It marked the approximate halfway point in an eight-month leadership-development course hosted by the City of Brantford but also including employees from the Brantford Public Library, counties of Brant and Norfolk and Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. "On an ongoing basis, you need to understand how to inspire people - that's your greatest challenge coming in," Fielding said in response to a prompt to provide advice to the emerging leaders in the room. "Grab the hearts and minds of people where you work. That's your biggest challenge." Hornell explained the demands placed on people in positions of leadership are expanding as the style of preferred leaders changes from those seen to command and control to one of collaboration, co-operation and collegiality. "Managements ranks have been decimated in many workplaces, they weren't what they once were," Hornell said. "It's easy to stay in your office and get through all that work, yet we know to be successful you have to get out of office." Asked about the value of social media to new leaders, the panellists straddled the position between its value in transparency and accountability and how the voices it brings into decision-making can serve to move the choice from a point of reason and evidence to one of emotion. McLester, who admitted to having no social-media presence, said it can be part of the push to keep life moving at a blistering pace with decisions happening at the same pace. "The decision-making process (in his Oneida community) has taken such a long time because we govern by consensus," McLester said, pointing out that far too often, "social media allows people to contribute negativity with nearly complete anonymity. "Look at the comments on any website and they're almost all negative." All three commended those in attendance and their employers for the course, which aims to help train the incoming generation of employees who would take positions of leadership within each organization. "If people don't step up to become leaders then by default we won't get the best people," Hornell said. "I worry that if we don't make it something to aspire to, outline the rewards for being there and focus only on the risks, we're not going to get people stepping into leadership roles and the organization won't be as strong as it could be." hugo.rodrigues@sunmedia.ca