Leadership basics for public office

Whether you are currently serving in public office, seeking to serve in the future, or a voter selecting someone to represent you, the following are the basics for leadership.

  • You can be elected to position in government, but that election does not make you a leader.  You can be given a title and that title provides some level of authority, but that designation does not make you a leader.  You can have an important position that carries a great deal of responsibility, but that position does not make you a leader.  Followers make you a leader.  If they aren’t following, you aren’t leading!  
  • Credibility:  People follow leaders that have credibility.  Leaders gain credibility by being competent in the role.  In other words, they execute the duties of the role in an effective and efficient manner.  They make good decisions that are in the best interest of the people.  They also gain credibility by being honest, trustworthy, and forthcoming in all dealings with those they represent.  A leader will also gain credibility by working through tough challenges with the people being represented and not avoiding the tough issues.  A credible leader keeps their word and is honest even when the news is unpleasant.
  • Care:  People follow leaders that demonstrate that they truly care about the people.  Leadership is self-sacrificing not self-serving.  Leadership is about service not being served.  Leadership is about taking care of those in our charge not about being in charge.  Leadership is serving with humble confidence not overbearing power.  Leaders care more for their people than they do protecting their position or exercising their authority.  
  • Communication:  People follow leaders that communicate effectively.  Communication is the effective transfer of information to another.  Leaders provide timely, clear, and complete information to their people.  Leaders ask questions to validate understanding and listen actively to ensure the communication is effective both directions.  Leaders effectively utilize repetition and varied methods of communication to ensure they reach everyone effectively.  They don’t leave anyone doubting.  Leaders respond to tough questions and openly take responsibility for their actions.
  • Clarity:  People follow leaders that provide a clear vision of the destination and the future.  While leaders provide this vision of a better tomorrow, they are also looking ahead to identify potential issues, challenges, or new opportunities.  Leaders are seldom caught by surprise as they are forward thinking and see things before others see them.  Leaders provide a clear path for their people as they clear the way ahead of time.
  • Consistency:  People follow leaders that are consistent in their beliefs, actions, and treatment of others.  Leaders hold to a core set of convictions that do not change, nor are they altered by time, circumstances, or outside influences.  While leaders will adapt methods and actions to be successful given the variety of challenges they will face over time, their core values are consistent toward everyone they lead.  

Whether you are serving, seeking, or selecting as it relates to public office, please take note of the aforementioned attributes.  When it comes to elected officials at the national, state, and local levels, we don’t need powermongers, pundits, or placeholders.  We don’t need self-serving agenda seekers.  We need leaders that are totally focused on serving and representing their people.  Our people deserve good leadership!