Posted tagged ‘Mark Funkhouser’

Are Change Leaders Polarizing Figures Or Consensus Builders?

March 27, 2012

Mark Funkhouser a former Mayor of Kansas City has written an interesting post titled “Our Misguided Love Affair With Political Consensus”. Funkhouser states:

“Journalists seem to see the ability to build consensus as the epitome of political leadership, but in actuality political leadership almost never involves consensus. Consensus favors the status quo, not progress.”

Funkhouser’s point is great leaders that accomplish big items are polarizing figures not consensus builders. Recently I did an analysis of votes cast by the town board members where I reside (Tonawanda, NY), and I was shocked how few times members voted “no”. From 2008-2010 the Tonawanda Town Board voted on 3,179 items and during this three year period there were only 11 instances where any Town Board member voted “No”! In other words there were 3,168 instances of unanimous consensus. Seems like a whole lot of status quo to me.

I realize that the agenda of most local government meetings is pretty routine stuff but Funkhouser has a point. Leaders who are looking to challenge the status quo have many opportunities to vote “no” at a minimum. If you as a leader are serious about making a difference in your community then you have to be willing to address big controversial issues where strong opinions exist for and against change.

Do leaders have to be polarizing to make change happen or is building consesnsus where change happens?

Leadership Is Achieving Outcomes Through Collaboration

March 11, 2012

Getting things done in government requires working with other levels of government, non-profit organizations etc. Mark Funkhouser as the Director of the Governing Institute (a former Mayor of Kansas City), recently watched Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley conduct a session of StateStat, the process he has implemented to make the state’s government more efficient.

As Funkhouser stated in a blog post:

“I had expected more of a pure-management focus on streamlining the internal workings of state government–breaking down silos, improving coordination of state agencies and programs, and holding government managers accountable for measurable improvements. To be sure, there was some of that. But when O’Malley and I talked afterward, I mentioned that I was struck by how much of the focus in the meeting was on working with counties, nonprofits and others to get things done. Yes, he said. “Collaboration is the new competition.”

To accomplish something as an elected or non-elected government official, Funkhouser points out that one needs the following leadership skills:

• Bluntly calling out the issue.
• Setting a challenging goal.
• Accepting accountability for achieving the goal.
• Convening the players who can impact some part of the issue.
• Engaging in dialogue about the costs and consequences of the issue and a path forward.
• Creating transparency by continually collecting and publishing data on the issue.
• Consistently following through.

I see a lot of elected officials that lack the ability or discipline to bring players together to dialogue on an issue and who fail to consistently follow through. Good elected officials understand the importance of collaboration in achieving goals. Collaboration is hard work, but it is the key to achieving outcomes that will improve your community and carry you to higher office if that is your goal.

What do you think about the leadership skills listed above and the importance of collaboration in achieving goals?