Collaboration Needed for Success

A political junkie friend of mine and I were discussing politics. We agreed on some things and disagreed on others. One thing we did agree on was that to be successful, anyone who is elected to any office has to work with other people. A couple of days later, my friend sent me this article from Georgia’s Cities, a newspaper put out by the Georgia Municipal Association. It was written by Johns Creek mayor Mike Bodker and it really hits the nail on the head.

Collaborative Leadership Can Drive Success

With the upcoming municipal elections, we may hear candidates use slogans such as, “New Leadership for a Brighter Future” or “Proven Leadership.” The implication of the first slogan is that if things do not change—if the incumbent is re-elected—a prosperous future is at stake. The latter slogan implies that if a candidate with years of public service loses, a prosperous future is at stake as well. While either extreme very well may be the case in your community, it is important to move past the slogan and focus more on substance, and how well those who either seek office or re-election function in what is known as a “collaborative leadership” role.

The reality we find in our cities and towns is that premier munici­pal services, which are provided by cities on a round-the-clock basis, are crucial to the economic prosperity of all Georgians, and rely on effective collaborative leadership to be successful. In order for cities to thrive and create a long-term sustainable economic environment, they must make the right investments in water and sewer infrastructure, transportation systems, economic and downtown development projects, parks and recre­ation facilities, public safety and other capital needs. The most successful elected officials understand and recognize that it is vital to collaborate with senior city employees and their fellow city council members before making such critical decisions and charting a course that will impact the future of the city.

The key for us to continue to move forward in our respective cities, even with the uncertainty that comes with the election of new city of­ficials, is to understand that rather than a top-down approach to govern­ing, a collaborative environment is essential. As Frieda K. Edgette recently wrote for Governing:

Collaborative leadership is the ability to inspire and bring about collective action across diverse stakeholder groups to achieve a shared goal. These leaders consciously engage people, departments and systems outside their immediate control.

If you attended GMA’s Annual Convention in June, you saw numerous examples of successful collaboration, where city leaders have successfully engaged people and groups from across their communities. Partnerships between Thomasville and the Thomasville Center for the Arts has led to creative redevelopment and a growing economy based on the arts and other creative endeavors, and in Cedartown, the city has collaborated with the technical school and local businesses to create opportunities for small business development.

In my own city of Johns Creek, we are currently working with city council, city staff, our local community, and an outside urban design firm to create a plan for our own downtown sense of place and identity we call The District. Our goal is to leverage the best of leadership in all sectors to better create the economic engine that will sustain our city for genera­tions to come.

From dealing with poverty and increased gang violence to making trans­portation and water/sewer infrastructure investments to creating effective land-use plans, city officials are making critical decisions that will impact not just their community, but also the long-term health and economic viability of our state. The only way we can possibly address these issues, however, is through a belief and commitment to collaborative leadership.

Mike Bodker is the mayor of Johns Creek.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this article written by Mayor Bodker. Collaboration is truly the secret to having a successful government. I’ve worked in the public sector most of my career. In my current job, I work with the Finance Directors of 14 cities, 2 School districts, the County Finance and Tax Commissioner, and the Department of Revenue.
    It is extremely challenging to provide the financial data they each need. All of us are under time constraints, with software not always compatible. Every city needs assistance from the County office many times throughout each year.
    I have witnessed first hand the chaos after a local government election where staff have been removed by incoming candidates over a career of 30 plus years. Unfortunately it happens often and the city suffers and their citizens suffer from these actions.
    Johns Creek and Milton have modeled collaboration and great leadership since they incorporated. We could take pages from their collective knowledge. I always know that a phone call for help from either of these cities is going to be productive and a pleasure for me to assist them.
    I am proud to be a citizen of Snellville. Proud of our Live /Walk initiative. I’m very proud of our Police Department, they are doing a wonderful job. Love our Farmers Market. I am excited about our Fall Festival and the Ghost Walk. These things are available for all of us because of collaboration. I trust you will come out in support of every event. But more importantly, please vote in the upcoming election. If you don’t vote, you’re giving up your rights. And you won’t have the right to complain for the next 4 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.