Tom Trice

It takes leaders to grow leaders

Tom Trice
APWA President

"It takes leaders to grow leaders"—a wise man named Ray Blunt (author, instructor and consultant in public service leadership initiatives) made this statement and I believe it. Often we hear people say, "Great leaders are not made, they are born." If that were really the case, we'd probably be short some good folks.

The role of APWA's Leadership and Management Technical Committee is to share ideas, concepts, and encouragement to those who are learning the skills necessary to move them from stronger followers to qualified leaders. Recognizing that leadership involves more than "technical" knowledge, the committee developed the Core Competencies for Public Works Leaders, the "Baker's Dozen." You have probably read the articles individual committee members have contributed each month in this magazine. They have been thought-provoking while sharing personal real-life experiences.

Members of this committee devote themselves to assessing the various roles and forms of leadership available within the public works profession, as well as our association. As a part of the planning for future training, they have shared in discussions about the Public Works Institutes, offering their input on common skills that public works leaders either need to strengthen or develop.

We are all well aware of the upcoming retirement of many of our leaders and colleagues. Never has it been more essential that we "grow" our own leaders. If we fail to record the historic knowledge in each of our agencies, we will spend many years trying to catch up. New people with new ideas are essential to good management, but they can't be expected to provide effective leadership without preparation.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, "A leader is a dealer in hope." If our profession is to continue to provide strong leaders, we must commit ourselves to "growing" them. There are many opportunities for members to grow and develop. Throughout the coming year make note of them, and when the call is extended for new volunteer involvement next spring, follow your own good instincts and volunteer to be part of the growing number of APWA leaders.

There are several places to start and one would be the book Everything You Need to Know to Be a Public Works Director by APWA member John Ostrowski. It gives you a good feel for what you need to learn and how to seek the proper education to be a public works director.

APWA's primary mission is education, and we do a good job of providing the skill sets needed to become a leader. Education and training are not something that you get for free. There is a cost to advancing in your job and in life. It begins with a lot of hard work on your part. You have to want to do it.

There is a monetary cost for education as well. But, please do not look at education as an expense; it is not an expense. It is an investment in excellence. It will help you through life by using the teachings you receive to manage what life throws at you. It will help you be a leader and take your family, your employees and yourself to a new level. Nurture what you have and you will grow, and others will recognize you for what you are.

To be a leader you have to recognize what you want and who you want to be. A short time back Bill Bohlen, a Michigan Chapter member, asked me, "How do I get to be a part of the leadership in APWA?" I thought for a minute and told him the following story.

In 1960, my close friend Henry Lybeck attended his first APWA Congress. He was really excited about being a part of APWA and enjoying everything it had to offer. In the old days we had entertainment nights at Congress and Henry was there. He was relegated to the balcony where he was staring down at the people on the floor who got the good seats because they were the "big shooters"—the people who had been around for a long time, the leaders of their communities and APWA. As most "big shooters" in those days were men, he could see their silver hair and the shiny spots on the backs of their heads. They were the leaders and Henry wanted to sit in the "good seats" one day.

A few years ago Henry, Les Bland (another of my close friends and longtime member from Michigan) and I walked into an APWA event where people were seated in the balcony. Henry stopped, turned around and looked up into the balcony. I asked him what he was doing. He said, "I want to see who our future leaders are."

I challenge you to look at your organization, determine who your potential leaders may be, and begin now to lead them both by example and as a mentor. If our future is to be secure, it will be up to each of us to do our part in planning for future leadership.

I would also ask that you think about your career and how you got to where you are. Thank those who helped you and do everything you can to help those who will be our future leaders. I challenge you to "Be all you can be."

As the Holiday Season is upon us, I want to wish everyone a joyous and prosperous New Year.