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Better Leaders Tend to Listen to Community

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By Lowell L. Kalapa

An important ingredient in good leadership is the ability of the leader to listen to the community and carefully weigh the pros and cons of the issue and make a decision.

Actually, if one reads the foregoing sentence carefully, there are a number of elements which are marks of good leadership. First there is the listening to the community. A “leader” who does not listen does not lead that community. Instead, that “leader” dictates what he or she believes is best for the community no matter what the community wants or needs. Sooner or later the community revolts or grows cynical and distrustful of the leader.

On the other hand, a leader who is willing to listen to what the community wants and needs will reflect this message in his or her leadership. The decisions to be made will encompass the values and the vision of the community. This kind of leadership will usually be well supported as it reflects the goals of the community as a whole. That is not to say that there won’t be people that disagree with the decisions or directions chosen by the leader, but on the whole, there will be a majority consensus that this is the direction that the community has chosen to take and it is one that a good leader will pursue.

The second element in that opening statement is that the decision to be made will be the one that is in the best interest of the vast majority of the community. And again, the decision may not elicit unanimity in support, but it will be a decision that will benefit the largest majority of those living in the community. Sometimes the decision may not be the most popular one, but in the long run, it will be the one that will be the best for the future of the community. These latter decisions are tough to make, because the critics will be harsh and vocal. On the other hand, it may be a silent majority that truly supports the decision. To make those hard decisions is the mark of a good leader.

Finally, the third element of a good leader is the fact that a decision is made. Too often today, our “leaders” are reluctant to make a decision. Instead, they find ways to circumvent having to make that hard choice like studying a problem, or putting sunset clauses on new laws because they are not sure they are making the “right” decision. As the old saying goes, “not to decide, is to decide.”

Not making a decision is as bad, if not worse, than making the wrong decision. Instead of making a decision that people can then act upon, a lack of a decision leaves people clueless as to what they should do or where they should go. That is not to say that leaders should make decisions on impulse, but after carefully weighing the facts and doing all the necessary research, a decision should be made.

In the case of the decisions that need to be made by state leaders in the upcoming session, the evidence is quite clear. The sentiment of the community is overwhelming. The size of government at all levels needs to be reduced.

Although some leaders decry the charge that government has not been reduced, the facts are there. Many of the claims made that the government has been reduced are based on the reduction in the amount of spending made through the general fund. However, no mention is made of the fact that many former general fund-financed activities are now being paid for with special funds. So, while elected officials claim that they have been able to reduce taxes, the new financing scheme for government is a plethora of user fees.

To this, elected officials and administrators retort that user fees merely make those who benefit from specific public services pay for those services. Of course, no mention is made of the fact that these services used to be paid for by taxes nor the fact that these dollars come out of the same pockets from which those taxes were taken. In a sense, what is going on in government today amounts to nothing more than a shell game. The same amount of dollars is being taken, but they are just given a different name or label.

Other “leaders” assume that since taxes have been cut, that government will automatically be downsized. As we have seen above, that is not so. Yet others believe that government has already been cut to the bone and nothing more can be cut that is not essential, such as education and welfare.

Unfortunately, if reductions in government are not made and the monster we call government continues to gobble up what little capital is left, then the outlook of the state will continue to remain bleak. Real leaders must be found to make those hard decisions to right-size government or all will be lost.

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