Reprinted from the Rambling Moron Column at the Platte County Landmark.
If you walk walk into any bookstore and head into the section on “Business Management.” You’ll find hundreds of titles ranging from “Top Dog” to “7 Habits.” Millions of words and billions of dollars – all in the pursuit of becoming a good manager, a good leader.
But for some, these skills and traits just come naturally. Exhibit A is what’s going on in Kansas City, Missouri right now with The Honorable Mayor Sly James. James has had quite a week with the gas explosion at JJ’s Restaurant mixed with two major winter storms. Kansas City has never been known as a city with a perfect infrastructure, so commanding these resources is no small feat. And commanding this massive infrastructure has crippled past Mayors in Kansas City.
Mark Funkhouser, KC’s previous Mayor, might have been the smartest guy in the room, but couldn’t lead his way out of a wet paper bag. Mayor Kay Barnes had a level of popularity, and brought the Power & Light District and Sprint Center to town, but decades later we’re stuck paying the bill.
Leadership is a tricky thing, but it’s a lot like the definition of pornography, you know it when you see it. And Mayor James has been exhibiting some incredible leadership – mainly through new technologies such as the always present iPad in his hands and his major method of communication with his constituency – Twitter.
James is approachable, he is witty, he is bold and, most of all, he is engaging. He responds to citizen questions, problems, praises and criticism – all in 140 characters. Over the past week, James has tweeted out pictures of his command center, pictures of the Plaza Fire and gave constant updates on the status of snow plows. He has also organized fundraising meals with local restaurants for victims of the JJ’s fire. Additionally, he’s implored citizens to send in their random acts of kindness with a hashtag of #LoveKC
To me, 95% of leadership is communication. At the end of the day, leaders do very little. They must tell what’s being done very much. Mayor James has managed to bypass the stodgy City Council meetings and speeches and get to the real issues with real citizens.
Sample tweets from the Mayor:
- “I sent in your request. Crews are on their way”
- “Folks new snow coming S-Mon. Remember, if you live on N/S street, park on West side. If you live on E/W street, park on North side.”
- “Great that they got your street plowed!!”
These small tokens of communication weigh huge for folks who need these basic services from their city. At the end of the day, all I ever hope for my government is that someone is in control. Mayor James is doing an incredible job at the helm and I look forward to seeing what he’s able to do in the future — one hundred and forty characters at a time.
All that being said above, here’s a picture of my cul-de-sac in the KC Northland. It hasn’t been plowed once during both storms and now has over a foot of snow and ice accumulated on it. There’s a large hill just to the west of this cul-de-sac and several cars have gotten stuck there as well. We have made several tweets and calls to the 311 Action Center, and this is how it remains. (That’s a 4-wheel drive car that’s stuck, BTW.)
The downside of being a great cheerleader and communicator is when the people below you fail. That makes you look like a buffoon.