My View: What Oregonians want in new leaders
While much of the news is dominated by changes in Washington, D.C., a little theater has been going on in our backyard: 2017 has been a big year for leadership changes in the Portland metropolitan area, and 2018 promises more of the same.
Exiting stage left in some prominent organizations are members of my generation — older baby boomers. Taking our place in the spotlight are younger boomers and members of the Gen X generation. And many of them are women and people of color.
In January, Chloe Eudaly joined the Portland City Council, the first member in history to be born in the 1970s. In August, Kimberly Branam, 37, took the helm at Prosper Portland (formerly the Portland Development Commission) and in October, Danielle Outlaw, 41, became the first African-American woman to serve as the city police chief.
The Port of Portland's new director also is in his 40s, and both the Portland Business Alliance and Meyer Memorial Trust are likely to get new leaders next year who are younger than their predecessors.
What specific qualities do Oregonians feel are important for these new leaders to have?
DHM Research asked the question in a scientifically conducted online survey earlier this year, using open-ended questions and allowing respondents to answer using their own words. Here's a sample of what they are looking for in their leaders:
"Genuine interest in collaboration; sense of social responsibility; honesty; accountability; humility; a commitment to equity, especially for individuals from underrepresented communities."
"A clear vision and direction (that's justifiable) that those following can either agree or disagree with and without regard for personal gain. The alternative is what we have now in state government, people who will say the thing most likely to get them re-elected rather than what genuinely needs to be done."
"The ability to really listen (and not talk all the time). A vision for the direction of the organization she or he is leading and a way to clearly communicate and implement it. Trustworthiness."
"Ability to collaborate, genuine caring and concern for improving the lot of all, ability to assess the efficacy and efficiency of various courses and to promote/implement the best (no pandering to interest groups or political correctness)."
For the most part, there's great agreement among Oregonians on the qualities they want leaders to have. Grouping similar responses, "honesty/integrity/ethics" was mentioned most often, followed by "fairness/ability to be unbiased, nonpartisan, open-minded." Next were groupings that included "selflessness/lack of personal agenda or greed/desire to serve/dedication," followed by "compassion/empathy/concern," "thoughtfulness/good judgment/problem solving/ability to see big picture/common sense," "vision/forward thinking" and "knowledge/experience/competence/expertise."
There were some demographic differences. Among them:
• Gender: Men were more likely than women to mention "vision/forward thinking."
• Age: Younger Oregonians and nonwhites were most likely to mention "fairness/ability to be unbiased, nonpartisan, open-minded."
• Party: Democrats were more likely to mention "compassion/empathy/concern" and Republicans "thoughtfulness/good judgment/problem solving/ability to see big picture/common sense."
So, this baby boomer has two thoughts.
One, there is considerable attention being given to diversity, equity and inclusion in the hiring process everywhere these days, and justifiably so. The findings suggest, however, that there are many important qualities people want their leaders to have regardless of their skin color, gender or age.
Two, the survey was conducted before sexual harassment in the workplace rose to such prominence. I don't think we'd see any dramatic change in the numbers if we were to survey again considering the references to such qualities as "integrity," "ethics," "fairness," "selflessness" and "compassion" in the top response categories.
Finally, a message from the wings to leaders taking center stage. Though many of us exiting baby boomers want to slow down and experience new things, we also want to continue contributing to organizations important to us and to the community. We also have the experience and expertise to help you deliver on the leadership qualities Oregonians want you to have and to be successful. We're here for you.
Adam Davis is a founding principal in DHM Research, a nonpartisan public opinion firm. Contact him at dhmresearch.com