Five Things we learned from the Glenn College Leadership Forum

November 6, 2023
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The John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University hosted its annual leadership forum on October 27th. The Glenn College Leadership Forum is an annual one-day conference which is designed to connect professionals working in the public and nonprofit sector. The event consists of keynote talks and breakout sessions led by experts working at the forefront of public policy to provide insights into emerging trends that will impact the future of careers in the public sector and the industry. Community Solutions was featured as a legend sponsor of the event, and our presence was much appreciated as we were given a table front and center at the event. Through the various breakout sessions, and robust conversations between two major leaders in Ohio politics, here are five things that I took away from the event.  

Leaders help build other leaders.

This was wisdom that was shared by former Senator Rob Portman. Portman discussed that good leadership in the public sector relies on people first, and not any other ego-driven purposes meant to establish oneself to take advantage of power. Portman acknowledged the fact that we are currently operating within a very divisive political climate, one that is rife with partisanship. The key importance in these times is to focus on uplifting other people who want to do effective work, so that they too can enact change in their communities.

The future of the public sector depends on good leadership

In one of the morning breakout panels, experts gave insight into what crucial lessons nonprofits and public sector agencies should consider when considering the multifaceted reasons as to why the sector struggles to retain and attract talent. The bottom line? Good leadership is at the core of what makes a nonprofit or public agency effective. One participant recounted that some people would be more willing to take a pay cut, than stay in an organization that does not have leadership that makes the person feel heard, understood, and respected. This looks different to so many people, but the biggest factor in this is that workers must feel that they are more than just another cog in the machine.  

Change moves at the speed of trust.

Mayor Justin Bibb stated that for good, long-lasting transformation to happen, there must be trust established at the outset of the change process. In essence, the center of all change must be catalyzed by relationships formed through genuine engagement and conversations. When leaders try to get things done without having established any meaningful relationships, the impact may happen quicker, but its efficacy is temporary. There must be deeper relationships formed in the change process that can build quality relationships amongst stakeholders.

Good leadership is required to deal with our divisive political climate.

Another panel discussed the issue of political divisiveness in civil society and all places of work in the public sector. This is exacerbated by many factors, but there is a clear need for leaders to understand these factors to address the multifaceted ways this occurs in organizations. Role-playing breakout sessions offered the opportunity to simulate how these types of interactions can be dealt with if they ever arise in work or day-to-day life. From this experience, I gained a new understanding of how to address these issues when they arise.

Space debris is a problem!

You read that right! The Leadership Forum had many interesting topics spanning across the public sector, but one of note focused on space debris (don’t forget the space connection John Glenn, an astronaut before he was a Senator). Most of the conversations in the Leadership Forum focus on what’s happening on Earth, so this one stood out. This presentation presented an educational (but also shocking) insight into the level of space debris that exists in our lower atmosphere. The broader policy implications of this issue span across nations, borders, and political divisions because the entire fate of the planet is at stake. Is there any hope for us?

William Tarter Jr. presenting opening remarks to Mayor Bibb’s keynote[/caption]In addition to these lessons, the best experience was the fellowship with my colleagues, who represented Community Solutions well. Community Solutions’ Will Tarter Jr. gave an exceptional introduction to Mayor Justin Bibb in the afternoon session, and seeing our organization spotlighted in such a way was a privilege, with the knowledge that our role in supporting efforts in leadership events are held in place by our willingness to be a presence supporting civic events. As opportunities for civic events continue in the future, I hope to see more involvement with CCS in these discussions so that we can learn about important civic opportunities and share our expertise on issues that are of the utmost urgency to the people of Ohio!

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