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Great leadership means making tough decisions

Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 17, 2014 7:59AM



Today is President’s Day. This is a day that originally honored George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Today, this day celebrates past and present presidents while providing a three-day mid-winter holiday for many workers.

Being president of the United States or of an organization is not easy and requires tough decisions. History has chronicled many of those difficult decisions such as Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s decision to land on the beaches of Normandy or President Harry S Truman’s decision to drop the H-Bomb on Japan.

Here in Northwest Indiana, Porter County, the elected auditor, Bob Wichlinski, recognized he, as a leader, had to make some tough decisions to address his department’s role in the predicted $5.3 million county budget shortfall. He reduced staff from 20 to 16. And more tough decisions are on the horizon as this is not the end of staff reduction.

Even after making this tough and difficult decision because kicking the can down the road is not a viable leadership behavior and only make the existing situation worse, members of the Porter County Council almost backed away from this action by stating they did not tell any official to terminate or lay off employees.

Yes, great leaders make tough decisions and bear the consequences of those decisions.

What was also interesting to note was that Wichlinski had already implemented a lean process within his department. “Lean” is an approach where continuous improvement is the desired end result and all functions of the department or organization are examined for both efficiency (doing things right) and effectiveness (doing the right thing). Usually adopting a “lean process” will result in reduction in force (RIF) because many organizations are overstaffed as technology has improved the productivity of the workforce.

Given what workforce engagement research from Gallop and others suggests that only one out of four employees are actively engaged; two out of four are engaged and one out of four are actively disengaged, this does imply many organizations are overstaffed or have poor leadership already in place allowing the inefficient, resource draining, status quo to continue.

When leadership fails to make those tough decisions and fails to ensure the organization is both efficient and effective, they are committing a disservice to all stakeholders and shareholders. Much is written about the waste in government, but there is just as much waste in other not-for-profit organizations, such as schools and hospitals as well as for-profit organizations.

Yes, being a good or great leader is not easy. Those in leadership roles who truly understand what it means to be such a leader take that responsibility seriously and suffer the consequences. In some cases, it may mean not being re-elected as a public official or chairman of the board. However, these truly good leaders have the fortitude to take the grief because they understand the “kick the can” leadership eventually hurts everyone.

P.S. Shout Out – Southridge Building and Remodeling in Lake County and Keene and Sons in Porter County can assist those in need of remodeling.



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