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close this bookTraining for Elected Leadership - The Councillor as Power Broker (HABITAT, 1994, 18 p.)
close this folderPart I - The Councillor as Power Broker
View the documentDefinition
View the documentSummary
View the documentReflection
View the documentConcepts and ideas
View the documentReflection
View the documentSome miscellaneous thoughts about power
View the documentYou and your hired help
View the documentForging an effective partnership
View the documentKey points
View the documentReferences

You and your hired help

We’ve been talking mainly about the relationship between you and the community or your constituents. As an elected. leader, this is your primary focus. But, there is another critical relationship you must think about, as a councillor, in terms of power and authority. We are talking about your relationship with the local government officers and staff Your power as an elected official (your ability to get things done) comes from the electorate through the ballot box but your ability to deliver the attributes of power is largely in the hands of those you employ and those who are employed by other units of government that provide services and programmes within your jurisdiction.

More often than not, the weak link between policy and the delivery of the “goods” of policy decisions is the ability to manage and implement them. Many local governments are weak. They often lack the managerial, technical, and professional knowledge and skills to carry out your policies and your budgets. All too often they lack the power and authority to get on with the job you have given them. While there are many strategies you can use to develop more effective implementation systems, we,Want to limit our discussion to the topic of this unit, your role as a power broker.

Many of the things already said about power generally, and with reference to the community more directly, apply to your power relationship with the local government’s officers and staff. You have legitimate, reward, and coercive power at your disposal, and these should not be dismissed lightly in any superior-subordinate relationship. On the other hand, your subordinates are not without their own power base. Let’s take a brief look at some of these power tools.

1. The staff often represents skills and experience that are difficult to replace.

2. On the staff are those with specialized knowledge and information about the organization, its operation, and the community that are invaluable to the ongoing implementation of programmes and services.

3. Local-government employees are in a unique position to mobilize a network of friends and supporters who can be used against the council if the employees think you are being unfair in your use of power.

4. Those who work for local government have a multitude of ways they can divert or sabotage the good intentions of council-enacted programmes and services.

When you are an anvil be patient, when a hammer, strike.

- Arabian proverb