News

County forum focuses on building leadership

By Bruce Chessell, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

President of Embro company 31st Line Strategic Communications Karen Sample, along with Hamilton city manager Chris Murray (from left to right), answers a question regarding social media at a leadership forum at the Oxford County administrative building on Thursday. (BRUCE CHESSELL/Sentinel-Review)

President of Embro company 31st Line Strategic Communications Karen Sample, along with Hamilton city manager Chris Murray (from left to right), answers a question regarding social media at a leadership forum at the Oxford County administrative building on Thursday. (BRUCE CHESSELL/Sentinel-Review)

Oxford County staff and local municipal partners sat down Thursday with a panel of local community leaders and municipal sector representatives to talk about leadership.

The panel discussion focused on building and enhancing administrative leadership in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. The forum, Emerging Trends in Leadership, was part of Oxford County's Future Ready Leadership Program that was launched in 2015 in partnership with Mohawk College Enterprise.

The four members of the panel came from within and outside of Oxford County, being leaders in terms of running and operating a business, as well as working within local government.

Ian Stevens, president and CEO of Execulink Telecom, said he was invited to participate in the panel and hoped he would learn something from it.

"Being entirely private sector, I don't get involved in the day to day of municipal operations," Stevens said, "so (I learned) a greater appreciation of what the municipality and the county does, as well as confirmation that some stuff that we're doing is on track and some great stories and lessons learned from my peers that presented."

As the CEO of Execulink, Stevens has to set the future direction of his company, as well as help his employees to get there.

"We have to build our leaders; we have to make sure that we've got a succession plan in place," he added. "This is one strategy the county's using, and I'm happy to participate."

Karen Sample, president of the Embro-based 31st Line Strategic Communications, a public relations and brand-building firm, said she went through some difficulty when starting her business. "I went through a lot to have my business stay on my farm in Embro, Ont.," Sample said. "Municipally, I approached my local township council and explained who I was and what I did and asked for a zoning exception. And I got it.

"I'm passionate on that side that I had a very positive relationship with the local municipal government, but it's also important to me to keep my tax dollars in Oxford County. I also very strongly believe that we need to develop jobs and we need to develop... career opportunities for youth in this county. I really want people who are from Oxford County to come back here and feel that they can work here and stay in this community and thrive."

Kate Graham, the director of community and economic innovation for the City of London, said she was really pleased to be invited to be part of the panel.

"I think it's a good display of municipalities working together," Graham said. "We all have an interest in developing leadership capacity, so there's no reason we can't work on these things together."

She added that leadership in the public sector is important because it contributes to stable and strong organizations, and ultimately, stronger communities.

"Investing the time in the people that work in these organizations is really important," Graham said.

Chris Murray, city manager for the City of Hamilton, was also part of the panel of speakers, adding he attended because he is keenly interested in leadership development.

"Our staff are going through some of their training, so if I can give back to people some of my advice and experiences I'm happy to do that," he said. "Leadership doesn't just happen, there is a difference between good and notso-good leadership and a certain amount of leadership development is linked to proper training and exposure to experiences.

"So, if you want great decisions from public-or private-sector organization, then the leaders need to be taught what works and what doesn't."

County CAO Peter Crockett said county council has set out a progressive and ambitious agenda for the future that cannot be attained with investing in local leaders.

"These aims cannot be met without investing in our current and future leaders, who are developing and nurturing employees that perform excellent work every day and who make a positive difference," Crockett said.

 

bruce.chessell@sunmedia.ca