The Cost of Leadership

Written by Warren Coalson.

When asked to think about leadership as a cost item, you might think about the cost of hiring effective leadership for your company.  When I think of leadership, I think of the cost for NOT having effective leadership.  An airplane that varies from its course by a half degree in a 480 mile trip between San Diego and Sacramento will be off the mark by 4.2 miles.  In a life-or-death situation, I would want to be certain that my bearings were correct, lest I miss the mark.

History offers many lessons on the effects of leadership; good and bad.  The Macedonians, under Alexander the Great, conquered the known world, only to have its authority slip away after his death.  Ancient Rome prospered and then faltered depending on the quality of its leadership.

What is leadership?  Leadership is a process by which a person, or persons, influence others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent.  Leadership can be more than personal, as the definition above suggests, it can be a set of well-defined objectives that managers put into action to direct the completion of objectives.  Without leadership, an organization (or person) tends to drift with no certain direction.  Without objectives, completing tasks does not occur, instead staff and organizations just react to stimulus (problems) and never quite get ahead of what others throw their way.

In a corporation, it is the Board of Director’s responsibility to establish policies (goals and objectives) for the General Manager to implement.  Where these goals are not clearly communicated, the organization falters and will eventually become ineffective and irrelevant amongst its peers.  It is not enough to have outstanding managers; leadership is the key to winning.  In the words of Peter Drucker: “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Leadership in the public policy arena at the local level is no different from national politics and/or running a company.  Leadership principals are even more important in a loosely run organization where staff time limitations must be balanced with a number of important issues that affect the operations of a company or group of companies.  The leadership must define the best places to spend its political capital.  Managers must find the best way to spend that capital through individual and group efforts.

California is a large and diverse state that incorporates many different political subdivisions.  On the State level alone, the legislature adopted, and the Governor signed, nearly 500 new bills into law in 2012.  In response to the new legislative statutes, countless pages of new regulations are being developed and implemented by the State’s multiple agencies.  These laws and regulations are directed at all manner of personal and business activities.  Piling on, our local agencies are also formulating new ordinances and fees that restrict or define the methods that we must use to conduct our businesses.

How does a little-known and poorly-understood industry like construction aggregate producers maintain a favorable business climate and limit the impact of new laws?  Goals must be defined and management must be recruited to organize action among industry members and supporters.  Again, leadership is critical.  Without leadership, there is no compass.  Even with energetic management, we are forced to address changes from a defensive posture.

A good offense is always better than a great defense.  Offense allows us to define the issues that need to be addressed.  Defense allows others to define the issues.  Because our day-to-day interactions with government typically occur on the local level, it is important to have goals and objectives for working with local agencies.  Leadership goals are essential qualities to ensure local policies serve or consider the needs of the industry.

What does a lack of leadership cost us in our local areas?  Some examples include:

  • APCD redefining PERP regulations to limit the use of portable equipment for recycling operations
  • Establishment of multiple species plans that restrict mineral resource development in areas critical to the industry (e.g., Coachella Valley MSHCP)
  • Establishment of open space planning efforts that restrict access to lands for any manner of development (e.g., Quality of Life Initiative)
  • Establishment of traffic impact fees that disproportionately affect heavy industrial land uses (San Diego,Riverside)
  • Establishment of local agency permitting requirements for federal lands (Imperial County)

Examples of the benefits of participatory leadership include:

  • Adoption of resource protection ordinances that exempt mineral resource development (San Diego County)
  • Development of CEQA significance criteria for impacts to mineral resources from conflicting development near mining projects (San Diego County)
  • Establishment of General Plan land use policies that strongly support mineral resource development (San Diego County, Yolo County, Sonoma County)
  • Development of regional planning policies that seek to understand and support mineral resource development (San Diego)
  • Establish consistent policies for development of mineral resource projects within multiple species preserves (San Diego)
  • Establish favorable reputation with various interest groups (e.g., environmental) (San Diego)

As shown above, there are substantial benefits to providing leadership for our industry in the local government planning process.  Some suggestions for leadership goals and management implementation policies for local area implementation might include:

Goals (Leadership)

  • Identify local agencies that have the potential to influence mineral resource development
  • Identify Planning Policies that recognize the importance of mineral resources to the local economy
  • Identify local planning initiatives that have the potential to effect mineral resource development
  • Identify affiliated interests that share similar goals
  • Identify local government officials that support mineral resource development
  • Hold periodic meetings to notify general membership of important issues in the local area

Implementation (Management)

  •  Contact agencies to inquire about existing and planned policies that relate to mineral resource availability and development
  • Work with lead agency staff to develop policies that allow development of mineral resources
  • Establish working groups to address specific issues – assign meeting attendance duties on a rolling basis.
  • Request documents that describe planning processes
  • Obtain seat at committee meetings – assign meeting attendance duties on a rolling basis among industry interests
  • Develop working relationships with agency staff
  • Establish consensus groups to address common issues of concern (AGC, EGCA, BIA, CalTrans etc.)
  • Develop working relationship with government officials
  • Develop meeting agendas, schedule venues, and invite interesting and informative speakers

The government you get is the government you allow.  Leadership is the key to making that government work for you.