Following a welcome and introductions by New Jersey Municipal Management Association (NJMMA) President Anthony Ferrera, the NJMMA launched its annual conference with a fitting session on Leadership. Ann Marie Carollo from the Equanimity Consortium LLC and Derrick Carpenter of The WE Project outlined pivotal leadership and communications strategies for those in municipal and public administration.

“Be in the moment and be prepared to make changes as necessary,” was Carollo’s primary message to those in attendance. “Pivotal leadership is a leader who takes the initiative and demonstrates the courage to make things happen.” Carollo went on to tell the audience that true leaders need to seek opportunities and be willing to make changes and decisions that will positively impact others. As data often shows, leadership is only chosen by a fraction of those who are put in its path.

Carollo believes that leadership is built on a series of moments. Those moments include:

  • Unvarnished Moments – Leaders must create an atmosphere of authenticity, like many did during the recent pandemic.
  • Uncomfortable Moments – Leaders must talk with staff about events in life that may make you uncomfortable. Leaders must sometimes take a leap of faith and be in the moment.
  • Uncertain Moments – Leaders must do their best to determine what will happen, but when they can’t, leaders should work with staff and figure it out together.
  • Tomorrow Moments – Leaders should invest in others’ success, and let those individuals let them work through them.

Derrick Carpenter told the NJMMA members in attendance that “delegation is key to leadership and the key to delegation is communication. He offered five tips for communicating effectively, including:

  • Learn to Listen – As a leader, you cannot be distracted. Practice retelling someone’s story to build your knowledge, and remember that everyone wants to be heard. If you let them be heard, they will notice.
  • Avoid Slang & Informalities – Leaders must avoid things like slang, acronyms and unfamiliar industry jargon. These often make others feel uncomfortable, especially if they are new to the field or have unrelated education and training.
  • Focus on Being Brief – Leaders must get their point across in less words and less time.
  • Pay Attention to Other’s Emotions – Understanding non-verbal communications is essential to leaders knowing if their messages are received. Words are powerful and can affect people in many different ways, so leaders should remain positive and rely less on negative doom and gloom.
  • Be Confident – Communicators that exude confidence know their value and are more respectful of others.

Ideally, leaders become leaders because they have credibility, and because people want to follow them. Using this definition, it becomes clear that leadership skills can be applied to any situation where you are required to take the lead, professionally, socially, and at home in family settings.