The qualities of outstanding city mayors

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

The DTI annually selects the Philippines' best performing cities based on the four pillars of economic dynamism, government efficiency, infrastructures, and resilience. Therefore, we suggested in our lecture before the convention of the League of Cities of the Philippines that qualities of our mayors should be anchored on those four pillars. That means that the mayors must have the competence, commitment, conscientiousness, and character that would facilitate the achievements of the four pillars.

Mayors must be able to lead the city's drive for more investments and job generation, job preservation, and job enrichment. City mayors must be involved in the development of income, wages, and compensation of the city residents because these would translate into their capacity to spend and help in economic dynamism. City mayors must also be involved in urban planning and development and environmental protection. They should manage urban settlements and communities and be mindful of the problems of housing, water, energy, sanitation, traffic, mobility, and the recurrent challenges posed by inclement weather, floods, and other related challenges. Mayors must be on top of all situations either by himself or by his trusted leaders not just in City Hall but in every barangay and purok. Mayors cannot delegate responsibility and accountability.

Outstanding mayors must embrace the paradigm of competitive governments. They must not be hesitant to benchmark their performance with those of other cities. During his presidency from 1992 to 1998, FVR called on mayors to reengineer the LGUs, reinvent the styles of local governance, and imbue the public sector led by the cities to be entrepreneurial. The public sector, particularly the LGUs led by the cities, which are usually faced with severe budget constraints, must re-conceptualize their traditional bureaucratic ways of running cities and administering city affairs. Mayors must slash red tape, decentralize and streamline decision-making, and manage people based on what I conceptualized as the HR Diamond consisting of four components: Talent Acquisition, Total Performance Rewards, Organizational Justice, and Learning and Career Development.

When hiring, firing, paying wages, and training people, mayors should use the Pareto Principle of the critical few versus the trivial many. Mayors must play politics only 20% of the time and decide, act, and choose professionally based on merits 80% of the time. In Talent Acquisition, mayors must hire the best and if the incumbents are not good, to mentor, counsel, coach, and train them. If they do not deliver despite all the help, they must be changed or transferred to places where their levels of competence can be tapped to achieve optimum results. In Total Performance Rewards, mayors must get the best HR manager to make sure that excellent performance evaluation is put in place, and salary increases are based on performance and potentials.

Mayors must be advocates for and practitioners of organizational justice. That is, he should be able to put in place a sound, just, and fearless employee discipline system, balanced by an effective grievance management and a working internal conflict and dispute resolution system. There should be no compromise on discipline in the workplace. Deviations, offenses, and violations of rules should not go unacted on. But to make sure that justice is not one-sided, legitimate grievances are immediately processed and solved at the lowest levels. Lastly, the human capital in the city government must continuously learn new perspectives, better skills, and more positive attitudes and habits. The mayor must be a true leader of his people in City Hall.

I am helping Mayor Mike in the HR Diamond and I look forward to an intensive and extensive series of interventions so as to gear up Cebu City to be the Singapore of the Philippines, a city with dynamic economic development, with an excellent government service delivery system, with impressive infrastructures and a world-class resilience index. It should be a city where the people are safe, healthy, educated, employed, and are happy, positive, and hopeful. There should be no floods, no garbage, no addicts roaming the streets and with clean streets and highways, well-managed traffic, and a lot of greens, parks, museums, and libraries. That is a virtual nirvana, Shangri-La, or paradise. It can be transported from the realm of the minds to the realms of reality. We just need the will and the skills. And the courage to dream and to work. If others can look and see why, we can think and say why not?


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