Pothole to Whole City: Business/Community Leadership

For almost a month, a pothole has marred the street in front of my house. Every day, thousands of cars speed over the hole. Every day, it gets a little deeper and wider. Each time I see the pothole, I dwell on what it represents about our city as a whole.

Who is responsible for fixing this pothole? That is easy to answer: the municipal government.  After all, citizens pay taxes and expect that the city keep the infrastructure functioning safely.

The repair might be delayed if the city budget does not have enough funds to support the municipal workers necessary to make street repairs. Why is that? One reason is that previously when the city increased business taxes, some companies moved to suburbs that have more business-friendly tax structures.

Both the city government and private businesses have their points of view and stick to them. The private sector’s view often runs like this: Businesses do a lot for the community. They provide jobs and benefit the population through their products and services, for which they earn a profit that they are entitled to and do not need to share with the community.

But there are interconnections between business and community.

My street with this pothole leads to a nearby hospital, two preschools, one grade school, one technology school, a number of small businesses, two museums, a supermarket, two convenience stores, several restaurants, a pharmaceutical company, two insurance firms, a bridge, two highways that can take you east and west and north and south, a train station and three major universities. The street is a major thoroughfare. If this street was incapable of handling daily traffic, the time lost would influence productivity of many private employers.

Clearly, business and community interests are parts of the whole of our city.

Business owners must recognize that profit is produced in part because the community has built roads that facilitate the delivery of their product or service. The community educates and produces a talented and creative workforce for business innovation and pays taxes to support schools for the children of these employees. The community recruits, trains, and deploys police and firefighters to protect us.

In short, neither business nor community ought to usurp, exploit or dismiss the other.

The pothole represents an opportunity to bring business and community leaders together. They can look to the field of leadership for guidance. Two attributes of a leader are confidence stemming from emotional strength, which is the balance between managing your own personal and healthy ego and managing others’ egos, and empathy skills to see the problem from the other’s point of view.

Taking no action on the pothole is not leadership or management. It is blatant indifference to our interconnectedness. We are all parts in the same city. Listening to each other can be mutually rewarding.

Wharton Magazine - Background

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