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Strategic Drivers for Municipal Leaders

  • March 13, 2021
  • Written by Community Futures Meridian

Municipalities across Canada are facing similar challenges. Static or declining revenues bases; aging and declining populations; and competition for limited resources and funding are all putting pressure on our communities. Additionally, many parts of our economy have been hit hard by Covid and the path to recovery is uncertain. It’s not ‘business as usual.’  

Now more than ever communities need strong leaders and that’s why on March 10, Community Futures Meridian hosted a Leadership Master Class Series with the first presentation featuring George Cuff speaking on The Strategic Drivers Impacting Municipal Leaders. The presentation, the first in a three-part series, was well attended with an audience of Council Members, Mayors, Reeves and County Officials across Saskatchewan and Alberta. 

Provided below are the key takeaways:

1. Leadership is not Hanging out Everyday at the Village, Town, County or RM office.

George doesn’t hold his punches. He is a man whom 'says it like it is.’  He reminded attendees about the importance of ‘doing your job’ in leading the organization. It’s all about setting strategic priorities vs hanging out at the Town or County office each day attempting to be ‘helpful’. 

“You have two critical assignments,” said Cuff “First, you must learn your role as an elected official. Second, you must know the role of administration.” 

2. Leaders Learn 

In a study of 90 top leaders, leadership experts Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus made a discovery about the relationship between growth and leadership.  They reported “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from followers”.  

“Successful leaders are learners.  It is an ongoing process of self-discipline and perseverance.” 

He spoke about resources and tools that could help in making critical decisions; addressed pressing questions with the group about lack of participation and cooperation; and emphasized the importance of continuous growth and learning. 

Leaders look far and wide for ‘best practices’! Leaders are open to opportunities!

3. Leaders are Self-Aware

George spoke about the importance of reflection and self-awareness. Sharing his own examples of struggle and change.   He spoke about how communities ‘keeping their heads in the sand’ cannot and should not try to just maintain status quo!

Just like how we are all responsible for our own self-improvement, he talked about how communities need to take responsibility for their growth. They need to be self-aware of the status of their community.   LEADER LISTEN!  to issues and research best-practices from others to proactively solve identified issues. 

4. Leaders are Prepared

According to George one of the keys to leadership is to ensure that your community has developed a road map to truly know where you have been and to plan where you are going. You need to envision a future and develop a plan to make that reality. The goal is to build a strategy that’s practical to develop, implement and measure. It’s not about building a formal document that ‘sits on the shelf.’ The key is to take incremental steps to build trust and confidence in the process; measuring progress along the way. 

“Former heavy weight champion Joe Frazier stated ‘You can map out a fight plan, but when the fight starts you’re down to your reflexes.  That’s what the roadwork shows.  If you cheated in the dark of the morning, you’ll be found out under the bright lights,” said Cuff.

5. Leaders Influence

George talked about how leadership is all about influencing others. 

“The only way to succeed is if we can mobilize our communities. Harry A. Overstreet, author of the Mature Mind, a required text for our university class years ago, states ‘The very essence of all power to influence lies in getting the other person to participate.’

George’s tips for building influence include ensuring leaders are communicating well; focused on building and maintaining trust and are effectively delegating authority and setting appropriate boundaries.  

He also challenged the group to think about newcomers to a Council. 

“Leaders get oriented!”

Specifically he encouraged orientation programs for new members and advocated for communicating What it takes? To be a  new Councillor with their constituencies. Who are your Councilors?  When do they meet? What are the expectations? How much time does it take? This is practical information to encourage and invite participation from your communities. “If Cuff stopped at your municipal office could he grab a copy of your Council Orientation Package?”

6. Leaders Have Integrity

George talked about the need for integrity and good governance.

“General Norman Schwarzkopf spoke of the issue of integrity when he said, "Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character.  But if you must be without one, be without strategy.” 

Key governance principles discussed included: ensuring decisions are focused on the whole community; governing ethically and legally; adherence to decision-making protocols, respecting the Council table; open and transparent meetings; regular and transparent reporting; appreciation and respect for an apolitical administration. Council members are encouraged to embrace their oversight role and remain engaged, self-regulating, and accountable.  


Communities around the World are facing enormous challenges. We can face these challenges through being sober-minded; continuously assessing strengths and liabilities; continuously learning best-practices; planning; mobilizing others and acting with integrity. 

The only path to success is to ensure we have strong leadership within our communities. We need to work together and collaboratively use our resources, skills and capital to help make our ‘envisioned futures’ a reality.   An ‘everyone wins’ approach!

We’d like to thank our partners including SEDA and fellow Community Futures offices:    CF Sagehill,  CF Ventures,  CF Newsask, CF Lakeland.    Register today for the next two (2) session March 17th, 2021 with Bill Stainton and March 24, 2021 with Peggy Koenig.  Visit https://seda.sk.ca/events/municipal-leadership-master-series  for more information.

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