• Gregory Z. Smith


Updated: Mar 11, 2019

When I was teaching and more recently being on the city council, I have seen an important part of my role being in the example I have set.  Sometimes, that example has been acknowledged by others; sometimes, I have simply noted that the example was being followed. It is a relatively quiet, but usually rewarding, leadership style.

Often we do what we do simply because it is integral to who we are or what we believe must be done. So, it is interesting to consider all that we do when trying to see those things from the perspectives of others.  Considering my quiet leadership style, it is a little surprising how long a list is generated.  Here are four Rs in Leadership.


* When we sit on the dais and often at other meetings, we are addressed by our official titles; not by our first names. To return that show of respect, I try to always refer to those who speak or report to us as Ms., Mr., or Dr., and not by their first names, even when I know the individuals well.

* Many on the office staff at City Hall and many who come to speak with us wear business attire. Even though there are no rules saying I must wear a jacket and tie, I try to respect that expectation when I am present in my official capacity at City Hall or at events.

* We live in a community in which many different religious traditions and belief systems are observed. In order to respect those differences and to support the First Amendment of our United States Constitution, I avoid making any references in my official capacities to my own beliefs or making proclamations that might be interpreted as indicating any preference for any one belief over another.

* Out of respect for the racial and ethnic diversity of our community and in support of the Fourteenth Amendment, I treat people of all races and backgrounds equitably. I have been working to establish a "Tribal Gateway" at or near the traditional Piro-Manso-Tiwa dance location so that we can ensure respect for the first people here and all who arrived here subsequently.

* Even though the Equal Rights Amendment has not yet passed, I also make every effort to treat people equitably regardless of current, past, or potential future gender and regardless of sexual orientation.

* When people present to us, I try to give them my full attention. Usually, when a speaker or presenter looks across the dais to see who is listening, they see my eyes are on them or on the information they are sharing.


* I try to answer every email, text, and phone call (except when there is a "blast" of them and dozens come from outside our community, sometimes even out of state). That is true of letters also, but we simply don't get that many these days. I know I have missed a few over the years since I was first elected to the Council, and even though I believe it happens rarely, I always try to do better.

* Since City emails are dumped after a period of time, I try to circle back and make sure I've responded, but some have been dumped before I have tracked them back down.

* City voicemails are dumped even more quickly, but only a few times have I not been able to get back to them before that has happened.

* Often, we hear from people bringing something to the attention of the whole council that more appropriately should be brought to the attention of their councilor. Even when I can determine that someone lives in a district other than District 2, I will often respond and Cc their councilor so that the other councilor can add what he or she knows about the situation.

* I do hear from people who appreciate how responsive I've been and thank me for it.


* Since early in my first term, I have treated my duties as a city councilor as a full time job. This means that some weeks are close to 40 hours long during "regular" work hours, but some include evening and weekend engagements that add hours. Some weeks may be lighter, but often processes include working from home, out on site, or while on vacation.

* We do the people's business in our meetings. I take that very seriously; so, I almost never bring my cell phones to our meetings and extremely rarely answer texts or emails during meetings. I know how easy it is to be distracted, and I usually leave the phones in the office.

* For the sake of our community, I consider it a responsibility to look for the ways we can improve life and expand opportunities here. I am often requesting information, attending conferences, and looking for ways to collaborate in those efforts.

* Each of us serves on various committees and boards, and so, we have other additional meetings beside the ones on Mondays. I try never to miss those meetings, and I try always to be prepared.

Research * While I believe I bring new and beneficial ideas to our efforts, I also stress the importance of bringing data and research to help us be informed in our decision making.

* I learn from various meetings and presentations, from conferences and roundtables, from reading and travels, and from searches I and others have done on the internet.

* It may be easy to go with "gut feelings," but it is advisable to have information supporting or at least informing our choices in the directions we go.

Leadership is often described in different ways, but I believe the most accurate description of what I do comes from Albert Schweitzer:

Example is leadership.

Throwing out the first ball a few years ago. It didn't make it to the plate!

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