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Leaders of tomorrow: a conversation with Ken Coates, Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation

In an environment of constant change, communities will look to their local leaders for innovative and quick solutions, that according to Ken Coates, Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation. Coates – who sat down with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner at the 2018 JLT Canada Public Sector Summit, in The Blue Mountains, Ontario – discussed the key characteristics, values, and visions that are found in the great leaders of tomorrow.

However, he added, their success will depend on the quality of leadership provided. The impact of social media, the need to understand global issues, not to mention having a grasp on a wide variety of local issues, are all things Coates said must be considered by the leaders of tomorrow.

Coates explained that perhaps most important key to leadership in today’s world is the need for engagement with all constituents. Municipal officers and politicians, he explained, must be a presence in their community, while giving the public a sense of confidence their future is in good hands.

The people who excel at these qualities of leadership are in high demand, Coates said, and thanks to the internet and the proliferation of national conferences, those operating at the highest level are becoming increasingly known on a regional, provincial and even national scale. This, he explains, can create a problem when it comes to the retention of talent – after all, it is easier to recruit talent to a community than it is to develop it from within.

However, “growing from within” remains the best way to go, particularly because local knowledge has considerable value. That knowledge is often essential in a crisis when people in the community, holding the “corporate memory” of what was tried before, can pay off in the long run.

The skills contained in the “leadership toolkit” are important, but Coates wants people to take note of the character, the values, and core competencies local leaders have and how they can be best utilized to strengthen communities over a long period of time.