A Stronger State of Well-Being May Follow
By Allen M. Raffetto, PhD
Talk on the streets of Superior about Better City Superior has been a hot topic of late. The initiative is being spearheaded by Bruce Thompson of National Bank of Commerce.
I’d like to share my thoughts about leadership and how important it is to bringing about change. This is important topic since we will be electing a new mayor on April 4th who will counted upon to shepherd the Better City Superior initiative through the state assembly, and then lead the city administration in forming a public/private partnership to make it a reality.
The Role of Leadership in Change
I believe a Better City and a Better Community needs Better Leadership. Nonetheless, better leadership won’t be sufficient to cause positive change! Please bear with me while I explain myself.
When you put people into either Leader or Follower boxes, you may make fundamental “errors of attribution”. In the case of a proposal like Better City Superior, attribution is the belief that success or failure is caused by a person or situation.
You may believe that effective leadership emerges from one of the following:
- Disposition or the nature of a leader’s personality and approach to challenges, or
- Situations, like Wisconsin’s economy, Superiors’ location in a reclaimed swamp by a big lake, the average age of housing in our fair city, and so on. In other words things that are not housed inside the person but exist wholly outside the person.
The first attribution error is thinking that things are caused either by one or the other, the leader or the situation.
Leadership results are never an either/or phenomenon, but instead a combination.
The second attribution error plays out like this: If something good happens, the disposition of a wonderful leader totally caused it. If something bad happens, it’s because of a bad situation and has nothing to do with who the leader is, or how effectively he or she performed as a leader.
Good leadership will rise above bad circumstances, poor leadership hides behind them.
Test your own habit of attribution by asking yourself the following:
“What’s the main reason for the result of the Presidential election?
- Trump and Clinton’s personalities (dispositional); or
- The mood of the country and/or Russian interference (situational).
Does your answer place more emphasis on dispositional or situational attribution?
How a Community Views Change is Reflected in Results
Let’s bring this back to Better City Superior and Superior’s future. If you believe assigning cause or blame is a part of human nature, then what are the possible implications for Superior in assigning the potential success of this proposal to the wrong factors?
Let’s start with the disposition of your neighbors that will cause (or impede) good things to happen. Then let’s switch to what community situations/circumstances need to be for a Better City to emerge in Superior.
Examples of False Conventional Wisdom
Conventional wisdom is a generally accepted theory or belief, based on opinions that are not always correct. Such statements are often preceded by the words, “everyone knows that…” Here are a few examples.
People can be inferior and miserable, or they can succeed and be happy. Cities may be run-down and decaying or growing and thriving. A city can be attributed as being good or bad as a result of these circumstances.
People who define “always” as “the last ten years,” or who live elsewhere and need to feel superior use this assignment of inferiority as thoughtless, “everybody knows” wisdom.
It is common for negative thinkers to regularly apply conventional wisdom to make themselves seem better by making others seem bad. Social media is rife with complainers and mudslingers. It’s not surprising that many of the naysayers don’t live here.
Superior is the #1 worst city for living in Wisconsin
A “Top Ten” YouTube post recently claimed that Superior is the worst city in Wisconsin. People sometimes scoff about such drivel by saying that “if it’s on the internet it must be true!” However, one morning while waiting for a table in a local restaurant I overheard two out-of-town travelers comment how they had read that Superior was the worst city in Wisconsin in which to live.
We’ve captured the negative portion of Nick Johnson’s slam on Superior above to demonstrate how some perceive Superior. You can’t stop Internet falsehoods and you can’t fix “stupid.” Ask the computer hackers in Russia how valuable population ignorance is for the spreading of lies. Yet another error of attribution.
Superior was built in a bad location.
I love this one! This would fall in to the category of a questionable community circumstance. I’ve kidded a former Superior mayor, saying, “The way to make Superior better would be to build a 600 foot hill where the old Superior High School once stood.” Then we could be just like our neighbor across the bay!
I was born and raised in hilly San Francisco,and I can’t say enough about its absolutely beautiful location. I’ll conveniently leave out the occasional earthquake, or the chance of being gobbled up by a shark while floating in the ocean. My point is that, for any city, it is the not location but rather what positive activities go on in it that matters most.
Superior’s population has reportedly shrunk by two-thirds over the last century. Once boasting as many as 42,000 residents by some accounts, Superior’s population has declined to less than 27,000. Can a change in circumstances reverse this reality? Should we start building that 600′ hill?
Success or Failure is in the Laps of Our Leaders
How might Superior fail to become a “Better City?”
Superior will fail if its leaders and followers can’t correctly identify the major factors central to our city’s perceived identity. In other words, our next mayor must effectively set a course to success by accurately defining the positive aspects of our city that can be promoted and built upon.
Of course, that’s only part of the battle. In a previous article published here on Explore Superior, Doug Dalager stressed that Superior needs “transformational leadership.”
An inspired leader seeking transformative change will also need to gather a force of capable and committed followers to overcome the resistance, objections and fears that always push back on leadership’s well-intended efforts.
Bruce Thompson has commented publicly that the CAVE people (citizens against virtually everything,) are a major challenge to Superior’s leadership as our leaders endeavor to bring forth a brighter tomorrow. Are you a CAVE person or a committed believer?
Dalager is correct that Superior needs new leadership and a way of thinking that brings about positive change by transforming the present situation into one that is better for all concerned.
Enabled leaders become encouraged by positive thinking followers. This will empower them to find adequate resources to change circumstances and produce a new Superior.
If successful in this endeavor, our leaders and perhaps our new mayor will reinvigorate this city. Superior could be a community where people can achieve a higher level of well-being and live the best lives they can possibly live.
A city thrives on its imagination. Can we help the future leadership of Superior imagine the possibilities for a Better City Superior.
Yes we can, the first step is in believing it can happen.