In a term-limited state, what strategies can help a legislator make the biggest impact in his of her limited tenure?
BILLD News | October 2021
OHIO SENATOR THERESA GAVARONE
Class of 2017
“When I make a list of people whom I identify as really effective leaders, either with whom I’ve worked directly or watched from afar, overwhelmingly, they all tend to share the same traits:
- Authenticity — I find it difficult to trust or follow the lead of individuals who don’t seem genuine and true to who they are, or dramatically change what they say, believe or think depending on who is in the room.
- Vulnerability — The willingness to be vulnerable can be wrongly associated with being weak. To me, vulnerability takes incredible strength and resilience. It means you’re willing to be wrong, and to surround yourself with or walk into a room of people who don’t think, feel or experience exactly the same as you. It’s about being brave and bold enough to do what needs to be done, or to say what needs to be said — even, and especially when, it’s hard.
- Empathy — Being relatable, approachable and understanding of others is essential in any good leader. Leaders who treat the worker cleaning bathrooms with the same dignity as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, who value listening and learning from others, and who use those experiences and perspectives to inform their decisions will earn my respect every single day.
Some of these traits are completely innate in great leaders. Others require practice and intention. I’ll never claim that I get it right all the time, but I do my best to model what I expect in others. When I fall short or when I’m challenged in the moment, I reflect on what I could have done differently, take a deep breath, and recommit to doing better next time. It’s important to me to hold myself accountable, and I hope others around me will do the same.”
which will come your way as a legislator. You have a lot of colleagues, many with backgrounds and knowledge different than yours. You can’t tackle all the issues. Find the issues you are passionate about, line up your committee assignments along those issues, and work hard on those things on which you know you can make a difference. Then lean on your colleagues with expertise on other issues that you may not know as well.”
MICHIGAN SENATOR KEN HORN
Class of 2007
“Some of the most effective traits for a legislative leader to possess revolve around being a team builder and bringing people together. Politics are often so divided, so I try and focus on what I can do to bring groups together, whether that be within the party or when we are trying to come together in a bipartisan manner. In addition to this, I try to come at issues with a problem-solving lens — how do I fix this problem — instead of thinking about it just politically. The goal is always to get a solution that both sides are in consensus on and believe is the best solution.”
MICHIGAN SEN. ERIKA GEISS
Class of 2015
“Forty-plus years ago, I joined the political campaign of former Indiana governor and long-time family physician Otis R. Bowen, who focused his personal, professional and political efforts on listening to people. His campaign slogan, “He Hears You,” reflected his philosophy that to truly represent the people, leaders must take the time to listen to their constituents’ opinions, their needs and their thoughts. As a legislator, listening to constituents, fellow representatives and critics, as well as supporters, expands our knowledge and generally leads to more comprehensive solutions to the complex problems of today’s world.”