As part of my leadership philosophy, I separate the leadership of people from the management of things for getting results. Inherently people cannot be managed and in fact resist it. However, they can be led with clear goals, direction and working on something they are highly motivated toward and that is greater than themselves. That said, the management is essential.

First and foremost, a mission statement must be clearly established. That is the ultimate aim. For a department of transportation (dot), and depending on their responsibilities, it is generally accurate to say they “provide a safe, reliable and sustainable transportation system for the movement of people and goods while improving the economy, mobility and environment”.

Based on my experience, I believe a dot must establish a relatively small group (10-15) of specific and measurable goals (performance measures) that should be divided into two groups:

  1. Strategic goals or outcomes (6-8) and
  2. Enablers (7-9) that support the achieving those goals.

It is fairly common to measure too many goals in a dot because nearly everyone has a different opinion of what is important, especially if it is the work they are doing. However, these goals must be vetted and the organization aligned with their achievement. There are essentially seven strategic goals/outcomes for dots:

  • Safety
  • Jobs and Commerce
  • Mobility
  • Access
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Infrastructure Preservation
  • Customer Service/Satisfaction

While I have not defined these, there could be subsets to at least one. Customers can be defined as the public but also legislatures/congress and various partners such as construction contractors, consultants, truckers, shippers, etc. I mention this because in the end, it is the satisfaction of the customers, supported by the partners, that makes funding, political support, collaboration and a lot of other things work.

Enablers may include:

  • Project Delivery
  • Asset Management
  • Fiscal Responsibility/ROI
  • Collaboration/Partnership
  • Workforce Development
  • Leverage Technology (think digital technology, a subject transforming transportation)
  • Risk Management

It is important to note that everything that is important cannot be measured. Also, focus can be lost if too many things are measured.

That said, everything is in a constant process of improvement and so it must be for dots and the industry to remain competitive.

One of the more intriguing data I have come across on the subject of people versus management of goals/results is from the Harvard Business Review, December 27, 2013 entitled “Should leaders focus on results, or on people?” by Matthew Lieberman. His article reports that if a leader has great social skills only 12% of people consider him a great leader. If a leader has great results skills he is considered great by 14% of people. If a leader has both skill sets the percentage of people rating him a great leader sky rockets to 78%. However, less than 1% of leaders are rated high in both goal focus and social skills.

Another study entitled “High-Resolution Leadership: A Synthesis of 15,000 Assessments into How Leaders Shape the Business Landscape” by Development Dimensions International or DDI, 2016,, covered 300 companies from 18 countries. This study reflected that of the eight highest interaction skills, empathy overwhelmingly tops the list as the most critical driver of overall performance, followed closely by involving others (i.e. engagement). Both relate to higher leader performance in decision making and planning. Overall, the study suggests that leaders need high emotional intelligence (empathy) in their daily dealings with people as well as high cognitive abilities in more intellectual pursuits such as strategy and financial management.

“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”

-Peter F. Drucker