As physical development division director for Dakota County, Minnesota, Steven Mielke came to the Gettysburg Leadership Institute to further his professional development and gain leadership skills to advance his career as a local government leader. He shared his thoughts about taking part in the program and exploring the different aspects of personal leadership, organizational effectiveness, and the lessons of history.
ICMA: Why did you choose to apply to the Gettysburg Leadership Institute?
SM: I was looking for training that offered real-life examples of leadership. Reading books and attending trainings on leadership was not cutting it for me anymore. I had heard about the Gettysburg Leadership Institute from friends and relatives that had attended in the past and they raved about the experience. I enjoy history and believed I would find the experience more enriching than other options.
ICMA: What was your biggest takeaway from the program?
SM: That people will follow leaders (to their death if necessary) if they believe that the cause is worthy and the leaders are genuine. And it was evident that even great leaders' judgment can be clouded by their own successes and they need to be clear-headed and honest with themselves about the situations they find themselves in.
ICMA: How has the Gettysburg Leadership Institute impacted the way you think about leadership in the public sector?
SM: I found myself realizing that we can lose sight of the mission of the organization and came back asking employees to focus on their purpose and those we serve. While we are not in a war, we do impact lives every day. I have asked our organization's leaders to focus on the “why” as much as the “how” we provide county services.
ICMA: How do you feel your leadership capabilities have been strengthened through the program? Your communication skills?
SM: I have become more focused on vision and mission in my thoughts about what we do. And I have shared the lessons I learned from the leaders of the Gettysburg battle with my subordinates and peers. I have put into practice some of the lessons on how we conduct meetings by making sure everyone participates and try to listen closely to those who report to me, especially those who might have a different opinion about the direction in which we should be headed. I attempt to send clear and concise directions to my subordinates.
ICMA: What would you say to someone who is considering applying to this program?
SM: The training can be transformative in your growth as a leader. The tour guides are incredible and are able to translate the actions of the battle into real-life lessons. This has been the best training I have had in my 35-year career.
Get more information on the ICMA Gettysburg Leadership Institute.