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02/02/2021

Leadership in adversity is the key to building planning’s importance now

Leadership in adversity is the key to building planning’s importance now, says Olafiyin Taiwo.

The global pandemic continues to disrupt all sectors, industries and communities. Discussions on building sustainable and resilient cities are emerging in public policy.

Planning is critical to building cities that balance economic, social and environmental objectives, and should play a more prominent role.

Despite the pandemic’s brutal consequences, transformational opportunities continue to emerge. For example, the lockdown presents opportunities for reflection on career trajectory and professional contributions as planners. The commitment of planners to serving their communities has remained unwavering; developing leadership capacity is pivotal to prolonging this dedication. Effective leadership development requires an intentional approach. It is good practice to have a career development vision and consider how it aligns with the demands of the times.

There are unknowns outside of our control, but having defined objectives can help regain control for strategic work rather than reactive firefighting. First, identifying systems needed to achieve the vision is as important as setting goals.

Second, commitment to solving problems through innovative approaches and digital technology is a key leadership skill. Whilst planning is critical to recovery, planning in isolation will be detrimental to communities and the environment.

“Commitment to solving problems through innovative approaches and digital technology is a key leadership skill required in this new era”

Stakeholder engagement that involves different segments of society and cuts across disciplines is inevitable. Because of the pandemic, digital technology has revolutionised how partnerships are developed.

Third, build support networks that cut across sectors and disciplines, using organisations such as Women in Transport, Women in Planning, BAME Planners Network. Voluntary opportunities that exist within professional associations also provide opportunities to improve leadership skills.

Regardless of commitment, issues that threaten mental health and self-confidence can escalate when your work or environment does not align with your core values. There will always be a place for you to demonstrate your abilities. You have a responsibility to find the place. Be bold, creative and courageous – take action!

Olafiyin Taiwo is chair of the young planners network at the Commonwealth Association of Planners

Image credit | Shutterstock

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