Published 10/30/13

HIPL 2013 conference panel

From left to right: Panelists Joseph DeAngelis, William Irons and HIPL Founding Director Gary Sasse. Bryant Professor of Management Michael Roberto, far right, moderated the panel.

Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership presents annual conference

What can leaders from the public, labor, and education sectors agree on? The key to innovative, long-term change is employee engagement.

Those leaders, R.I. Commissioner of Education Deborah A. Gist, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, and R.I. AFL-CIO President George Nee, discussed strategies for innovation and organizational change in the public sector – the theme of this year’s Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership annual conference, held October 29 at Bryant University.

Tweet from conferenceThe conference, which examines best practices in leadership and creating change, attracted hundreds of mayors, administrators, and council members from Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. This year, four cabinet-level officials from Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s administration attended the event, as well as a large contingent of fire chiefs and representatives of the local Latino community.

“When you’re in a position of needing to lead great change, you’re there because it’s going to be hard. You need someone who is willing to stand up and have grit,” Gist told the audience. And she would know.

Since taking the reins in 2009, Gist has spearheaded a number of initiatives, including the first annual evaluations for all teachers and principals, accountability for schools based on student growth and closing achievement gaps, and a statewide funding formula for education based on district capacity and student need, among others.

Tweet from conferenceCreating a plan – and sticking to it – is important when leading change at any level. But, it’s important to “keep listening. Make tweaks along the way,” Gist recommended.

Mayor Allan Fung agreed. Cranston was able to shift to a community policing model in just nine months because of clear communication with department members, he said.

“If you’re honest with one another, treat each other with mutual respect, you can get more done,” he said. “Compromise isn’t a bad word.”

Gist noted, “You’re not going to please everyone.”

The conference also featured a panel on the role of the state legislature in fostering innovation and change with former Senate President William Irons, former Speaker of the House Joseph DeAngelis, and founding director of the Hassenfeld Institute Gary Sasse.