Tim Kaine’s Philosophy of Leadership

We’re going to interrupt our usual format (and postpone part three of our response to Barton Hinkle’s critique of economic populism) and report on the visit of Gov. Tim Kaine to the University of Richmond on Tuesday evening.

Speaking to an audience primarily composed of students at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, Kaine provided a useful and interesting summary of how he views the governor’s job, and what he hopes to accomplish this term.

Kaine said being governor involves three distinct leadership functions: first, being “CEO” of the state government, a task which he says occupies 60-70% of his time; second, being involved in the legislative process, which occupies about 20-30% of his time; and third, being the political leader of the Democratic Party in Virginia, a task which takes up roughly 10% of his efforts.

Kaine noted that the state government of Virginia is a massive enterprise, involving over 100,000 employees in roughly 100 different agencies. After listing various good governance plaudits Virginia has received in the past from Governing magazine and others, Kaine laid out his own philosophy of leadership one he said he developed at the “school of hard knocks” via his prior work experience.

Effective leadership involves two primary aspects, Kaine noted: setting goals, and developing relationships. Kaine argued that setting goals is essential to boosting productivity and performance, and said he had spent six weeks this year reviewing in detail each agency’s proposed goals for the next several years.

Kaine said that in the near future the state will launch a web site, Perform Virginia, which will publicly state the performance goals of each state agency, and provided regular updates on progress towards meeting those goals.

Kaine also said that he has his own goals for his term in office:

1)      To address Virginia’s transportation needs.

2)      To improve health care outcomes, particularly with regard to expanding access for the uninsured and reducing child obesity.

3)      To improve K-12 education, and specifically to reduce by over half the number of third graders failing statewide reading tests

4)      To preserve at least 400,000 acres of open space in Virginia

The governor then went on to talk about the role of relationships in leadership. On a few things, an executive has the ability to make things happen by fiat, but for large, complex goals you need to get the cooperation of many other people. The best way to do that is through fostering relationships.

Kaine cited through types of relationships in particular: the relationship between different agencies within state government; the relationship between state and local governments; and the relationship between the state government and the private and nonprofit sectors.

Kaine went on to talk about the symbolic importance of the gubernatorial role, and the importance of him simply showing up at certain events. (As an example Kaine cited a funeral for a state trooper he attended earlier the day Tuesday). Interestingly, Kaine stressed the particular importance of reaching out to groups that often feel left out of the political process and who only have rarely access the highest levels of power, noting that this was important in bringing to life the notion of a “Commonwealth” in which we’re all in it together.

Kaine then went on to describe his successes and failures in working with the legislature this year. Kaine called attention to several pieces of legislation he supported which managed to get through, including requiring evaluations for public school teachers, ending
Virginia’s estate tax, and providing tax incentives to protect open space.

But he acknowledged that the larger goal of coming up with a transportation bill had ended in stalemate. Kaine said there was basic agreement on certain priorities, particularly using state money more wisely and addressing land use issues, but not on how to fund new initiatives.

In subsequent comments Kaine said that room to maneuver on that question had been hampered by the no-tax pledges many Republican legislators have signed. Kaine added that his own position on taxes was that it was beneficial for Virginia to remain relatively speaking a low tax state, but that he saw no benefit in letting important public needs go unmet for the sake of having the lowest possible tax burden.

Finally, Kaine talked about his role in leading the Democratic Party and encouraging potentially strong candidates to run for office. He said that he was proud to be a Democrat and proud to be part of a big tent party, but that the Democrats don’t have a monopoly on wisdom or virtue. Consequently, he wants to reach out to Republicans and also independents, even at the same time he’s trying to get as many Democrats as possible elected.

Interestingly, Kaine said that recent election results show that Virginia is fundamentally an “independent” state, and that he thought that was a healthy situation, as a robust two-party system is a “wonderful form of government.”

In the question and answer period, Kaine responded to questions about taxes, leadership and ethics, protection of minority rights, and the relationship between Virginia’s cities and counties. On that last score, Kaine said he intends to use his first two year budget next year as a tool to encourage regional cooperation among city and county governments by providing funding incentives to metropolitan regions which engage in regional problem-solving.

Kaine also movingly spoke of his opposition to both the death penalty and the recently passed marriage amendment, saying that the amendment had targeted an unpopular minority in a manner inconsistent with Virginia’s best traditions, and that the amendment went much too far in denying any possibility of public recognition for unmarried couples.

All in all, the hour-long session provided some rich insight into the mindset and aspirations of Virginia’s not-quite-a-rookie-anymore governor.

Published in: on November 29, 2006 at 2:53 am  Leave a Comment  

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