leadership skills

Patricia Ninham-Hoeft: What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office (2008)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Oneida Nation Business Committee Secretary Patricia Ninham-Hoeft reflects on her experience as a leader of her nation, and shares a list of the five leadership skills she wished she had mastered before she took office.

Resource Type
Citation

Ninham-Hoeft, Patricia. "What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 25, 2008. Presentation.

"Good morning. My name's Patty Hoeft. I'm the Tribal Secretary on the Oneida Business Committee, which is a nine-member committee that's elected every three years. We are facing elections this July, and it's my first time serving for my tribe and so I'm entering or finishing up my third year. Why I ran for tribal secretary is something that I always wanted to do since I was a kid, and I always wanted to be on the Oneida Business Committee. My mother served three terms on the Business Committee and she and another woman founded Oneida Bingo back in the mid "˜70s, and so I've always been involved in tribal politics. But the situation I inherited or stepped into when I won was very different than what I thought it would be. I thought that before getting elected that I was energetic and enthusiastic and I had big dreams and I was going to help make positive changes. I was going to help deal with the frustration that has been running through my community for the past 10, 15 years or so, and right now we're seeing that frustration I think starting to climax a bit. I'm hoping it's climaxing, and I think the frustration is just from tribal members who want more from their tribe or expect better performance from the Business Committee or the people that they elect. So I came to the job, took my oath with all of those ideas, and instead after three years I find myself in tears wanting to quit, wanting to rip out the part of me that feels Oneida and walk away from it. I feel very overwhelmed and it's been very hard and so I've been trying to search for reasons to explain why it's that way, because it's not just that way for me. My mother talked about it all through her terms, and I remember the difficulties she had -- nine years on the council -- and the people that would come up to her and asking her, "˜Sandy, you can solve this, do something about it.' And when she didn't, even me, her daughter, turned my back on her, and I find myself in that situation now: dear friends of mine feeling disappointed in what I didn't do or didn't do enough of.

So things that I wanted to talk about that I think I would have liked to have known before I ran I think start with leadership skills, and the second area are roles and responsibilities of the council itself and the importance of visioning and strategy setting. As tribal secretary, I came into a job that has a dual role. It's both a management position because I am supervising a staff and we have a specific function to carry out, a constitutional function, and that's to organize the council's meetings, take the minutes, maintain the official record, and do that not only for the council but for the General Tribal Council. And the General Tribal Council is when 75 voter-eligible members come together for a meeting and they form the council, which in the last couple of years has been setting the course for what's happening in Oneida. I'm the tribal secretary. My dual role, I have to be a manager, an administrator, and also a leader on the council, a policy maker. As the tribal secretary, I inherited the staff, I inherited a staff that was not content with their position. We had complaints about the individual performance of staff. We had complaints about the function of the office itself, that it wasn't performing. And so I came in with a vision for the tribal secretary's office based on my background as a journalist. I worked as a newspaper reporter for the Green Bay Press Gazette for a few years and covered the tribe a little bit, and always the frustration is the lack of openness and transparency in Oneida. So I really saw the tribal secretary's office and function as a way to start initiating good government ideas. How to make sure that the business and the affairs of the council, of the government, were available and open to the constituency that we served.

So leadership skills? There are five of them that I think that I wish that I had spent more time knowing more about before I took the job. They seem to be five that I stumbled across throughout the last three years that I saw myself, I think, naturally engaging in. The first is a catalyst. It's leading innovations and managing change. It's skill in motivating and promoting change. It's being future orientated and inspiring and having a vision. And I see myself when I first took office as really taking a catalyst role, coming in and changing a mindset, changing expectations and changing...challenging the status quo. And so a lot of that meant motivating others, persuading them to understand what I was seeing, and trying to persuade them to jump on and help me pursue this vision.

The next is collaboration, and that's building community through inspiration, empowerment and really working together in partnership with not just my fellow peers on the Business Committee, but also the tribal constituency themselves. And I felt, growing up in Oneida, that a lot of times things were done in a vacuum, ideas were done in a vacuum. And so this was a way to kind of try to find ways to reach out in helping people help themselves. And I think the collaboration skill is important because there seems to be, in Oneida at least, this dependency mindset, that everybody sits back and they wait for the Business Committee to solve all the problems and come up with all the answers, and it's really trying to tell people that my role as an elected official is merely to represent and reflect the will of the people, that it's up to you to organize at a grassroots level and come up with ideas and then together we will put them into action.

A communicator is the next skill, learning how to deal with interpersonal relations, how to be in a public speaking situation, and also how to deal with personal attacks, and verbal judo I think is a course that I would recommend for anyone because the attacks come from all over the place, and I've learned just recently after surviving a round of personal attacks that how I reacted really helped move it into a more positive path. And I think that starts, too, with having self-discipline over your own emotions, that you really have to hang on to your gut and have faith that it will pass and it will get better, and so that's been really important. In fact there was one evening where I stayed up I think until 3:00 a.m. searching the internet for verbal judo lessons to get through a round of attacks.

The next is just be a competent practitioner, knowing the difference between effective governance and managing and having knowledge about the tribal, your tribes' rules and processes and culture, the constitution, the by-laws, ordinances. And you also need to know the rules of the surrounding municipalities that you will interact with.

And then the last one, the fifth one, is just personal, the cornerstone of personal leadership, growth and development. These are things that I've been dealing with in a personal way and it's my tone. I came in as I said very enthusiastic, I was going to make change, I was going to challenge the status quo and I wasn't afraid to do that and I wasn't going to take any prisoners, and so my tone was very angry and harsh. And when I realized -- after coming down from some of these episodes -- that I was dealing with people who I grew up with. I was dealing with older folks who were my mentors when I was a kid and here I was using this harsh tone on them and not realizing that we all make mistakes and that we're all trying the best we can. So over the last three years -- and I'm still having difficulty with it -- is trying to temper my tone so that it's more productive and still passionate, but not so damaging. And having patience I think, where you're in it for the long haul, that the big changes I thought were going to happen I'm going to have to settle for small ones and be satisfied with that. But having patience that it will work out. And then making sure that when you make decisions that you're able to live with yourself about them and that you choose your battles wisely.

Leadership skills, and there's five of them that I think are ones that I wished I would have spent more time honing before I took office, but it's the catalyst and it's collaboration, communicator, competent practitioner, and the cornerstone of your own personal leadership and development. Then I just wish our council spent more time early on getting to know each other. When we first came together, it seemed that we spent a couple of days kind of having a really quick overview of the tribe as an organization itself, trying to see what departments and divisions were doing, but then it seemed like the nine people just broke up and everyone went their individual ways. I think it would be important that when you start that you sit down and you clarify roles and responsibilities with each other and expectations -- not just as a council as a whole, but each individual person on it. And then learning to identify the kinds of decisions that the council is expected to make, because there are decisions that the council shouldn't make, but people would like you to make them. And knowing the difference between governing and oversight and setting direction versus getting involved in the day-to-day matters and micromanaging. That's a tough one, and I think it stymies a lot of folks in knowing the difference between it. I see extremes. I see some council members who say, "˜I'm not getting involved in day-to-day matters,' and so they also throw out the responsibility of oversight. Let managers decide that. Well, there's a difference and I think knowing...talking about it upfront so that everyone's clear is important. And then group think, learning what group think is, how to avoid it, how to set up a process among your council so that it's okay to speak out and disagree with each other and that speaking out doesn't mean that you're disloyal to the group or that you're trying to shake up the balance of good feelings that everybody has, but that it's important to disagree.

Then I also wish that our council spent more time getting a comprehensive look at the organization itself and focusing on visioning and strategy, "˜cause too often today we get caught up in the bickering and the fighting and the power struggles, and it's like...it's these power and control struggles. It's like playing Monopoly with family once a year and everybody comes to the table with their own set of rules and you never get to finish the game "˜cause you're all bickering over what the rules are. It's really important I think to come together and look at the organization and find out what do we do and how are we doing and who do we serve.

There are just so many things I think in Oneida that we're responsible for as elected leaders, so many services. There's public safety, long-term care, health care, environmental protection, land use and planning, relationships with surrounding municipalities. Then you have investments, you have the annual budget and then you have the golden goose for Oneida is our gaming operation and knowing how to manage that. It's sitting down in the beginning and getting a good comprehensive look at all of that before you start off I think is important.

Bottom line is you can't do it alone, that change is slow and I wish I would have started small. I wish I would have valued relationships more in the beginning. I'm trying to go back and repair some of those things. Learning to fight the right fights, knowing when to fight is important. And visioning -- trying to get the council to focus on visioning versus managing, and really trying to answer the question, 'What do we want to be 100 years from today?' And for Oneida, we're eight miles west of the City of Green Bay, and we're surrounded by municipalities and we have a major fight with a village that lies entirely within our reservation boundaries and they just hired an Indian fighter from the CERA [Citizens Equal Rights Alliance] group. I forgot what that stands for, Equal Rights Alliance. So we've got some major battles ahead but it's exciting, I'm glad to be a part of it and I just know it will...I just have faith it will work out. Thank you."

Ned Norris, Jr.: Perspectives on Leadership and Nation Building

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris, Jr. speaks to aspiring and current Native nation leaders about the keys to being an effective leader and shares his personal experiences in preparing to become the leader of his nation.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Norris, Jr., Ned. "Perspectives on Leadership and Nation Building." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2008. Presentation.

"Thank you. How is everybody? Good. Alright! Thank you, Manley Begay, for that introduction. I just wanted to take this opportunity to welcome you, welcoming you to the Tohono O'odham Nation and welcome to our home. This is one of our business facilities that we just opened in the beginning of January [2008] and we're pretty proud of it. We're proud of what we have been able to accomplish thus far, and realize that there are more things ahead of us that we know and that we may not know that we'd like to accomplish for our people. This gives us the opportunity to establish some economic base for us to do some of those things that we just dream about.

Just a little bit of a background, the Tohono O'odham Nation, when you think about our ancestral lands, you will know that the ancestral lands of the O'odham include those lands which are where the city of Tucson sits today all the way east to where the Rincon Mountains are at, all the way north to the city of Phoenix and Scottsdale is at, all the way west to where the Colorado River is, and all the way south some 130 miles south of what is not the international border of Mexico. Those are ancestral lands of our people, of the O'odham. Today, we ended up with 2.8 million square acres and always tell an audience, 'We're 2.8 million square acres small.' And usually when you have a non-Indian audience, they kind of look at you like, "˜What are you talking about? 2.8 million square acres is a pretty big piece of land.' But when you think about the ancestral lands of our people, 2.8 million is nothing. So I wanted to give you that background. Also, we have about 28,000 enrolled tribal members, so there are about 28,000 of us running around here in the United States and in some other countries. In fact, we have about 1,500 enrolled tribal members that live in Mexico and not necessarily because they want to live in Mexico, it is because when the international border was established, they cut them off from the rest of the people, from the rest of the land here. We continue to have about nine communities that still exist within Mexico, and my trip to Nogales, Sonora this afternoon is meeting with a couple of members of the O'odham in Mexico, because the lawyer that they are working with can't get on this side of the United States, so we're going to go meet with him down there and talk a little bit about land issues that are important to us that still exist in Mexico.

And actually I wanted to get a feel of the audience. I was asking Manley Begay, "˜Who is the audience here?' And he said to me that "˜there are newly elected tribal leaders here, there are aspiring tribal leaders here.' I was speaking to one of the young persons here and they said there are some people from a college up in Phoenix area that are here to learn about leadership, and learn about what you might want to be thinking about as you are emerging into a tribal leader. And then I was also told that there are some emerging old tribal leaders, and I'm like emerging old tribal leaders, and I'm wondering what he's talking about. And I'm assuming that they are those newly tribal elected leaders that, for some odd reason, you decided to get back into the thick of the politics and get elected again, so you're back. It's a return of the old leadership. He pointed out a couple of you to me, take for example, "˜So and so over there or so and so over there, they are old returning tribal leaders.' And I won't point you out because you know who you are.

I was sharing with Manley that I knew I wanted to do this job 30 years ago. I knew I wanted to be the Chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation 30 years ago. When I started my first job in 1977 as the assistant director for the Tohono O'odham Nation Children's Home, I knew someday I wanted to hold this job. And over the course of the last 30 years, I have done different things -- consciously and sub-consciously -- preparing myself for this day, preparing myself for this job. And people ask me today, "˜How do you like what you're doing?' And I tell them, "˜I love it. I love this job. It's everything that a job needs to be. It's challenging, it's exciting, it's frustrating, it's disappointing.' All of those things that our jobs need to be in order for us to grow, in order for us to challenge ourselves, in order for us to be challenged. We have to have all of those experiences, all of those ingredients in order for us to be successful as tribal leaders. And I know that over the course of the last 30 years, there are things that I have done in my life that probably put question on whether or not I should or shouldn't be elected as a tribal leader. And I think every single person in this room has done something questionable in their lives that may have put question on whether or not we should elect you or not elect you, but you know, we learn from those situations as well. We learn from those mistakes. We learn from that part of the journey in our lives in order to prepare us for what we are doing today as tribal leaders. And that's the way I like to look at it. That is the way I like to look at the past 30 years. And I've been married for 35 years. My wife -- and actually I tell this story -- that my wife has put up with me for 35 years. We just had our 35th anniversary in February, and I'll share with you now that in the 35 years that we have been together, there have been things that I've done that would have probably required her or wanted her or forced her to leave me, but she didn't. She didn't leave me, she didn't give up on me. For some reason, she believed in me and my ability and my capability, and I love her more today for not giving up on me because she stood by me. And I always say that, "˜Behind a good man, there is always an even greater woman,' the woman that is there to help us, to pick us up when we fall. To help us gain the strength or regain the strength we may have lost at different times in our life, and so I appreciate that of her.

You know, over the course of my years involved in politics -- and we see sometimes on the TV commercials, the commercial about Michael Jordan and there was a commercial that said, "˜Be like Mike.' It caught a lot of the attention of our young people: "˜Be like Mike Jordan, buy these $250 tennis shoes and you can be like Mike Jordan. Be like Mike.' Well, you know, there's people in my life that I would like to be like, that I had sat back years ago watching leaders, watching aspiring leaders, watching people over the course of time that I have said, "˜You know what, I'd like to be like that person. I'd like to be like that leader. I'd like to be able to think like that leader. I'd like to be able to have the good heart that I see that leader have and be like them.' Just like the commercial is saying, "˜Be like Mike.' There are several Mike people out there that I would like to have been like. You know it really is an honor for me to be standing in front of you sharing these thoughts with you, because one of those people that were "˜Be like Mike' for me in my life' was Dr. Peterson Zah. I am standing up here thinking, "˜What am I going to be able to say to Dr. Zah that is going to make any sense or that he hasn't already said or has already experienced himself?' So it is an honor for me to stand in front of you, sir, and be able to share some thoughts with you, because I'm thinking, "˜Man, I can't share, I can't teach you anything.' But it's out of that respect that I hold for him as a leader, as a continued leader, and what he's been able to do not only for his own people, but for all nations, all tribal people nationwide.

One of the things that I have shared with different audiences is some of these quotes. I keep these, I keep some quotes in this thing that we use now called this Blackberry, and I keep these in here because at times over the course of, you know, when you are feeling down or when you are feeling like maybe you're questioning what you are doing or questioning the worth of what you are doing, I go back to these and I start reading these. One of the things that I've always thought about -- and I try to live my own leadership ability after -- is this quote, and it says, "˜You can accomplish anything in life provided that you do not mind who gets the credit.' 'You can accomplish anything in life provided that you do not mind who gets the credit.' As leaders -- and that quote is attributed to Harry Truman -- as leaders I like to think of myself in that way. That what I have to do -- the people have entrusted in me their trust to lead them and to guide them for the term that I have been elected. As a leader, I should not ever take advantage of that trust that the people have placed in me. I should never take the position that, "˜That was my idea, not yours.' I should not take the position that, "˜It's my way or the highway.' As a leader, that should not -- that's not something that we should be doing as tribal leaders. The [Tohono O'odham Nation] vice chairman and I -- Isidro Lopez -- when we ran for these offices, we ran on a campaign that we say in O'odham, it says [O'odham language], and [O'odham language] translates to "˜All of us together.' And what we wanted to be able to do was to bring the people together, to bring our people together, to give our people the opportunity to actively participate in the decision-making process. Too many times, we get tribal leadership that think they are going to impose those decisions on the people. We can't accomplish that, we can't accomplish what we need to accomplish if we are going to dictate to our people. That's not our purpose. Our purpose is to lead, our purpose is to work together, and our purpose is to bring our people to the table so that we can hear what they have to say. And there have been times in the last nine months that the Vice Chairman and I have served in office that people have said, "˜So much for [O'odham language], because I thought we were going to work together.' And that is because they were on the short end of a decision. You know, and we have said that this theme is going to be the heartbeat of our tenure in office. We intend to make sure of that. Now, people need to understand that we're not always going to agree on what the outcome of a decision is. We can't expect to always agree. There are going to be things that we disagree with each other on, but we are always going to make the effort to try and involve you in the decision-making process. So that is what I wanted to share with you on that.

The other quote that I look at, that I've always tried to model my leadership after, it says here, "˜The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he or she wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.' You know we're elected leaders, we are elected to lead, we are elected to direct. I always make comments to my staff, I say, "˜We only are as good as you are.' You know, we end up getting the credit for a lot of the work that a lot of other people that aren't elected leaders do, and I try every time to let my staff do what they need to do in order to get done what I gave them the direction to do. If I keep meddling in what they are doing and micromanaging what they're doing, why do I have them? If I'm going to take that responsibility, why do I have them there to do that job? So that's what I like to look at and think about at times.

One last one that I want to share with you is -- wow, what happened to it? But I remember it, because I remember it off of a fortune cookie, and I put that thing in my wallet many, many years ago, probably about 20 years ago at least. I know that for a fact. I opened this fortune cookie and I read it and it says that, "˜One of the greatest things in life is doing what people say you can't do. One of the greatest things in life is doing what people say you cannot do.' I usually use that in an audience of young people, of teenagers, high-school age, and I tell them, 'I'm not telling you to be defiant. I'm not suggesting you violate school rules or the rules of the household. What I am telling you is that when people stand there and tell you that, "˜You are not going to [amount] to anything. All you are is a troublemaker, and you are not going to be worth anything in your life,' that you challenge them on that.' And I stand here before you and tell you that I was one of those students. I was told that by a teacher in high school at one time. You know I probably gave him reason to think I was going to be worthless. I probably gave my family reason to think I was worthless. I know I gave my wife reason to think I was worthless, but you know I took that and I try to live that as a challenge to me in my life as a leader.

So those are things that I wanted to share with you. I really am honored that I was given the opportunity to stand in front of you and to share these thoughts with you and that you were actually listening. I was wondering, "˜This is going to be difficult. I'm going to be hearing papers clashing and cups making noise.' I've talked to audiences before lunchtime before, and I might as well just not stand here and say nothing because nobody is listening, but that's not true today. I see you listen, I feel listening, I see what you are doing here. And in closing, I wish all of you the best of success in your leadership. I wish all of you the best of success for your people, for your tribes. You know we have many, many challenges ahead of us. And I say that it's been nine months that we've been in office, but it feels like nine years. I think in nine months my hair had grayed more than it has if I wasn't sitting in this office, but you know that is the sacrifice that we make. That is the sacrifice that we make. And I wish all of you well. I congratulate you for the positions that you were elected to lead in, and I want to say to those young emerging leaders, "˜Stay on course, stay focused, and know that you have support out there.'

I want to share this last thought with you. One of the most honorable times that I was honored in my life in being able to sit down at a lunch table with the late Wendell Chino. Years ago, Wendell Chino, a great Mescalero Apache leader for many many years. He was one of those "˜Mike' people for me, it was like I wanted to be like Wendell Chino. I wanted to have his drive, his same good heart, and his same good thoughts. One time we were sitting at a luncheon and it was just, it ended up me and him being the last ones at the table and I was like, "˜Wow, man I'm sitting here with Wendell Chino, man, this is great!' I started picking his brain about leadership and at the end, he said, "˜You know what the sign of a true Indian leader is?' I'm asking does anybody in this room know what the sign of a true Indian leader is? And he said, "˜It's those people that can take the bullets from the front and the arrows in the back.' So be prepared for those bullets and those arrows. Thank you very much."

Educating Indian Country's Future Leaders

Author
Producer
Indian Country Today
Year

To grapple with the concept of good leaders and how to become one, 100 attendees–newly-elected and aspiring leaders from Native Nations–gathered in Tucson, Arizona November 6-7 for a specifically-developed Executive Education Seminar titled, "Emerging Leaders." Developed by the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, a dozen sessions on key governance topics were aimed at preparing participants to begin building personal blueprints for leadership success...

Resource Type
Citation

Allen, Lee. "Educating Indian Country’s Future Leaders." Indian Country Today Media Network. November 15, 2013. Article. (https://ictnews.org/archive/educating-indian-countrys-future-leaders, accessed April 11, 2023)

Leadership and Communications in Indian Country

Year

This four-page report outlines the key findings from interviews with five tribal leaders and tribal communications officers across the country. The conversations focused on exploring how communications helps in their daily work, how the communications playing field has changed over the years and how they have adapted, overcome barriers, and what the tools and activities are that make them more effective leaders and communicators...

Resource Type
Citation

National Congress of American Indians. "Leadership and Communications in Indian Country." National Congress of American Indians partnered with Pyramid Communications. Washington, D.C. 2010. Paper. (http://www.ncai.org/news/tribal-communicators-resources/NCAI_FindingsRep..., accessed January 13, 2014)