3 Realms of Urban Planning Leadership

To accomplish your goals and aspirations as an urban planner, it’s critical to understand the type of leaders influencing places. Richard Hambleton distinguishes three realms of place-based leadership who are key drivers of creative, livable, and sustainable communities

1. Political Leadership

The public officials elected to office who have authority in decision-making such as Mayors, Supervisors, State Senators, etc.

2. Community and Business Leadership

Civic-minded individuals, organizations, and businesses contributing resources and energy into community activities and decision-making. The Bay Area have very strong community leaders such as: SPUR, Bike East Bay, Transport Oakland, Connect Oakland, Sports Basement, etc. Engagement with these locally embedded leaders contributes immensely to our communities.

3. Managerial and/or Professional Leaders (aka Urban Planners)

Public servants in government organizations, such as SFMTA and MTC, and consultants who help aid in planning and managing services for the public.

Figure by Richard Hambleton

Because the roles of these leaders overlap, conflict can arise from different values and perspectives, competing priorities, and methods of work. However, “if the leaders step out of their ‘realm’ of authority and engage with the perspectives and realities of others” it can create, what Hambleton describes as, “innovation zones” (see left). This requires listening, vulnerability, and active participation in personal conversations.

Urban planners can lead this process by being facilitative leaders. Facilitating conversation, inquiry, and interaction with these 3 realms of leadership to create livable and sustainable places.

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