Meet a Local Leader: Alexis Steger

Alexis Steger, City of Dubuque Housing and Community Development director

Alexis Steger and her spouse have a couple of children who create a ton of adventure in her everyday life.

She started her career in Dubuque as an intern with the Dubuque Police Department. She moved out of law enforcement, obtained her master’s degree and became a certified public accountant.

After auditing for a few years, Steger started working for the city of Dubuque in 2013 on the Bee Branch Creek Restoration Project. She eventually moved into her current position as the Housing and Community Development director.

You’ll find her enjoying the outdoors, camping and swimming in the summer, then hibernating inside by a fire in the winter reading Federal Regulations.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?

Police Chief Mark Dalsing has had a tremendous impact on me as a leader. His ability to communicate and encourage the community through humor/fun was something I strived to emulate as a leader. Being relatable and open to all members in the community is extremely important to tackling difficult community issues together.

Additionally, Dalsing showed me how important it was to take breaks, relieve stress and put family first. He taught me how to come to work rested and ready to guide an amazing group of employees. This might seem small, but the strategies he taught me for stress relief helped me tackle big projects that take a lot of energy and long hours at work.

What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization? People looking at my job from the outside might say my most important decisions are related to managing millions of dollars for our community, or deciding how we ensure safe housing. These type of decisions are made with collective input so I don’t see them as the most important for me individually.

Instead, my decision to speak up for those that might not be heard, and putting my employees needs first, are some of the more important decisions I can make each day. If each of my employees feels important and empowered to make a difference in our community, my impact is larger through them. I have an amazing team, that makes it easy to lead.

As an organization gets larger, there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening? I like to form teams of employees to tackle specific issues to keep the inspiration. This allows the team to see success quickly with each change, instead of feeling as if there is no end to the number of issues to be addressed since we are such a large institution. COVID-19 made this more difficult, and as a leader I am looking for unique ways to continue to inspire as we work through the pandemic.

Which is more important to your organization – mission, core values or vision? I don’t believe one can be more important than another. The vision must drive the mission and core values will mirror the other two if the organization truly believes in the vision/mission.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess? Every leader should have the ability to inspire; inspire their employees, inspire other leaders, inspire communities/industries to innovate, appreciate and be generous in their successes. They should be able to inspire others to work through failures, and to try again.

What advice to you have for future leaders? Find the strengths/abilities of those around you to do amazing things. No one can be good at everything; we are better people when we can work together.

What lessons can leaders take away from the current pandemic? Be ready to adapt and change at a moment’s notice. Being a leader means you have to be prepared to make tough decisions, and to adjust when your decisions don’t produce the outcome needed.

An example; we identified that we lost our ability to “group think” without being physically in a meeting together. It is hard to interrupt others on a virtual call or throw out new ideas. As a leader you have to think about those big picture issues and ask others how you can solve them. My teams decided to use Microsoft Teams Chats to get back the ability to “group think.”

What are two or three of the best things about being a leader? You can make a significant, positive impact in the community, and it is fun to watch those around you expand their leadership roles to create amazing outcomes you never expected.