Integrating Leadership in State Legislatures
When Donna Sytek was elected by a unanimous vote to the speakership of the 400-member New Hampshire House in December 1996, she brought with her a reputation as a consensus builder who does her homework. 1 She developed the skills and reputation by following the usual path to leadership: She served as a committee chair (Ways and Means and later Criminal Justice), worked her way up, and paid her dues.
As a committee chair, Speaker Sytek learned and perfected a style of leadership that stresses community and collaboration. Though New Hampshire is a small (just under 1.2 million residents) and racially homogeneous (98 percent white) state, Sytek knows from experience that issues can be divisive. She believes that decisions are best made when all stakeholders get involved, when ownership of a policy develops among all the participants, and when people are persuaded of the merits of an issue. Sytek favors this approach for a simple reason: "It works." 2
Even if she were inclined toward a more "command" style, the speaker has few perquisites to entice votes or enforce loyalty among her independent- minded Republican colleagues. Her most tangible rewards and punishments are the distribution or withholding of sixty Capitol-area parking spaces and the more comfortable aisle seats in the House's auditorium-like chamber.
Because her route to leadership was altogether traditional, Speaker Sytek rejects the idea that gender played a role in her ascension as the first woman ever to hold the speakership in her state. Indeed, if legislative behavior is best understood by studying a legislator's district and institution, 3 then gender seems tangential to her legislative career. Her thoroughly Yankee roots, traceable to the Mayflower, and Republican affiliation seem a good fit for Salem, the town