54 – The four decision hats. What are your councillors wearing?

Posted by Whistler                                                                          630 words

I was in a workshop about Edward De Bono’s six thinking hats recently when it occurred to me that we could do with some decision hats in local government. Councillors could wear a different hat for each of their roles. This way they would be clear about what capacity they are acting in, and any onlookers would know as well.   Alternatively, a different hat could be worn to signal the type of decision being made. Here is how it could go.

Let’s start with hats representing the role or capacity that the councillor is acting in. Obviously, gender will influence hat selection for some councillors. I will do my best to select hats with universal appeal.

george washigtonWhen acting as politician, part of the local government to make decisions affecting constituents, a range of hats are potentially available. Politicians have popularised several types of hats. Perhaps the most suitable would be the cocked hat or tricorne, worn by the Hats, a political party that ruled Sweden from 1738 to 1765. A potential alternative is the bicorne worn by Napoleon Bonaparte. Wearing the tricorne would signify that they are acting as the servants of the community that has elected them. It could have a cockade on the front with the municipal regalia. People could expect decisions made with this hat on to reflect broad constituency (community) concerns and interests.

bowler hatIn contrast, when they are making decisions as members of the ‘board of directors’ of the council, the organisation controlling community resources to be used for service delivery, they could wear a Bowler, the traditional hat of civil servants and bankers. It would signify that they are now the servants of the shareholders who have appointed them. People could expect decisions made with this hat on to reflect shareholder (ratepayer) interests.

carabinieriWhen regulating on town planning permits or other matters where the council is a legal authority, a cap symbolising authority is in order. The options include various types of military or police caps. Maybe something from a para-military organisation, such as the ambulance service or fire brigade, would be better – we accept their decisions because we know it is in our best interest. I have chosen the Italian Carabinieri because of their sense of style and the appeal to men and women councillors. It is a clear symbol of the power and authority to make decisions. People could expect decisions made with this hat on to apply the law fairly and consistently.

sun hatFinally when they are a neighbour or friend or club member they could put on a something more casual and familiar. In Australia, this could include the akubra (the popular choice of our national leaders to connect with the ordinary people, especially in the bush), the footy beanie (could be a bit hot in the summer), the terry-towelling bucket hat (a favourite for the cricket fan), or the sun-safe hat. I think the sun-safe hat wins. It shows consideration for health and well-being with a bit of beachside relaxation. It is sure to signal that the councillor is off duty and not able to make decisions.  Don’t bother asking, I’m not interested. No decisions are made with this hat on.

Of course, the other option is that councillors don a hat suited to the decision they are making. This opens up the fashion field for those with hat sense. Here are some other suggestions for the hat repertoire (in no particular order):


Stetson – for those way out there decisions that are hard for everyone to understand.

Mortarboard – for a real public interest decision where the councillors’ knowledge trumps the general ignorance of the community.


Hard hat – this is for the tough decisions that are occasionally made despite their unpopularity (good for photo opportunities as well).

Holiday hat – something bright and cheerful for those ‘all care, no responsibility’ decisions.


Pith helmet – this hat really should be worn more often when councillors are path finding and making ‘adventurous’ decisions.

Top hat – for the formal decision, such as opening a new building or electing the Mayor.


Beanie – for the practical decisions – keeps the head warm and inconspicuous (although a hard hat might be handy if you choose to wear a Collingwood beanie).

Beret – for the creative decision – something suitable for a bit of la vie en rose.
Montera – this is a beautiful hat and should be kept handy for taking on specific interest groups when what they want isn’t in the best interests of the whole community. Wearing this to a meeting would clearly signal a councillor’s intent.