In order to create communities that are “leader-full” (which are communities that are full of people who exercise leadership) we must first define community.
So what is community? A community is anywhere and anytime there are more than two people involved. It can be your city or town, your neighborhood, your work or department, a committee or board, your church and your home.
Community can be many things to many people but the underlying theme is the feeling of being valued and accepted, of being cared for. Cecile Andrews of The Circle of Smplicity tells us “Real community involves equality, participation, authenticity and sharing – the sharing of values, of problems, of stories. In community, people are equal”.
Now let’s look what a “leader-full” community may look like. Researchers such as the Lyndhurst Foundation, Pew Partnership for Civic Change and the National Civic League have studied what makes communities work. Dr. Cornelia Flora of Kansas State University came to some conclusions in her research concerning successful communities. Below are excerpts of her findings as written in Leadership For a Changing World by Pat Heiny and Mary Jo Clark of Contempory Consulting.
1. In successful communities controversy was considered normal. It was expected and regarded as a necessity of participatory governance.
2. People held an objective view of politics. They didn’t side with someone out of friendship alone – neither did they oppose someone simply because of who that person was.
3. There was an emphasis on academics rather than sports in the local school systems.
4. There was a willingness to take risks for the good of the community.
5. There was a willingness to tax themselves.
6. They had the ability to expand; they made a place for more people including those who were new to the community
7. They had the ability to network vertically as well as horizontally..
8. They were flexible. They dispersed community leadership, with many people involved in the work and the mission or direction of the community.
Transforming communities to think differently and act differently is a process and one that doesn’t happen overnight. Creating “leader-full” communities asks that we all learn and we are willing to take the risk. People do have the ability to exercise leadership in their communities and sometimes it takes cultivating those skills and learning new ones while building capacity.
The question may be do you care enough about your community to step forward and learn new ideas and ways to make your community truly “leader-full”? It has to start somewhere. While none of us can do it alone, building ourselves and encouraging others can make a collective force when the goal is similar.
Page 2 of 2 - Thanks to Pat Heiny and Mary Jo Clark – my mentors and friends.
For more information, contact Becky Wolfe, Executive Director of Leadership Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.leadershipbutlerinc.org