Community Readiness for Economic Development: Community Leadership
Table of Contents
Leadership is a process that helps get things done. It is not a person, a position, an organization or a community. Leadership is a verb, not a noun. It does not happen when someone is nominated to be the chair of a committee or asked to be on the executive, nor does leadership come from someone who has just given a particularly moving speech.
Only when action takes place in a community or organization when projects are started, worked on and completed, you can truly say leadership has occurred.
This means that you cannot rely on one person for leadership to take place. The community economic development project in your community depends on many different people in a variety of roles - planning, organizing, visiting businesses, analyzing, deciding and problem solving.
Traditionally communities have found the best way to accomplish all these jobs is to organize, and work in groups, committees or teams. They recognize the need for someone to direct traffic, to make sure tasks are completed in harmony. These people are often considered the 'leaders' because of their responsibilities and the perception they are in charge. However everyone in the group is responsible for leadership for getting things done, for action!
Leaders often stimulate others to think broadly, and to help them through any rough spots in a project. They communicate the vision: the purpose of the project, what it's trying to achieve, and what the benefits are to each other and the community.
They spend time building relationships within the group so everyone better understands each other's perspectives and the underlying reasons for what they are doing. By showing group members through their own attitudes, actions and behaviours, leaders 'model the way' to how they may best work together and accomplish the results everyone is looking for. Leaders encourage others to take risks and help them reach their potential.
Who can't do the work of a leader? There is no one who can't help communicate the vision or build relationships within the group. Everyone can contribute to the leadership processes that result in achieving the goals of the group, while building relationships.
Along the way, specific tasks need to be completed to achieve the goals the group has set. These tasks are managed using specific skills which can be learned by anyone, and which are needed by everyone who has a responsibility or a role in that task.
Who doesn't need to know how to solve problems in a group situation? How to work with others effectively? How to chair or participate in a meeting so that it doesn't waste everyone's time and also accomplishes what it sets out to do? There is no one that doesn't need to know! Whether you're team 'leader' or not, having the skills will help you accomplish the tasks at hand while paying attention to the relationships and personal needs of the people involved.
Is leadership happening in your community? Are community projects being suggested, discussed, planned and carried out? Are people stepping into positions of responsibility, and encouraging others to get involved?
Are relationships well established and working among a variety of community groups? Are they co-operating and collaborating on community projects?
A certain level of leadership is required to help ensure that the community is ready to take on additional projects such as a community economic development project.
The following questions will point to the characteristics of leadership in your community, help you assess the level of leadership in your community, and determine whether or not it is ready to implement a community economic development project.
Does your group have what it takes? Does it have the skills to plan, organize, design, implement and evaluate the project? Alternatively, should it look beyond the current members to recruit for those that are missing?
The following checklist contains 17 categories with key skills and elements of leadership that are needed by leaders involved in successful community projects.
Form and Work with Groups
Plan and Mobilize for Group Action
Manage Projects and Activities
Understand Community Development
Understand Community and Society
Understand Global Perspectives
Understand Role of Economics in Community Development
Respond to Community Issues
Identify Individual Roles in Community Development
Are you in a lead role? Do you inspire others and encourage them to reach their potential? Are you able to get extraordinary things done? This list of tips, suggestions and strategies describes the process of leadership and what it takes for a leader to achieve 'above and beyond' the ordinary. It explains the five fundamental practices that enable successful leaders to get extraordinary things done.
1. Challenge the Process
...be a pioneer, step out into the unknown.. take a risk, experiment.. recognize good ideas, & support them.. learn from past mistakes
2. Inspire a Shared Vision
...breathe life into hopes & dreams.. understand the needs of the people, speak their language, & have their interests at heart
3. Enable Others to Act
...encourage collaboration, build teams, empower others. The outcome? They feel strong, energetic, capable & committed
4. Model the Way
...be clear about your beliefs your behaviour must reflect them key words: consistent, persistent, attentive
5. Encourage the Heart
..celebrate! both small successes & big ones.. simple recognition often produces similar results as dramatic presentations
Revised by Luna Ramkhalawansingh, Community Economic Development Unit, OMAFRA, Guelph.
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