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is a community leader? Are you one?
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take responsibility for the well-being and improvement of their
communities. Are you a community leader? Are you interested in becoming
one? Try answering the questions in this leadership quiz. Are you
- Wants to
improve your community?
- Has something
- Doesn't wait
around for someone else to get the job done?
If you have
answered, "yes" to any of the above questions, you are most likely
a community leader already, or on your way to becoming one. You
don't have to become a Member of Parliament or be given a title
to be a leader. All you need to do is decide to take responsibility
for some corner (or bigger chunk) of your community. Community leaders
are often self-appointed. Many community leaders learn by trial
and error. That's not a bad way to go; people mostly learn from
experience. Nonetheless, flying by the seat of your pants can be
a bumpy ride. So why not get some help along the way?
Why should I be a community leader?
should you be a community leader? Leadership can be good for you.
In fact, many people enjoy leading. You don't have to lead out of
obligation. You can choose to lead and participate in ways that
energise you and help you grow, instead of leading in ways that
drain you. You can choose to work on issues that you care about.
You can take on challenges that are fun, rewarding, or interesting.
It's up to you.
Let's take a
closer look at what you can gain from being a leader:
- You can
make a difference
you ever daydream that you are the one to save the day? Perhaps
you are the passer-by who dives into the water to rescue a drowning
child. It is human to want to make a significant difference in
And you can.
acts of community leadership are usually not as dramatic as described
above, and they usually don't inspire a chorus of recognition. Still,
as a community leader, you can make a profound contribution. Establishing
a day care centre, increasing job opportunities in your community,
getting rid of litter, or empowering others to lead are all activities
that are heroic in their own way.
Johnson of New Orleans was four years old she saw a news report
about starving children in Ethiopia, which made her, feel the
need to act. At five, with her grandmother at her side, she
went knocking on doors asking for food donations for poor people
in her community. When she was six she collected 1,600 items
to give to people in need. The next year, she collected 4,000
items. When Hurricane Andrew hit she collected 1,648 pieces
of clothing to send to people affected by the storm. Shortly
after the hurricane, Isis's grandmother suggested she start
a foundation. With the help of her grandmother and a lawyer
she established the Isis Johnson Foundation. Isis was then eight
years old. (From Karnes and Bean, Girls and Young Women Leading
the Way, 1993).
We may not all
establish our own foundations by the time we are eight, but we can
make a significant difference if we put our minds to it. Doing so
can be infinitely satisfying.
- You can
people lead because it helps them grow and expand their lives.
There is almost nothing as challenging as leading groups of people.
As a leader, you may need to communicate to large numbers of people,
negotiate, and handle dicey situations. You will become more confident
in yourself and in your world if you take action to lead others
leaders started without confidence or skills. Some people that are
leaders today, once had a hard time saying anything in a small group.
If you are a shy person, take heart. You're not alone. You can figure
out how to make your voice heard. It just takes some practice. Leadership
skills are built step-by-step. No matter what your skills are right
now, you can become a better leader if you work at it. You may find
yourself doing things you never imagined you would!
We need many community leaders
is room in this world for more community leaders. The model of one
leader at the top with everyone else at the bottom just doesn't
work for communities. One or two leaders can't possibly solve all
the complex problems that our communities face. With more community
leaders, our communities will do better.
The more people
become leaders, the more problems we will solve. We need community
leaders to think about and organise around many issues: youth development,
economic growth, substance abuse, crime, the environment, health
care -- the list goes on and on. Each issue will require a troop
of skilled leaders to handle them. We need leaders who are women,
young people (we were all young once), low -income people, people
with disabilities and many others have been told that they should
follow others, not lead. We need leadership from all walks of life
in order for ours to be a truly democratic society.
How will all
those leaders work together? Well, that is a skill that community
leaders need to learn. We all have to learn to co-operate. We all
need to put aside longings for turf, status, and greed in order
to achieve goals that benefit everyone.
Here are some
community leadership examples:
- A citizen
speaks up at the city council open meeting. Her words reveal the
key issue regarding a local problem; the resulting discussion
leads to a workable solution.
- A few people
in the neighbourhood successfully organise to protest public drinking.
- A family
member generates a plan to help a loved one to stop abusing alcohol,
enlisting the support of other family members.
- A young person
organises a football match in a field in the neighbourhood.
When do I lead?
can always lead. As we've said earlier, you can "lead" whether you
are the designated leader or not. You can always think and act like
a leader. For example, while you are sitting in a committee meeting
you can think about what will help move the group forward. Does
the designated leader need some encouragement? Do people need a
nudge to follow through? Do you need to take an unpopular stand
on an issue? People are hungry for others to help. If you take initiative
to improve a situation, you will almost always delight, relieve,
and surprise people.
You don't have
to take over someone else's leadership role in order to help things
go well. In fact, one way of helping a group function better is
by supporting the official leader. You can do this by organising
others to help with the work, by listening to the leader, and by
encouraging the leader when she or he feels discouraged.
How do I lead?
In this section, we'll talk about what a community leader does and
how to do it.
How do people learn how to lead?
have to be a "born leader" in order to lead?
No. People learn
how to lead. Even the people who seem to do it naturally had to
learn the skills of leadership. They might have learned by watching
their parents, teachers, or clergy. They might have been given a
lot of responsibility when they were young and might have been expected
to take charge. They might even have taken classes in "leadership
The point is
this: If you don't feel that you are a "born" leader, don't let
that stop you. You can become a leader by:
- Jumping in
- Finding a
- Taking a
class or workshop
- Reading books
about leaders and leadership
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