We need to adopt an approach to establishing and maintaining constructive formal leadership in a community context – how we go about serving our friends and acquaintances in the broader community through the formal leadership we provide to them in different organisations and groups.
Leadership within our community begins with our own development. Understanding the most effective ways to impact certain people’s lives and practising the ways we do it is the hard work that takes place before we understand what it means to be a leader. We cannot action leadership before we know what it means, or how to do it. This is done through undergoing training and building our competency to lead by taking opportunities for both volunteering and formal leadership development opportunities.
We then need to actively seek to practise what we have learned. Our time, knowledge, and skills can be used for the creation of innovative and enterprising solutions in our community that are designed to serve the needs of others. We need to actively seek out these opportunities, and take the responsibility of creating them where they don’t exist currently. An enterprising and forward-thinking approach to community leadership can be established and consolidated over time, and as we become members of new communities in the future, we can bring to the table the experience, understanding, and competency to be able to improve the community and the lives of those in it.
Many of us will already have links to, or be members of, community-based groups in our immediate vicinity; we need to be proactive and seek out opportunities to be a part of and (in time) seek leadership within them. Service through community building requires us to develop our comprehension of and aptitude for how we might apply these leadership skills in this context. This will involve engaging in community events, gatherings, and projects in order to build our understanding of what might be done together. At some point, our professional work will also take place in a community context. This means we have the opportunity to play a role in driving our workplace culture and practices towards being service-oriented. While this is something we might aim to achieve over time, it is something we can always think about in the present.
“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”
Building healthy relationships with the members of our community is critical for the success of our leadership within it. Often, many of the people involved will be volunteers drawn together by a common desire to serve and to give back to the community. They will come from different places and they will have different backgrounds. Weaving all of them together into a coherent team can be a challenge, one that is often made easier within the formal structures of a work-based organisation. Community enterprises often lack this degree of organisation and cohesion. They will, on the other hand, most likely make up for this with genuineness of intent. Skill levels may be variable. Patience and enthusiasm will be required. We can’t go into this thinking we know all of the answers. Being consistent with our levels of kindness and humility in the daily interactions which occur between us and other members of our community comprises much of the less noticeable but highly impactful work of community leadership.
Our ultimate goal should be to use every available tool of expertise to serve the places we call our own. We should know that we ourselves are most likely not the originators of all of these tools. We need to make a conscious and active decision to carry ourselves with the humility of a servant whose focus is to improve the lives of all community members. Living for others is how we grow to understand our mission as a servant and find our place. Using our energy and time in community leadership represents an understanding of our duty to create, grow, and maintain strong communities that celebrate the contributions and diversity of all.
We can contemplate our Formal Leadership in a Community Context by considering the following questions: