Community Readiness for Economic Development: Community Leadership

Factsheet - ISSN 1198-712X   -   Copyright Queen's Printer for Ontario
Agdex#: 880
Publication Date: June 2001
Order#: 01-033
Last Reviewed: June 2001
This Factsheet is one of a series of six. See also 01-031, Working with Volunteers, 01-035, Community Readiness Checklist, 01-037, Resolving Conflict, 01-039, Facilitating Group Processes and 01-041, Chairing and Managing Meetings.
Written by: Chuck Bokor - Community Leadership Specialist/OMAFRA

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Assessing Leadership in Your Community
  3. Assessing Your Group's Leadership Skills
  4. Assessing Your Own Leadership: Getting Extraordinary Things Done


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.

Assessing Leadership in Your Community

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.

  • Who are making the decisions for the community?
  • Are these leaders well informed?
  • How are decisions made?
  • Is the whole community involved in discussions related to key issues?
  • Are citizens satisfied with the process used to make decisions, and most of the results?
  • What are the people strengths and resources of your community?
  • What are the people problems and issues currently in your community?
  • What situations have arisen that cause you to think leadership development would help?
  • What changes in your community or region do you predict over the next five years?
  • Do you feel the leaders in the community are willing and able to cope with the changes you think are on the horizon?
  • How do you expect an effective or good leader to behave?
  • What qualities do you feel are needed to guide your community through both the present and future challenges?

Assessing Your Group's Leadership Skills

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.

Communicate Effectively

  • understand and use many communication methods
  • acquire active listening skills
  • be assertive

Understand Oneself

  • identify and clarify values
  • assess degree of self confidence
  • relate to people with varying lifestyles and perspectives

Manage Meetings

  • arrange facilities and equipment
  • plan agendas
  • use appropriate meeting procedures (parliamentary procedure; consensus)

Understand Leadership

  • understand and use appropriate leadership styles
  • apply situational leadership
  • challenge others
  • develop a group vision of the future
  • set an example
  • encourage others
  • celebrate small and large gains

Facilitate Learning

  • establish goals and expectations of the group
  • evaluate progress and results of the project
  • help others learn the skills to complete the tasks of the project
  • build a learning organization for continuous improvement, using best practices

Form and Work with Groups

  • recruit
  • build the team
  • identify responsibilities
  • recognize and accommodate individual needs
  • resolve conflict

Plan and Mobilize for Group Action

  • identify key decision makers
  • understand power structures
  • develop public support
  • influence policy

Manage Projects and Activities

  • set goals and priorities
  • allocate financial resources
  • supervise budget and record keeping
  • understand financial statements

Volunteer Management

  • recruit volunteers
  • motivate volunteers
  • recognize volunteer efforts
  • develop and use job descriptions
  • initiate record keeping
  • staff/volunteer interaction

Understand Change

  • understand change and reaction to change
  • understand how new ideas are adopted

Understand Community Development

  • understand community well-being
  • understand models and theories of community development
  • network

Understand Community and Society

  • be aware of governments, organizations and agencies
  • be aware of societal trends and issues

Understand Global Perspectives

  • know the global economy
  • know world markets
  • know global issues

Access Information

  • use electronic communication
  • obtain and interpret useful information

Understand Role of Economics in Community Development

  • understand business and economic structures, and management techniques
  • apply business planning skills
  • interpret and analyze social and economic data

Respond to Community Issues

  • identify and analyze community issues
  • apply problem solving techniques
  • build commitment, collaborations and consensus

Identify Individual Roles in Community Development

  • assess individual strengths, weaknesses, roles and responsibilities
  • identify stakeholders and opportunities
  • develop community profiles
  • build trust and rapport

Assessing Your Own Leadership: Getting Extraordinary Things Done

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

  • need to actively seek challenges
  • not a matter of "being in the right place at the right time"
  • involve a change in the status quo 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

  • dare to dream about what it should or could be
  • have a passion to make something happen, to change the way things are
  • work backwards from a picture of what the future looks like
  • inspire others to commitment

...breathe life into hopes & dreams.. understand the needs of the people, speak their language, & have their interests at heart

3. Enable Others to Act

  • one person cannot do it alone – key word: "WE"
  • involve those who must live with the results
  • create the environment for them to do good work
  • projects often fail because there is no "coalition" of supporters and collaborators

...encourage collaboration, build teams, empower others. The outcome? They feel strong, energetic, capable & committed

4. Model the Way

  • projects require plans, management, funding and corrective action when they veer off course; BUT,
  • they also require the project leaders to "practice what they preach"
  • your position gives you authority – your behaviour earns you respect clear about your beliefs – your behaviour must reflect them key words: consistent, persistent, attentive

5. Encourage the Heart

  • offer encouragement and support
  • the road may be long, dusty and full of potholes
  • the team may become exhausted, frustrated and disenchanted; often tempted to give up
  • give them the heart to carry on
  • personal passion: love of the people, the "customers" and the work

..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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