What makes a good community Leader?

As Community Leadership Loddon Murray begins its annual recruitment campaign for participants to take part in the 2012 Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program (LMCLP) our thoughts to turn to what are the qualities of a good leader, and more specifically a community leader?

Each of us has our own ideas about what makes a good leader, and I am assuming many of you can list at least a dozen people whose leadership style you admire and strive to emulate in some ways, and we encourage you to share these with us through posts on this blog.

For me, there are those that I admire from afar having never met them in person – such as Simon McKeon current Australian of the Year, a dedicated philanthropist who understands the need to give back to the community that has given him so much; to some who are more close to home in our own community achieving great things to make the Loddon Murray region a great place to live and work today and into the future. People like Ann Durie and the team at Wycheproof Vision who understand that a strong community needs leaders who are passionate about making a difference, and Yvonne Jennings at Swan Hill who I first met in the early 1990s when I moved to the region who is passionate about the region and helping local women become strong community leaders.

So what is Leadership? According to Warren Bennis, an American scholar, organisational consultant and author, widely regarded as a pioneer of the contemporary field of Leadership studies; leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.

And community? According to Wikipedia, community is a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household.

So if you add community and leadership together, a Community Leader is someone who is self-aware, passionate about a particular cause and/or their community, and who is able to engage with others to achieve tangible outcomes for their community.

Or as Sir Gustav Nossal, a great Australian community leader, scientist, thinker and former Australian of the Year, put it: “Community Leadership is the courage, creativity and capacity to inspire participation, development and sustainability for strong communities.”

These are all values we try to instil in participants in our leadership program, starting at our Opening Retreat Weekend with a session on understanding ourselves and others, and continuing throughout the program year as we meet some amazing community leaders from across our region and beyond.

These are the people who share their stories with the participants as they undertake their own adventure of self-discovery, learning more about the region and issues and opportunities for their communities to be vibrant and sustainable into the future, and to develop a strong support network to help them in their community leadership endeavours.

We recognise that for a community to be resilient, adaptable to change, and responsive in times of a crisis that a range of leadership styles is required and strong communities have leaders who are highly visible, as well as leaders who work behind the scenes to get things done. Both are equally as important if a community is to function well.

The community roles undertaken by our LMCLP graduates is strong testament to this – some have taken on formal leadership roles such as local government Councillors, Board Members of industry associations and government authorities, while others operate at a more grass-roots level including sporting, school, & community group committees of management, community development groups, and active in Landcare, CFA and other important community organisations.

There are many characteristics that make someone a good community leader – passion, vision, commitment, confidence and integrity to name just a few.

Having just completed a two-day workshop on how to understand and communicate your value, I have come away with a very long list of traits that can make a good community leadership:

Adaptable………. Assertive ……….Broad-Minded………. Collaborative………. Committed………  Communication Skills………. Competent………. Confident………. Courageous………. Creative ………. Dedicated ……….Effective………. Efficient ……….Empathetic………. Focussed………. Forward Looking ………. Good Listener ………. Honest ………. Humble ……….Imaginative ……….Innovative………. Inspirational………. Integrity………. Knowledgeable ……….Motivated ……….Open………. Passionate ……….Persuasive………. Reliable ……….Respected………. Self-aware ……….Sense of Humour………. Strategic………. Team-oriented ……….Trustworthy ……….Visionary

As part of the workshop, we were asked to narrow this down to our five core personal values. So I would like to pose this question to you: Which of these (or others that are not listed here) five values do YOU see as the most important in a community leader?

I look forward to your thoughts.

Julie Slater, Community Leadership Loddon Murray

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3 Responses to What makes a good community Leader?

  1. James says:

    A description of my ideal leader (Using 5 words from the list above) would be – A Visionary person whose Inspirational leadership is guided by Passion and Integrity and who can continually Adapt until the goal is achieved.

  2. Kerry says:

    Nice choice of words James. I also like the word “Informed”. Any leader who doesn’t open their mind to other opinions and new information outside their immediate circle of knowledge is selling themselves and their community short. Fits in nicely with adapting according to new information and circumstances as they arise.

  3. There are many kinds of leader, and hence diffeent attributes would be required. For a “Community Leader” and again using 5 words from the list above- A Passionate and Committed person who is Honest has extremely good Communication skill and is a person of high Integrity.

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