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I believe that our community will become vibrant again. Previously, I’ve outlined some steps to get us started: 1) show a can-do attitude and believe in ourselves and 2) develop a vision for what we want to become. Third is strong leadership.
Leaders come from all walks of life — some elected and some who emerge in moments of need. In small towns like ours, leadership can’t just come from elected officials. People in all sectors — government, business, education, healthcare, religious, service, private — have not only the opportunity but also the responsibility to play a leadership role in their area of expertise. A healthy and vibrant community must address all its challenges and seize all its opportunities.
The lazy view of leadership is that someone else needs to do it. Peter Senge said, “One reason that the myth of the great leader is so appealing is that it absolves us of the responsibility … (but) leadership is inevitably collective.”
To be consistent with our democratic way of life, if the government is truly, “of the people, by the people and for the people,” then the people need to get involved. No single hero can ride into our town and save it. We must rely on those of us who are already here — collectively, we have the wealth of wisdom, experience, high ideals, dreams and vision. Together, we hold the future of our community in our hands.
So what are the traits of strong leadership?
Leaders create a positive and open working environment and have can-do attitudes. They create a communal atmosphere in which cooperation and problem-solving about what is best for our community can occur.
Leaders have a strong vision for the community. Towns without vision are in trouble. Double vision — when different entities in the community have conflicting goals — is just as bad as no vision.
Leaders promote teamwork among the various community sectors and local government. The town that operates in a positive, open environment and shares a commitment to the same overall vision is the one that will reap success.
Leaders keep the right priorities in mind when making decisions. For local government, this means keeping in mind that the right priorities are the community’s priorities — those that positively affect our community welfare. To be effective, government must share the vision of its people.
Leaders don’t shy away from challenges or problems. They don’t engage in finger-pointing. They aren’t afraid of hard work and the risk of failure. The effective approach is to be a problem-solver for the community.
Leaders are willing to share leadership and the spoils of victory. Sharing leadership will expand our town’s future and spread the wealth around.
Leaders groom replacements with a succession strategy to engage, educate and groom younger generations into leadership positions.
Reverend Martin Luther King said, “Recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. True leadership is about serving.” A leader serves by sacrificing what’s good for just one person/group to attain what is best for the entire community.