BILL CRAWFORD: Leadership recipes can lift communities

BILL CRAWFORD

BILL CRAWFORD

Ever messed up a recipe? Worked hard. Did most everything right. But, your final result was…well, you can remember the words they used.

Community projects can have the same results. People work hard. They do most everything right. But, the outcome is not what they expected. More importantly, the community view is nobody cooked up much of anything worthwhile.

That happens less often when community leaders do follow a good recipe.

Oh, so now there’s a recipe for effective community leadership? Like baking a delicious pie or cooking scrumptious jambalaya?

Well, that’s a pretty good analogy. There are different recipes for different results. Just like with cooking, though, mixing the ingredients exactly right and adding them at just the right time is more art than science, and more practice than smarts.

With community challenges mounting, good leadership recipes are needed more than ever.

Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is a great recipe for preparing citizens to lead. It doesn’t teach them to lead, but it teaches them methods and skills to prepare them to lead. Too many “leaders” fail to prepare themselves for leadership and, then, fail to lead effectively.

Community leadership programs can be great recipes for providing citizens knowledge needed to lead effectively plus useful leadership skills. Too many leaders fail to develop sufficient knowledge about their communities, then fail to provide followers with appropriate information to do effective work.

Too few of our communities have leadership programs.

Another great recipe for effective community leadership is teambuilding, and learning how and when to hand off leadership to a team. You see, effective community leadership rarely comes from single individuals. It most often comes from teams that bring together individuals with multiple leadership talents, skills, knowledge, and practices.

Too few communities are willing to turn leadership over to diverse, multi-talented teams.

Here is a recipe for using highly effective teams to do good work in communities. It comes from “Grassroots Leaders for a New Economy” by Douglas Henton, John Melville, and Kimberly Walesh.

First, hand off leadership to those who can get things started, motivate others, and bring skeptics into the project.

Next, transition leadership to those who can incubate the project, teach participants what they need to know, and get all participants engaged and on the same page.

Then, give leadership to those who can drive implementation, get the work done, and make sure the work stays on track with the project plan.

Finally, entrust leadership to those who can mentor new leaders and new participants and push for continuous improvement.

Leadership guru Ron Heifetz says learning when to hand off leadership and the willingness to hand off leadership is seasoning you see in only the finest community leadership recipes.

Bill Crawford (crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.