Creating a Path to Leadership

Creating a Path to Leadership

The narrow view of leadership is where one or more people are at the top of a hierarchy. In our healthy democracy vision, people are deeply engaged in our community and take on all types of leadership rolesfor a project, committee, or even just a portion of a meeting. Leadership becomes situational and everyone may lead at some point.  In this definition of leadership, we want to cultivate the mindset and skill sets of leadership.

How do we get people to step forward to participate or lead? Or maybe the right question to be asking ourselves ishow do we create a culture of leadership where people feel excited about participation?

There are many great leadership programs and books, one of the best is the book Community – The Structure of Belonging. Peter Block’s use of language really caused me to rethink what engagement can look like. He talks about how important the invitation to participate is, how to frame questions to get people talking about their gifts and how important dissent is to keeping people authentic.

Onboarding Events

We recommend considering the following when designing a process to engage people in their first step:

  • Start with an invitationpay close attention to the language being used 
  • At the beginning of any event, focus on how people are welcomed
  • Create connection between participants as quickly as possible
  • Craft questions that 
  • Allow people to think deeply
  • Explore their gifts
  • Remind people that building community cannot be outsourced
  • Ask people to get more involved, but respect all “no”s
  • Create as many pathways for people to contribute as possible
  • Allow them to experience their agency
  • Express their gifts
  • Fits their current interest level – big and small
  • Build in a follow-up process where people stay connected

Leadership Skills to Foster

In the Inner Work of Democracy (topic link), we discussed a new framework that we like called  the Inner Development Goals (IDGs). It breaks inner work into five Categories.

  • Being – Relationship to Self
  • Thinking – Cognitive Skills
  • Relating – Caring for Others and the World
  • Collaborating – Social Skills
  • Acting – Driving Change

The first two (Being and Thinking) have a heavier focus on self, but are the foundation of being a healthy leader. Relating, Collaborating and Acting are the more external forms of leadership.

The IDG framework further breaks them down into skill sets that we agree with.

Relating – Appreciation, Connectedness, Humility, Empathy and Compassion

Collaborating – Communication, Co-creation, Inclusive Mindset, Intercultural Competence, Trust and Mobilization Skills

Acting – Courage, Creativity, Optimism and Perseverance

This framework can be used to build your own leadership program or you can bring in an existing program. No matter how you build your program, a key skill that is part of any healthy community is learning the art of facilitation.

People learn best when it is something they are excited about and can test out what they are learning in real life experiences. So, it is a great idea to build your leadership program to be both a learning opportunity and a way for people to contribute to the goals of the community.

If you want to send people to a formal Leadership Program, you can check out:

  • Berkana
  • Harwood
  • HVC
  • XChange
  • Service Year