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Question: I want to become a community leader, how do I get started? Who do I talk to?

Thank you so much for writing to us at Ask an Advisor! We’d be happy to help. You didn’t indicate the specific type of group you are working in, so let’s give you some general tips for developing your leadership skills.
A good starting point would be to assess what your vision and goals are, both for yourself and for your group. Your goals could be more focused and immediate (e.g., to complete a particular project, such as build a community garden), or broader and long-term (e.g., to form a community coalition around a particular issue).
Once you’ve identified your goals, take stock of what particular types of skills and qualities you bring to the table. Are you good at organizational tasks and managing others? Are you better at keeping people motivated and energized? Are you good at representing and negotiating for others? You might also want to assess the skills of others in your group at the same time. What skills do others in your group bring? It is not necessary for you to excel in all leadership areas, provided you have others in your group who can help support you as a leader.
One of the things that you might want to consider as you proceed forth is your leadership style. Do you prefer to lead by authority, or a more democratic approach? Are you primarily concerned with managing the group, or do you prefer to lead by empowering others to work collaboratively and execute the group’s vision? Figuring out your leadership style might help you assess your best skills and qualities.
If you feel that you or others in your groups do not have the appropriate skills to be an effective leader, then you’ll want to look at ways to engage in leadership development. Look within your networks for appropriate, more experienced leaders who can coach and mentor you or others in your group. Among your circle of contacts, who exemplifies the type of leader you want to be? Is that person willing to mentor you, even informally? You could also establish a support group or network of leaders that can be used as a source of learning. Still another option is to seek out more formal opportunities for leadership development; attend a workshop, class, or training, for example, or schedule a formal development retreat.
We hope that some of these ideas have been helpful to you. For additional ideas, you may wish to review some of the materials in the Community Tool Box, especially Chapter 13, Orienting Ideas in Leadership. Chapter 13, Section 3 specifically reviews Styles of Leadership. Toolkit 6 on Building Leadership has additional practical guidance and resources.  Best of luck!

Question Date: Mon, 11/19/2018