Community Leadership: Effective Leadership for a Diverse Community
Ethical and Social Responsibility
There are both ethical and social responsibilities that community leaders need to be aware of, especially when they are working with a diverse community (Taylor, 2011). Communities offer valuable means of support for all of their members, but only if the leaders of those communities are able to provide for all of their members in a way that is respectful of cultural differences (Anderson, O'Loughlin, & Salt, 2001; Cnann & Milofsky, 2012; Miller, 2009). Failure to do that can make people in a community feel isolated, and stop them from getting involved with others who might be able to help them -- and who they might be able to help (Barry, 2002). While it is possible for people to come together simply because they care about one another and are interested in the people in their community, it is also quite common for community members to essentially remain separate from one another because they are not comfortable reaching out (Miller, 2009). Often, the reason they do not reach out is that they are not sure if they will be accepted or if those they reach out to would prefer to be left alone, and there may be an air of mistrust between cultures (Miller, 2009).
A community leader is able to use his or her position in the community in order to help that community develop ethical, moral, and social responsibilities to one another (Caravantes, 2010; Hasmath, 2011). Additionally, that leader can work to instill values into the community (Barzilai, 2005; Baumann, 1999). That is particularly interesting when there is a large amount of cultural diversity in a community, since there are varied values that all have to be taken into consideration (Hasmath, 2011). Each value is not necessarily more important than another, but they do not always mesh well -- and a community leader who understands diversity can help meld values into a shared culture and belief for a community (Anderson, O'Loughlin, & Salt, 2001; Fortier, 2008).
Social and Global Perspectives
Diversity and culture are what make the world an amazing place to live (Gauntlett, et al., 2000). There are many unique people around the globe, and there are a host of different cultures and diverse groups that have interesting ways of doing things. While they are quite different from one another, when they get together in a community they often find ways to share values, space, and resources in such a way that works for everyone (Goldberg, 1994; Gottfried, 2004; Hacker, 2011). Seeing the vision of how that can take place is part of the social and global perspective of community leaders (Cnann & Milofsky, 2012). The more diversity a community has, the more difficult it may be to get everyone on the same page (Hesse, 2000; Kymlicka, 1995).
However, more diversity also means more ways of looking at the world and different ways of solving problems (Modood & Werbner, 1997; Phillips & Pittman, 2012). That can be vital and valuable when it comes to addressing community issues that affect everyone who lives in that area. The world has been developed by people who had diverse viewpoints about a number of things, and over time those people worked with others in communities and cultures that allowed them to express their ideas and compile different thoughts and plans into something that worked well for that community (Kymlicka, 1995; Parekh, 2002; Phillips & Pittman, 2012). That helped the entire globe become more interactive, because everything from trade to friendship required people to work with and be around one another. Getting along became important, despite the cultural differences people faced (Anderson, O'Loughlin, & Salt, 2001; Starr & Adams, 2003; Taylor, 2011). That was true in the beginning of the world and is still true today. A sense of global citizenship comes about in smaller communities, as well, when there are culturally diverse people who work with others to make things better for everyone (Phillips & Pittman, 2012; Taylor, 2011).
Leaders who are focused on communities have to be aware of proper management behaviors (Phillips & Pittman, 2012; Starr & Adams, 2003). While it sounds wonderful to just rally a number of people in the community and convince them to all work together for the greater good, there is much more to being a community leader than just that. Additionally, community leaders have to know how to work with each person in order to ensure they all get along and understand each other's culture and values (Cnann & Milofsky, 2012). That is often why people who do not get along have difficulties with one another, because they do not understand one another's culture and values. With that lack of understanding comes confusion and mistrust, both of which are not helpful to community leadership or even to encouraging a community to work together in order to become more successful (Caravantes, 2010).
The ethical principles that community leaders employ are very important in helping the people in their community work together despite their cultural differences (Modood & Werbner, 1997). When cultures come together they do not have to collide, but that is often what takes place. Instead of letting that happen, community leaders find common ground between people who are seemingly very different (Anderson, O'Loughlin, & Salt, 2001). Once that common ground has been found, people are much better able to focus on what really matters to them as a community, and they put their differences aside (Gottfried, 2004; Hacker, 2011). Ethical principles are vital when a person is a community leader, though, because it can be easy to sway the community toward one person's interests instead of making sure everyone is represented (Phillips & Pittman, 2012). Ethical leaders, however, will not do that, and will instead work to make sure each person in the community has a voice (Anderson, O'Loughlin, & Salt, 2001; Barry, 2002).
The Characteristics of Communities
There are common characteristics of community that have to be addressed by the leaders of that community. People in communities band together to work for the common good, and they come together in hard times to help one another out (Anderson, O'Loughlin, & Salt, 2001). Those who are focused on community also pay attention to what is taking place in their neighborhood, and they start programs like neighborhood watch so they can work toward eradicating crime and reducing the number of problems that are faced by the people who live there (Fortier, 2008; Gauntlett, et al., 2000). They may also work with elected officials to add more value to the community by building parks and green spaces, or by providing safe places for children to play (Parekh, 2002). Sidewalks and other improvements are also a part of what communities can do when they all get together and focus on the kinds of things that matter to them, regardless of cultural diversity.
Creative and critical thinking skills are both necessary in addressing community issues (Hesse, 2000; Kymlicka, 1995). When a community leader focuses on the issues that a community is facing, especially when there is a lot of diversity in that community, that leader has to be very creative in finding ways for the people in the community to work together (Anderson, O'Loughlin, & Salt, 2001). Critical thinking is also vital to making sure the community issues are handled correctly, and that anything that needs to be done to better the community gets done in a timely manner (Hasmath, 2011; Starr & Adams, 2003). Without good leaders, communities often struggle because they are uncertain what they need to do next, especially when they want to move forward with project but do not know where to start (Anderson, O'Loughlin, & Salt, 2001; Taylor, 2011). Communication can be difficult and complicated when a number of cultural issues get in the way, but it is much easier when there is a community leader to help them work through difficulties.
Collaborative Skills for Leaders
Having collaborative skills is vital for someone who wants to be a community leader, especially in a diverse community (Barry, 2002). That is due to the fact that each person that leader works with will be a little different, and each governing body or agency where that leader goes to ask for help for the community may require different things (Barry, 2002, Baumann, 1999). Community leaders who are dedicated to helping other people have to keep that in mind and focus carefully on the leadership qualities they have, including the gift of collaboration. Leaders who want to get things done for their communities need to be able to bargain with others in order to get the best outcome for everyone involved (Anderson, O'Loughlin, & Salt, 2001). If a leader is not able to bargain, he or she may lose out on a lot of great things for his or her community (Barry, 2002).
Bargaining is not all these leaders need to be able to do, though.…