By Jordan Feyerherm, Community Development Manager, Center for Rural Affairs
Leaders are the life-blood of small towns and rural communities. The success or failure of community development efforts often rests with the degree of leadership local residents are willing to provide.
We’ve long recognized the need to find and develop leaders in a rural community. Leaders can be found across all backgrounds, generations, cultures, experiences, and more. We have to admit that within this mèlange, some leaders are more effective than others.
Effective leaders share these fundamental skills, according to studies by Target Training International:
• Interpersonal skills—the ability to interact with others in a positive way.
• Self-management—the ability to prioritize and complete tasks, and deliver them within an allotted time; the ability to control oneself under stress.
• Personal accountability—the ability to answer for personal actions.
• Influencing others—the ability to personally affect other’s actions, decisions, opinions, or thinking.
• Goal achievement—the overall ability to set, pursue, and attain achievable personal, professional, and team goals regardless of obstacles or circumstances.
We would like to add one more: Cultural competence—a set of values, behaviors, attitudes, and practices within a system, organization, program, or among individuals which enables them to work effectively across cultural gaps. It also includes the ability to honor and respect the beliefs, language, interpersonal styles, and behaviors of individuals and families receiving services, as well as staff who provide services. Striving to achieve cultural competence is a dynamic, ongoing, developmental process that requires a long-term commitment. (Maternal and Child Health Bureau)
These skills are important because one of the underlying components common to individuals who possess them is trust—both with individuals and groups. If you can’t trust someone to do what they promise to do, how can you trust they will lead your community in the right direction? Once trust has been established, results can eventually follow.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.