Leadership develops from opportunities to be in decision-making situations and take an active part in all phases of an initiative. Leadership is a skill that can be learned and practiced when opportunities arise. It is a shared process – more than one person can be involved in carrying out a leadership role for a particular situation. Leadership is demonstrated when people, as a group, select and act on an area of concern to them, choose a plan to solve a problem, and actively take the necessary steps to reduce or eliminate the problem.
Interfacing with leaders of target audiences has three goals:
- Build the trust that is essential for working together on program planning
- Collaboratively identify educational needs
- Develop and improve decision skills among leaders (Marshall, 2000).
Approaches to identifying the leadership of a group (Cary & Timmons, 1988 in Marshall, 2000):
- Decision-making – identifies leaders who are active and involved in community issues.
- Social participation – in which leadership is assumed to be acquired through membership and holding office in voluntary organizations.
- Reputational – identifies influentials who are presumed to have broad knowledge of the decision-making processes of the target group, and to be in a position to identify those leaders who have the influence to affect a number of issues of interest to the target group.
- Positional – in which power is assumed to rest in the top leadership positions (offices) in formal organizations that are relevant to the educational programming.
Potential leaders can be identified in several ways (Cary & Timmons, 1988 in Marshall, 2000):
- People who provide much of the information on which decisions are made and often have major responsibility for carrying out the decisions.
- People who have technical knowledge needed for a project, or have special information about a particular issue, and whose involvement may identify them as potential leaders for more general community leadership.
- People who have a special ability to work with groups.
- Customers, clients and members of organizations who work together on community projects. Their capacities and interest in the community serve to identify them for other leadership roles.
Key leadership skills include (Kahl, D. & J. Besthorn, 2001):
- Building and maintaining a group
- The role of a meeting facilitator
- Dealing with change
- How groups decide: the consensus method
- Take stock: how is your organization doing?
- Leadership in a learning organization
- Developing trust and cooperation within your volunteer group
- Situation leadership: balancing tasks and relationships
Campbell, R. 1997. Leadership, Getting It Done. Columbia: University of Missouri, http://www.ssu.missouri.edu/faculty/RCampbell/Leadership/
Kahl, D., J. Besthorn, co-chairs. 2001. LEADS, Leadership Excellence and Dynamic Solutions. Manhattan: Kansas State University.
Marshall, M. G. (1990). Program Development Handbook (#D-690): Extension’s Processes for Educational Programming. College Station: Texas Agricultural Extension Service, Texas A&M University System.