3.1: Lesson Objectives
I am not sure whether I am a leader, but I know that becoming one means that you perceive the urgent need to address a problem – that you feel the need to fill a space by initiating activities, campaigns, and programs to focus on specific issues. If people in your community truly believe that you are fulfilling a need, then they will support you, bestowing upon you the position of leadership. When people trust you, they will look to you to help them reach their own goals.
- Asma Khader, former president of the Jordanian Women’s Union. Khader has led campaigns against honor crimes and violence against women and girls in Jordan.
You are taking this course because you want to make your community better. However, it is very difficult to achieve change on your own, so you will want to convince others to join you. You need to lead the way.
In this lesson, you will learn how to:
Who is a Leader?
A leader is someone who:
The fact that you care deeply about the problem you want to solve can give you strength as a leader and rally others to support you. It allows you to make emotional connections with people to persuade them to follow you based on shared concerns. Pushing for change is not easy. Knowing and remembering what you are passionate about will help you to work through the challenges you will encounter as an activist.
3.2 Leadership Experience
Your past experiences are an important source of leadership strength. Many leaders begin to exercise leadership through community work. You will want to remember your past accomplishments (and challenges) to guide you as you move forward. In addition, you will want to consider how your own leadership strengths contributed to that success.
Take a moment to reflect on the following questions:
3.3 Leadership Styles
There is no single model for successful leadership, and some leaders use different styles depending on the situation. The table below describes four different styles of leadership:
Authoritarian or Autocratic: The leader tells followers/team members what to do and how without seeking their input. The leader commands others.
Participative or Democratic: The leader engages followers in the decision-making process and asks for their views on what to do and how. The leader still maintains final decision-making authority.
Delegative or Free Rein: The leader sets a vision and priorities, but allows followers to make their own decisions about how to achieve that vision. The leader remains responsible for the decisions that are made.
Inspirational: The leader has no authority or responsibility for the actions of his or her followers. The leader inspires others to take certain actions, by communicating a vision, or setting an example through his or her own actions.
Consider the civic leaders interviewed on the Tavaana website and other leaders you know. These don’t have to be famous world leaders; they can be people you have met in your life, such as women and men in your community.
3.4: Positive Leadership Qualities
Some leaders use force, power and threats to make others do what they want. Other leaders inspire and persuade people to willingly follow them. The positive qualities of leaders who persuade, rather than force, others to join them include being:
If you feel that you do not possess all the qualities listed above, don’t worry! Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your allies.
When I stepped into the project, I was lacking in every way. Yet this weakness became my most powerful tool […]. It provided opportunities for people to meaningfully join the project; it gave people the opportunity to develop and exhibit their strengths and allowed for the maturation of leadership amongst the participants. This participatory process provided a way to begin to repair the frayed social fabric of the community, a way for people to reconnect with each other through working together.
- Lily Yeh, founder of the Village of Arts and Humanities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Approaches and styles for exerting leadership are as unique as the leaders themselves, but still there are leadership skills that can be learned.
3.5 Leadership Skills
Emotional intelligence describes the interpersonal skills and awareness that effective leaders possess. This includes the ability to predict and control our emotions, as well as the sensitivity to interpret and work with other people’s emotions.
These skills are needed to elicit enthusiasm and cooperation from the people we work with, and they can be just as important as technical knowledge or general intelligence.
There are five major components:
The ability to monitor your inner feelings from moment to moment and realize what you are feeling. For example, if you can recognize that you are feeling anger, you can identify the anger and manage it effectively.
The ability to control your emotions and ensure that they do not impact negatively on your work. Once you are aware of your feelings, you can teach yourself to shake off negative emotions like anxiety, suspend judgment and think carefully before acting.
A motivated leader works hard, has clear goals, and is constantly striving to do better. He/she remains optimistic instead of being defeated if things do not go as planned. How do we effectively motivate ourselves?
Getting into a “flow state”
You can read more about the elements of “flow” here.
An empathetic leader thinks about others’ feelings when making decisions, praises good work, and offers criticism in a sensitive way that encourages better performance. Empathy builds on self-awareness; the more open we are to our own emotions, the more skilled we will be in reading those of other people. In order to read other people’s emotions, pay attention to non-verbal cues such as body language, physical gestures, facial expression, and tone of voice.
A leader with strong social skills is good at managing people, building up a social network, and keeping a group together.
Remember that part of being an effective leader is delivering “good criticism.”
Consider which positive leadership qualities you have, and which ones you need or want to develop.
3.6: Building a Team
The people in your civic activism network are your allies and chief resource for achieving change.
Create a circle of people with shared values
Cultivate trust with others
Understand others’ passions
Enlist the help of your potential supporters
Volunteers may undertake some of the following tasks:
Collect more people
When you think about who you want to approach, some options to consider include:
3.7: Summary Questions
As you complete the “Leadership” section of your personal activism plan, consider the following questions:
Your answers to these questions will help you define your leadership plan.