Ethics and governance | Locale Learning

Ten characteristics of a good community leader

by | 9 December, 2020

Many community leaders go onto become local councillors making them the heart and soul of our communities.

Some may have started in the local Chamber of Commerce or became involved in a local campaign through the local residents association. Many community leaders go onto become councillors because of their deep passion for their local community and the desire to make their community a better place.   

What makes a good community leader?

So, what makes a good community leader? As Sir Gustav Nossal, a great Australian community leader, scientist, thinker and former Australian of the Year, put it:

Community leadership is the courage, creativity and capacity to inspire participation, development and sustainability for strong communities.”

It requires a willingness to put yourself out there for your community and requires resilience, grit and compassion.

What characteristics do good leaders share?

It is difficult to define what makes a good leader, though there are some common characteristics which good leaders often share. It the context of leading in local government, there are some particular leadership traits which are important. Here, we share our ten.

1. Big picture thinker

Being able to see the forest for the trees is a fundamental skill as the primary role of a local councillor is a strategic one.

2. Vision

Having a vision for your community is important. This includes thinking not only for today, but for tomorrow and for future generations who will be impacted by your decisions long after you go.

3. Competence

Knowing what you are doing is critical. Many community leaders and local councillors learn by trial and error. That’s not a bad way to go as we mostly learn from experience. However, flying by the seat of your pants can be a bumpy ride.

4. Integrity

Acting ethically and with honesty when making decisions for your community is paramount. This means doing what you say you will and acting within the rules.

5. Enthusiasm

Having a sense of excitement about the possibilities for your community and the energy to bring projects to fruition is also important.

6. Empathy

Being able to see issues from different people’s perspectives is critical to making balanced decisions which are in the best interest of the whole community.

7. Self-awareness

Having insights into yourself and your own biases is essential. Knowing what drives your decision making and the values you bring to the table is part of this self-awareness.

8. Courage

Being able to make difficult decisions on controversial issues takes bravery and often thick skin. Leadership means that sometimes you need to be one who shows others the way through the dark scary woods.

9. Confidence

Having confidence in yourself as well as others including the council staff delegated to implement decisions is critical.

10. Team player

Being able to work within and as part of a team (the elected body) is fundamental to success as a local councillor.  

What else would you add to the list?

 Wrapping up, these are ten leadership characteristics which will help people succeed in the role of elected representative. Of course, this list is not exhaustive! Resilience, thick skin and optimism may be more to add to the list in the current political climate and world events. What else would you add to the list?

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