7 Lifelong Learning Tips for Community Leaders
What does it take to be a leader in your community? True community leadership requires more than a title and a vision. In order to lead their communities to success, leaders must commit themselves to ongoing self-improvement and learning about the issues that matter most to the people who live and work locally.
For leaders, that means the job is never done. There's always more to learn and room to grow when you're fighting for a better world. But where do you start? Here are seven ways that community leaders can commit themselves to lifelong learning.
1. Understand that no one is born to lead
Do you struggle to see yourself as a leader? You might feel like you lack natural leadership qualities like confidence and charisma, but the truth is, no one is born to lead. As Psychology today explains, your drive matters more than anything else, and leadership skills can be learned through observation, study, mentorship, and most of all, practice.
2. Take stock of strengths and weaknesses
Now that you know leadership is a skill that can be honed, look inward to assess your own strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps you're a strong negotiator but lacking in emotional intelligence or have a big vision but struggle to put your ideas to action. Whatever your weakness as a leader, you must identify your shortcomings before you can learn from your mistakes.
3. Build your soft skills
Many of the most important leadership abilities are soft skills. Soft skills are key to a community leader's ability to put himself in others' shoes, communicate a vision, and empower community members to act. These include skills like empathy, vulnerability, self-compassion, and listening.
4. Invest in professional development
Soft skills help leaders connect with the community, but when it comes to enacting change, you also need practical skills for getting the job done. That's where formal education and professional development come in. From management communication to strategic planning, a degree in an applied field like Management and Leadership gives community leaders the strong foundation they need to make change happen.
5. Be a flexible thinker
Creativity and innovation are the hallmarks of a great leader, but you can't find new solutions to old problems if you're stuck in rigid patterns of thinking. Flexible thinking makes leaders more adept at solving problems and connecting with people from a diversity of backgrounds. Exposing yourself to new experiences is one way to promote flexible thinking, but it's also important to question your thoughts and vary the way you approach problems.
6. Read books on leadership
Are you having a hard time breaking out of old thought patterns? If you're struggling to change your way of thinking, let the experts guide you with books about leadership, innovation, and personal growth. There's no shortage of books written on leadership, so avid readers always have more to learn.
7. Volunteer in your community
How often do you connect face-to-face with the people you serve? As a community leader, it's up to you to stay apprised of issues facing your community. However, that's hard to do when you take a top-down approach. Volunteering gives leaders an opportunity to engage with the community while learning about the issues they face. Not only does volunteering get leaders out of their comfort zone and into the community, volunteering is also an opportunity to develop your soft skills and network with community organizations.
Make the effort to continuously learn and build your skills. By committing to lifelong learning and self-improvement, community leaders can help lead their communities to more prosperous times.
Need help developing your leadership skills?
Women's Networking Alliance has many highly qualified coaches who can help you step up into leadership. Search our member database today!