How does the leadership deficit damage our communities? This deficit causes isolation, ignorance, absence of creative vision, lack of information resources, eroding values, and a lack of motivation. As we look within ourselves to find the deepest source of our problems, we encounter this thicket of related personal, interpersonal, and community deficits. Logic and the social sciences suggest that we should break down, isolate, and address our problems in each of their component parts. Following such an approach, however, produces a surplus of initiatives that fail to address the organic nature of the situation. A strategy of “divide and conquer” fails to recognize that free, spiritually-rooted human beings are the most important participants in this situation.
Focusing on any one “issue” or subset of issues will not be productive for two reasons. First of all, the other parts of the system typically continue to work as a team to subvert the proposed solutions. Secondly, we merely act upon, rather than engage, our most powerful resource: we, ourselves—
the people involved and actually living in these communities. Consequently, we fail directly and responsibly to marshal people as their own creative and healing forces.
I-LEAD’s work is based on the fundamental insight that community leaders need three interrelated core capacities to succeed in their work:
- First, interpersonal communications and relations. These skills range from listening ability to the ability to broadcast a message to a larger audience.
- Second, they must be effective in their actions. They must be able to envision ambitious results, assess current realities, and use the power of existing systems to realize their visions.
- Third, leaders must have a deep understanding of existing complex systems, particularly those involving the public institutions of government, and the private institutions of the marketplace.
At bottom, I-LEAD seeks to help community leaders look within themselves and work with one another to develop the core leadership skills that will help their communities truly succeed. I-LEAD seeks to help people build the capacities to help themselves through their own leadership. To use a metaphor from the health-care field, I-LEAD does not seek to eliminate diseases or to ameliorate symptoms with band-aids, but rather to work toward creating long-term community wellness and health through leadership development.
Skillful and knowledgeable grassroots leaders are better able to create deep and radical changes in their communities. They become self-sustaining and plentiful sources of positive energy in these communities. With improved skills and information, they create new wealth and new opportunities; and they attract new financial and human resources. They engage others in a process of creative visioning. They also learn to sustain their leadership into the future through the development of skilled and informed leadership abilities in others. Connecting these neighborhood leaders with one another, and equipping them with credentialed leadership education empowers residents to examine and engage their own strengths to build authentic community. With a restored sense of efficacy and a degreed citizenry, the economic, civic, and social well-being of a community can be sustained into the future.