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February 17, 2006
Posted online April 12, 2006

Leadership Academy: Is Your Community Ready?

By Rachelle A. Hollinshead,

One of the common concerns in communities today is the lack of leadership. This lack of leadership may be due to a number of reasons, i.e. apathy, fear, lack of understanding, lack of skills or education, etc. Whatever the reason, offering a community leadership academy could greatly assist developing needed local talent and interest. A leadership academy provides information and education about what it means to be a leader today.

Before a community attempts the development of a leadership academy, it is important to assess whether the community is ready for one. According to the "Developing Community Leadership: The EXCEL Approach" handbook published by University of Missouri Extension, the three basic steps in assessing a community's readiness are listening, asking a wide variety of people about their perceptions of the community, and observing.

Listen to what people are saying. Conversing and asking questions can give indications of how people feel about the community and its leadership. Community members have diverse knowledge and insights. Conversations with them about the community and its leadership provide valuable information and stimulate thoughtful consideration of community issues.

Observe what's going on in the community–and what's not. Is the community developing rapidly? Are changes being felt? Are existing leaders nearing retirement–or burnout–with no emerging leaders to take their places? Does leadership need to be shared among generations or among a broader segment of the population? Have current leaders changed in philosophy or methods to meet new challenges? Are community efforts splintered and uncoordinated? Do projects get started, but not completed?

The best indicator of community readiness for a leadership program is people who care about their community and are willing to work to improve it.

A leadership program cannot create community enterprise, but it can stimulate it. It can help focus efforts and make them more effective; it can help achieve a more holistic and integrated approach to community development.

[Taken from "Developing Community Leadership: The EXCEL Approach" handbook prepared and published by University of Missouri Extension. To order a copy of the handbook, go to]

Source: Rachelle A. Hollinshead, Extension Educator, Community and Economic Development,

© 2005 The Cairo Gate