Knowing that I know only a small fraction about the subject at hand and how to make it happen (whether it’s building a park, restoring a ski hill, heading up a service club or creating a learning city) has been very useful in terms of achieving success. It’s been useful because it has made me listen to new voices and learn from them, and has pushed me to gather together the right people to complete a project.
That, I believe, is the key to leadership in community development — everyone can do it.
Like almost everyone else, I’m very comfortable in groups of people I already know and doing things I already know how to do. It’s easy to become complacent doing things the same way and with the same people, time and again. I’ve learned, though, the best work gets done when leaders are eager and willing to learn from others, accepting of challenges to their own ways of thinking and doing things and happy to let others lead when they can.
Projects like Rotary Park or re-starting Adanac Ski Hill would never have happened without large and diverse groups of leaders contributing their skills, knowledge and networks to the tasks. Each of us brought value to the table.
A challenge I’m experiencing now (and I assume everyone my age is experiencing) is figuring out how to make a space where young people feel that they can contribute to community development, too. I’m over 50 and recognize the community I’ve helped to construct may not be the same one my children would build.
Those of us who are still in community development leadership positions need to be open to learning from younger people and helping them implement their ideas for building a better community (if they want our help).
People who are committed to Greater Sudbury seem to understand everything counts when you’re working to create positive change. Big projects and small ones can all help make Greater Sudbury a better place to live. All these projects need is someone to step up to the plate, gather people together, learn from each other and make things happen.
I believe each of us has something to contribute to our community. I also believe it’s not someone else’s responsibility to create the community in which I want to live. I don’t think making positive change where you live is an option or the responsibility of government. Community development is really just good citizenship.
I believe each of has an obligation to serve our community in some positive way and that often means taking on a leadership role. It’s a lot easier to step up and be the leader when we understand we don’t need to know everything or have all the answers in place before we start.
All we have to know how to do is listen, learn from others and encourage others to be leaders, too.
Vicki Jacobs is the owner-operator of Copy Copy and is a member of the board of directors of the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation. Northern Life is publishing a series of weekly columns from a variety of Sudburians on the topic of leadership in the run up to the city’s first Leadership Summit, Oct. 24-25 at Laurentian University and Science North.