The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Reflection: Community-based Leadership

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On March 5, 2021, Janae Harris gave a presentation on community and intentional leadership. Janae defines community-based leadership as, “emergent leadership where community members become concerned about a topic and develop leadership to make change.” She believes that it is important to identify the five major components of community-based leadership in order to understand the way that community-based leadership can be applied. These components include initiation and spread of interest, organization sponsorship, setting goals, recruitment and plan implementation. It is important to understand community-based leadership because it can allow people to mobilize people from their community around an issue that impacts it. Janae breaks down the different steps in community-based leadership to help us gain a better understanding of they way grassroots organizations and movements function. We can then apply these same skills to other forms of leadership in the different communities we are a part of. Janae believes that by being intentional, having empathy and integrity, as well as being adaptable, we can be more effective community leaders.

On a more personal note, I think that community-based leadership benefits from integrity and empathy because it is important to connect and feel for the people and issues you are working towards. Without empathy, leaders would be disconnected from the issues and the people they are working with. This is an important characteristic in leaders, but especially in community-based leadership which usually involves forming more personal connections with the people you are working with. Integrity and empathy are especially important in making people feel interested and a part of a larger project that they are passionate about. This can be an important facet to recruitment. Adaptability is important to many forms of leadership, but in community-based leadership which is often not as well-funded as other movements, organizations and businesses, it is key to effectively respond to issues that arise. I think that community-based leadership is important because it is a way in which people can directly advocate for issues that affect their communities. It’s important because many grassroots movements have been powerful enough to shape legislation. This type of leadership shows that leadership can come from anywhere and does not require being a specific position or a part of a specific organization. Community-based leadership allows people to build stronger relationships with other members of their community by mobilizing around a problem they see.

-Written by Maryfer Mendoza, Class of 2021 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow 

As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals. 

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