If community organisations are to grow sustainably then more leaders will be needed who are trained and mentored. African communities, like communities elsewhere, often have individuals who may not be formally recognised as leaders yet who can and do exercise leadership. One common challenge is taking people who are strong in certain technical skills and putting them in leadership positions. It is good to do this, but without any leadership training or support through mentoring, these new leaders struggle to succeed in their new leadership roles. Learning to work well with others is as important as having technical skills.
RURCON works effectively through team work. Working as a team helps innovation and learning among members of the team. In this way, when a solution is reached, everyone receives credit for it. But in order to achieve this, leadership development is central. The leader is not condemned to a life of striving to be the most competent expert on every aspect of that organisation's work, but recognises, encourages, enables and coordinates the development of other people's talents so that the team can achieve its goals together.
A mentor can help a new leader to:
- think longer term
- have an influence beyond their immediate responsibility
- emphasise vision, values, and motivation
- exercise political skills to cope with the conflicting requirements of different people's expectations
- be adaptable and seek continual renewal.
Leaders are lubricants. Like engine lubricants, they enable smooth operation and are only noticed when they are absent - when there is no lubricant, the engine first rattles, then seizes up and finally stops working!
A good leader focuses on good team relationships as well as on the task in hand. The quality of the relationships in the team determines the ability of the organisation to move forward with plans and solve problems. A team can improve by building trust, having constructive debates, sticking to commitments, holding each other accountable to behaviours that hurt the team and focusing on results.
Andrew Gwaivangmin is the Chief Executive Officer of RURCON (Rural Development Counsellors for Christian Churches in Africa).
Old Airport Road
PO Box 6617