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The community art counselling training starts on 18 January 2022

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Section 3: Personal leadership

You may have already started thinking “but how am I supposed to fight for meaningful change when I have no power or resources”? It’s time to explore your own concept of self and personal leadership to identify your strengths and weaknesses in starting, implementing, and managing a project.

Running a community art counselling project is not just about your art counselling skills. You need to be able to lead — both the group of participants and any other community gatekeepers or people in authority who may help or hinder your project. To successfully run a project in a community, you need to get people on board, have a space for people to meet, have resources, consider transport challenges for participants, storage of materials, management of any staff involved and all the administration that goes with running a group. If this is all starting to sound more like administration than community art counselling, that’s because it is.

Administrative work is an important part of setting up and running a community art counselling project, and while we understand that administration may not be your favourite part of the work, it will save you many headaches if you understand what makes projects work smoothly. This module will introduce you to some basic project management skills, starting with leadership.

To understand a little more about your own personal leadership style — which affects how you like to lead and how you prefer to work with groups — self-reflection is necessary.

“If I am not for myself, who am I? When I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” (Hillel the Elder)


3.1  Leadership of others

They say that leaders are born, not made. While it is true that some people are born leaders, some leaders are born in the midst of adversity. A simple example is parenting. When a child arrives, many parents discover leadership abilities they never knew existed in order to guide and protect their offspring. Clearly, leadership potential exists within each of us and it can be learned by exploring ourselves from within.


The evolution of leadership

Leadership itself has not evolved, but our understanding of it has. It is important to understand why very different leadership styles can be effective, why the same leadership techniques will not work in every situation, and which leadership style fits your personality best.


Defining leadership

The BNET online Business Dictionary: states the definition as “The capacity to establish direction and to influence and align others toward a common goal, motivating and committing them to action and making them responsible for their performance.”

To know what true leadership is, we need to examine the characteristics of a leader.


Characteristics of a leader

The mark of a true leader is not a position or title held, but how many people are willing to follow him or her.

Leadership characteristics:

  • Honest
  • Competent
  • Forward-looking
  • Inspiring
  • Intelligent
  • Fair-minded
  • Broad-minded
  • Courageous
  • Straightforward
  • Imaginative
  • Creative

You will notice that none of the above actually tells you how to lead in a practical manner. That is because there is no real formula to being a leader.

Transformational leadership

In 1978, James MacGregor Burns introduced the idea of transformational leadership as he researched political leaders. Burns theorised that “transformational leadership” is actually a process where leaders interact with their followers and inspire each other to advance together. People and organisations are transformed basically due to the leadership style and abilities of the leader, who is able to convey a vision and guide the transformation.

Watch this video on transformational leadership

Situational leadership

Now we get to the nuts and bolts of leadership. The definitive leadership style research comes from Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard, which they expressed in their Situational Leadership Model. The Hersey-Blanchard model addresses the key to practical leadership development: the attributes and styles of the followers.

Watch this video on situational leadership


An Introduction to Kouzes and Posner

In 2002, Jossey Bass published a book by James Kouzes and Barry Posner called The Leadership Challenge. Building upon the Hersey-Blanchard model and other transformational leadership models, they went to the heart of what skills are required by the leader to stimulate such a transformation.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner asked thousands of people to rank a list of characteristics associated with leadership, including the seven top qualities that motivated them to willingly follow. They gave this survey to over 75,000 people over a 20-year period.

In their book, The Leadership Challenge, the authors identified five abilities that were crucial to successful leadership:

  • Model the way

You must lead by example. You can’t come into work 10 minutes late every day if you want your employees to arrive on time.

  • Inspire a shared vision

If you capture the imagination, you will inspire creative thought and increase loyalty. The vision doesn’t need to be grandiose, but it needs to be communicated effectively for others to adopt it as their own.

  • Challenge the process

Don’t continue doing something just because “We’ve always done it that way.” Situations change, and sometimes a policy or procedure never worked well in the first place. Think outside the box.

  • Enable others to act

Truly empower people to act on their own within their level of authority.

  • Encourage the heart

A positive attitude is infectious. If the leader appears passionate or excited about the vision, others will catch the enthusiasm as well.

Watch this video on the leadership challenge.


Creating an action plan

Now that you understand the various concepts, it’s time to plan how to put them into action by incorporating them into your life.

  • Set leadership goals

In leadership, as in life, you will never come to the end of your learning, but you want to rank in priority order those qualities you want to develop.

  • Address the goals

Determine how you will accomplish your goals. Do you feel you need to learn more about teamwork so you can better lead a team? Join a team sport. Do you want to communicate better? Take a creative writing class or join Toastmasters and get some public speaking experience. Toastmasters is also great if you are shy and want to feel more comfortable in social situations.

  • Seek inspiration

Learn about a variety of leaders, their styles and how they dealt with challenges. Read books and conduct research on the internet or at libraries.

  • Choose a role model

Based on your research, choose a role model that fits your personality. You might choose a dynamic leader like Teddy Roosevelt, or an intellectual leader like Albert Schweitzer or Albert Einstein. Read several biographies and find videos on his or her life.

  • Seek experience

Take a leadership role in a social group or club. Gain experience working with people on many levels.

  • Create a personal mission statement

Imagine your legacy. What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want people to think of you? What kind of leader are you determined to be? Write a statement that defines who you will become.

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