Positive Leadership in Communities
Opportunities knock at every mindful acknowledgement that creating something larger than one’s self is but an email, a call, or just a conversation away. Commitment to connection is the essential factor that bridges people through interests, common goals, enjoyment, seeking of meaning, life, cultural engagement and movement in a positive direction. Communities are not bound by a set distinctive criteria or specific attributes physical, location or tangible in nature. Communities are formed by nature of one person linking to another, linking to another though a number of ways that brings a vision to realization.
Building positive communities can, but does not exclusively mean going out into a community and building on what is already there. It can also mean being one who plants the seed and elects to become one who tends to the garden as good host and helper; setting aside one’s individual needs and nurturing a movement towards a larger positive goal. I am reminded of my military days where the common phrase was never leaving your wingman—oh yes that famous phrase in Top Gun. This meant you had their back as they had your back; alone meant you were dead in the water. Positive communities develop and thrive on these sorts of unspoken commitments to ensure no link breaks free from a solid chain, thus together they form a solid loop with each link as valuable as the next.
For this blog I will use the example of the developing Positive Psychology field itself. This is a community that has seen vast growth over the past decade, but that growth did not come without commitment to nurturing from those with the vision. I would like to share a story; inspired to share by a wonderful colleague Sandip Roy about how positive communities happen, grow, and flourish.
It is meant to be shared
Almost eight years ago while I muddled through my pittance of gathered material on Positive Psychology in the attempt to pitch to my university adding the Positive Psychology course to the curriculum, I found myself at the end of my rope sitting in a very uncomfortable chair staring at a computer screen that refused to help me. In the wee hours of the morning I made one last search and found curriculum for a Positive Psychology course. Tired and very weary I clicked the email link for the presiding professor as a last ditch effort that he might take pity on an adjunct with an empty can and be kind enough to share his wealth, and that he did. As the days and months went on this professor engaged me with kind supportive words and encouragement, and open the doors to a vault of information. I remembering him writing in an email “it is meant to be shared”.
Knowledge as a nutrient
After the university agreed I could move forward I began gather text books, research articles and videos. In gathering the videos I was struck with the realization that the person at the other end of those emails was Tal Ben Shahar—acclaimed educator, novelist and speaker. I almost fell out of my new comfortable chair! It was not his distinction that had my jaw dropping, but the realization that not once did he shush me away or treat me like I didn’t belong in his community. Since then I have gone on to teach Positive Psychology to hundreds of students who use the information as teachers, law enforcement officers, parents, for self-wellness, community leaders, child-development specialists and many more outreach entities, not to mention it has brought me to this strong group that continues to reach thousands of people. Tal Ben Shahar did not know me, so it was a chance he took to link and build; he reached with humbleness. This is a mindset familiar to positive leaders that see their knowledge as the nutrients to build strong communities and share unconditionally as a leap of fate.
Characteristics of a good community leaders
Within communities, positive leaders see a need and feel compelled to do something about the issue. Names that easily pop up as examples are Muhammad Yunus, Blake Mycoskie, Scott Harris and many more1. So what positive leadership foundations hold a community together? Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton shares ten characteristic of good community leaders that that support positive and flourishing communities. These include:
1. Maximize Individuals’ Strengths
2. Balance the Needs of Your Leadership Group
3. Work as a Team
4. Mobilize Others
5. Pitch In
6. Practice Stewardship
7. Be Accountable to the Community
8. Think forward
9. Recruit and Mentor New Leaders
10. Walk Beside, Don’t Lead From Above
Thriving positive communities, like other aspects of life, take commitment to growth through understanding the key to growth is human connection, and valuing the idea that the connections create ties that bind to build enduring strength.
 Sebastian, J. (2013). The ten greatest social entrepreneurs of all times. Retrieved from http://www.socialnomics.net/2012/07/03/the-10-greatest-social-entrepreneurs-of-all-time/
Eaton, S.E. (2012). Ten characteristics of community leaders. Retrieved from: https://drsaraheaton.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/10-characteristics-of-community-leaders/
About the author: Dr. Lynn Soots has been teaching psychology at the higher education level for over ten years. She is proud to integrate Positive Psychology applications in each of her courses to support growth and student goal attainment. She specializes in higher education online course-room design, adult learning, and diversity appreciation.