The Advantages of a Better Community: Collaborative Leadership

Advantages Explored!

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, On Self-Reliance

I’ve always found comfort in those words.  Hasn’t each of us realized that we probably have more in common with each other than we first thought? I’m not saying that our likes and tastes are all the same (that would be boring), but that our basic hopes and desires look – in the end – very similar.  

Over the next few months, I want to explore in more detail the Advantages of a Better Community, one at a time, in no specific order. These are, to me, the “common denominators” of good community. In some ways, they are reflective of the foundations that already exist here in Coraopolis; in other ways, they are aspirational. Some will resonate with you more than others, but I think you’ll agree they all are advantages we seek. They are the advantages I am working for each day.   I look forward to your own thoughtful comments!


The Advantages of a Better Community: #7 – Collaborative Leadership

Opinions will differ!  This is normal, and necessary, and expected. While we all are created with equal value, we are also created with unique differences. Thus, our individual views of events, community and each other will also differ. We all know this. And we also know that our collective success comes at the pace of our ability to operate within those differences while minimizing the times those differences result in conflict.  Leaders, especially, need to demonstrate collaboration above all.  Here’s how this is done.  

1.    Establish Collective Vision.  In any endeavor, we have to start with a vision or goal of exactly what we want to see accomplished.  We do this individually all the time. “Today, I want to _____” you fill in the blank.  Talk to my kids, get some exercise, start a new novel, finish the taxes, make pierogis -  and you then take steps necessary toward the goal you’ve set.  But setting a goal for yourself is much easier than setting a goal with other people.  How do we preserve the best that Coraopolis is now, and what do we want it to look and feel like a year from now? Five or ten years from now?  Getting consensus on those basics should be a priority of community leaders, and while it is not as easy as it sounds, it can certainly happen.

2.    Expand Opportunities for Emotional Investment.  That sounds a little fancier than I mean it.  Basically, more people need to get involved at the gut level.  Communities are happy and successful when they thrive, and they thrive because people think about and care for it. When minds and hearts and plugged in toward a shared vision, success will happen. What this means, practically, is that those who want to succeed should be given every chance to do that in a community, and supported.  We are blessed with over six thousand people who have an incredible array of talents. Historically, only a small percentage have used those talents in Coraopolis, leaving many who have tried to help feel discouraged.  Collaborative leadership will work toward more and more influencers getting a chance to make an impact. It starts with asking questions before giving opinions, and seeing the common threads in the answers you get.  “What do YOU think needs to happen to make Coraopolis even better?”

3.    Positive always trumps negative. Always.  Listen, I’m not being naïve. But I have seen this enough to know it is true: when people who are bitter, angry, or emotionally dishonest fill positions of leadership, there is little chance of success, in any form.  When a shared vision is set, and a variety of people are asking questions and working toward achieving it, change will occur.  If we are committed to getting in the habit of positive, forward motion each and every day, progress will happen.  It’s an attitudinal shift for most of us, because we are guilty of negativism more often that we would like to admit. It must be demanded of our leaders.

Community leadership must be collaborative to be successful. No one operates in a vacuum, and we need each other to succeed.   We don’t all know each other, but we know who we know.  In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell uses the term “connector” to describe people who have many ties to different social worlds.  You can be on a certain board, live in a certain neighborhood, attend a certain church – and that gives you access to various social groups.   What makes connectors effective change-agents in a community isn’t necessarily the number of people they know; it’s their ability to link people, ideas, and resources that wouldn’t normally run into one another. In Coraopolis, we can all become better connectors to facilitate collaboration.

Let’s hear from you again! We received some great emails about what you love about Coraopolis, and now we’d like you to Describe What You Would Like Coraopolis To Look Like In Five Years and share, either on Facebook or through our contact email:  

Shawn P. Reed
Democrat Candidate for Mayor