Becoming a Community CEO

By Jim Stilwell, CMCA, PCAM
Leadership has been sometimes defined as bringing people together and causing them to achieve a common goal. It can be as simple as being a good listener and facilitator, or it can be as complex as leading men and women into harm’s way. People follow good leaders because they want to. Causing them to “want to” is both the art and science of leadership.

In 2003, I had the privilege of hearing Ambassador Karen Hughes speak at the Bakersfield Business Conference. One of the highlights of her speech was a description of what she called the “CEO” leadership model.  A light went off in my head and I said to myself: “Wow! This is me. This is what I’ve been trying to describe but couldn’t get it together.” 

I have tweaked her model into what I call the Community CEO, which incorporates the following leadership skill set:
 
C stands for clarity of mission. People being led must know where they are going. Whether it is the employee team that you lead directly, the board that relies on your guidance or the community’s residents, you as an effective leader must clearly define the goal at hand and use every opportunity to evaluate progress towards that goal. Clarity requires unequivocal purpose and progress to the goal.  

E refers to leading by example and with enthusiasm. Good leaders must walk the walk as they talk the talk. Those being led must see their leader out front and showing the way to the goal at hand. It does no good to preach performance against budget if the leader is out spending like a drunken sailor. If the goal is a clean community, goods leader will not step over trash on the sidewalk; they stoop to pick it up.

O means showing optimism and seizing opportunity. The best leaders exhibit outward optimism to those being led. Achieving the mission is not only possible, but highly probable. They know that optimism is contagious and will permeate throughout the team. Even a marginal player will become a star when infused with enthusiasm from a good leader. When potholes appear in the road to the goal, the good leader sees those potholes as opportunities. Good community leaders recognize that one of the best ways to minimize the potholes in life is to do those things which are already done well, better.

Lead with clarity of mission, by example and with enthusiasm, and show optimism.  Seize opportunities when presented. Be the CEO of your community.

Jim Stilwell is General Manager of Warner Springs Ranch, a historic, 2,500-acre resort, in Back-Country, San Diego County,Calif. He has 17 years experience as General Manager of communities in both the public and private sectors, following a distinguished career in the Merchant Marine, where he commanded some of the largest and most technically advanced vessels under the U.S. Flag  He also provides consulting services through his own company – YOUR Community Management, LLC.

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