4 community leadership skills to improve this year (and how to do it)

By Sean Morris

For community leaders, the challenges never stop coming. There are always new problems to solve, old wounds to mend, and communities to bring together. That’s why community leaders should never stop learning. It takes creative solutions and novel approaches to solve the problems that plague communities, and that doesn’t happen when leaders are complacent.

If you’re a community leader, recommit yourself to learning by making time to develop these four key leadership skills this year.


Communication is a core competency for any leader, whether you’re leading a big community movement or are managing a small business. Good communication doesn’t just get your message across; it lets you inspire others to action.

Here are some ways you can build your communication skills this year:

  • Record yourself communicating: Before you can improve your communication skills, you need to know where you stand. Record yourself to identify areas for improvement.
  • Practice active listening: Being a good listener is just as important as being an eloquent speaker. Practice verbal and non-verbal communication techniques to improve your active listening skills whenever possible.
  • Reflect on your reactions: Do your reactions get in the way of effective communication? If you struggle with defensiveness or other emotional reactions, consider counseling or other resources to overcome this personal hurdle.


Community leaders don’t dictate solutions; instead, they facilitate communities to solve their own problems. Facilitation is challenging, but it’s also one of the most important skills a community leader possesses.

  • Swap agendas for objectives: Agendas constrain thinking. Instead of explaining what a meeting will achieve, set objectives and let the team determine how to achieve them.
  • Learn different facilitation approaches:There’s more than one way to facilitate a meeting. Learn about methods like design thinking and model-based facilitation.
  • Improve your problem-solving strategy: A leader’s problem-solving approach influences the creativity of a teams’ solutions. For better results, develop a problem-solving style that encourages a diversity of ideas.

Creativity and inspiration

Whether it’s coming up with creative solutions or inspiring others to action, these are the skills that set the most effective community leaders apart. They’re also among the hardest to learn. While there might not be a workshop to teach you how to be a more inspirational leader, these books offer insights into what it takes to achieve transformational change.

  • Start with Why by Simon Sinek. Do you want to understand what motivates others to greatness? This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how to tap their team’s potential.
  • Strengths-Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. Strengths-Based Leadership explains how to tap your own strengths to become a better leader as well as how to put your team’s strengths to work.
  • Good to Great by Jim Collins. What makes some efforts succeed while others fail? This book uses case studies to demonstrate the leadership strategies that really work.

General leadership

When you want to dive deep into a specific topic or hone a particular skill, leadership courses deliver the most value. Focus on in-person or online courses that will develop leadership skills including project management, organizational development, and business analytics such as:

  • Get Smarter: This course partners with renowned institutions like the MIT Sloan School of Management and HarvardX to deliver six- to 12-week courses in a wide range of leadership and management skills.
  • EdX:This platform offers low-cost online courses ranging from one to 16 weeks.
  • American Management Association: Leaders seeking certification should look into the AMA’s course offerings, which cover leadership, marketing, and more.
  • Coursera: Like EdX, Coursera has many course options produced in partnership with organizations including Northwestern University, Johns Hopkins, and Duke University.

A leader’s job is never over. Not only are there always more challenges to overcome, but there’s also always more you can do to become a better leader. From gaining the communication skills to share your vision of improving your ability to engage and mobilize your community, let these resources guide your leadership development this year.

About the author:

A few years ago, Sean left his job as a social worker to spend more time with his kids. Today, he writes for LearnFit in his spare time. He is an advocate of living healthy lives and being an asset in the community.