Civic Leaders Think Big Picture

There’s no doubt that it takes specific skills and attributes to be a great civic leader. While some may run for public office to increase their standing in a community, the best civic leader is one who seeks to lead out of a desire to serve.

These leaders possess certain mindsets that allow them to interpret success beyond personal gain. Their ideologies may differ in some respects, but they consistently hold ethics at the core of everything they do. As a result, civic leaders distinguish themselves by the manner in which they serve the public good.

An image taken in a city hall building.
Image via Thomas Hawk on Flickr.

Desire to help people

Civic leadership is about trying to make one’s community as great as possible through a range of actions. For civic leaders to be successful, they must have a mindset dedicated not only to helping people, but also to ensuring they provide necessary support for those who need it the most.

Whether it’s volunteering time or services, civic leaders represent their community and must lead others by showing their desire to help the community in many ways.

Determination to be truthful / transparent

The best leaders project truthfulness and honesty. Community members look up to their leaders as people who represent the best parts of society.

When it comes to local politics, civic leaders aspire to be transparent and work to make sure the organizations or offices they represent are visible as well.

Representing everyone equally

Civic leaders do not play favorites. While they may identify with a party, they are not partisan. They may make alliances, but they will steadfastly shun cronyism.

Taking the long view

Any veteran civic leader can tell you of the dangers of burnout. Idealism is a powerful motivator to obtain a leadership position, but once there, a leader’s energy will be quickly consumed if he or she does not temper idealism with foresight.

Good civic leaders recognize from the beginning that they serve a purpose within a specific place and time. If they are fortunate, they will have the chance to set the final stone in place on a foundation that was built years, even decades, before by previous leaders in that position. But much of their time will be the slow, steady work of making small changes that add up, over many years and many terms of office, toward a long-term vision of the public good.

Choosing action over apathy

As a civic leader, you will be confronted daily with just how easy it is to spend much time with little of significance accomplished. Mountains of paperwork, committee hearings, endless meetings, passionate civic participation, and long processes in establishing connections with higher-level officials are just a few of the job-related hazards you will face.

It can become all too easy to occupy each day with these tasks, excusing it as “doing your job,” which could leave the real work of civic leadership by the wayside. The words of the 20th century’s most significant civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., inspire us to act and arouse all leaders from the risk of mediocrity: “Democracy transformed from thin paper to thick action is the greatest form of government on earth.”

To learn more about civic leadership and how an online MPA degree makes a difference, visit University of San Francisco online.

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