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Great Leadership Essential in Transforming Communities

13 November 2023

As I have worked with dozens of communities and hundreds of businesses over the years, one thing has proven accurate 100% of the time. Great leadership brings about great changes, poor leadership struggles and never reaches its potential. That has been true in every situation without fail. When looking at communities, I often see Mayors or city leaders that tend to choose the safe route to avoid criticism and potential failure. That isn’t leadership, that is failure at the highest level. Those leaders, while being good people are poor leaders and the only remembrance of them will be the obligatory photo hanging in City Hall. On the other hand, leaders that actually lead are far more often successful, and while they may also have a photo in City Hall, they invoke praise, remembrance and love for decades beyond their stint in that leadership role – maybe even having a street named after them.


Great leadership stands as the cornerstone of successful community transformation, especially in the context of small communities. The significance of effective leadership cannot be overstated when considering the complexities involved in navigating the challenges and harnessing the opportunities inherent in community development.


One of the primary areas where great leadership manifests its impact is in the economic development of small communities. A study conducted by the World Bank shows that communities with strong and visionary leaders tend to experience higher levels of economic growth. Effective leaders attract investments, foster entrepreneurship, and implement policies that create an environment conducive to business development.  According to data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), small communities led by strong leaders have a higher likelihood of achieving fiscal stability. Leaders with strategic foresight can optimize resource allocation, attract private investments, and implement sound economic policies, thereby bolstering the financial health of the community.


Leadership plays a pivotal role in fostering social cohesion and inclusivity within small communities. A report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) emphasizes that communities with inclusive leaders experience greater social harmony and a sense of belonging among residents. Inclusive communities tend to have lower crime rates, higher educational attainment, and improved overall well-being of residents. These statistics underscore the importance of leadership in promoting a sense of unity and inclusivity among community members.


Infrastructure development is a critical component of community transformation, and great leadership is instrumental in driving these initiatives. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, effective leaders can secure funding, streamline bureaucratic processes, and create a conducive environment for infrastructure projects. This, in turn, enhances the overall quality of life for community members. The inverse can be true as well, without strong leadership, infrastructure projects are prone to delays, inefficiencies, and budget overruns. Leaders who prioritize and effectively manage infrastructure development contribute not only to the immediate improvement of living conditions but also to the long-term sustainability and attractiveness of the community.


Leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape of small communities. Research from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicates that communities with visionary leaders are more likely to invest in education and skill enhancement programs. These leaders recognize the correlation between education, economic productivity, and community development. To follow that thought process, logical deduction supports the argument that an educated and skilled workforce is essential for the overall progress of a community. Leaders who prioritize education contribute to the empowerment of community members, equipping them with the tools necessary to adapt to a rapidly changing world and participate actively in the community's transformation.


The evidence is very clear – great leadership is not just desirable, but imperative for the transformation of small communities. From economic growth to social cohesion, infrastructure development to education, leaders shape the trajectory of community development in profound ways. The facts, figures, and logical arguments underscore the crucial role leaders play in steering small communities towards a future of sustainable growth, prosperity, and inclusivity. As we navigate the challenges of the 21st century, recognizing and nurturing great leadership becomes not just a preference but a necessity for the thriving existence of small communities around the country.


John Newby is a nationally recognized Columnist, Speaker, & Publisher. He consults with Chambers, Communities, Business & Media. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column appears in 60+ newspapers and media outlets. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists chambers, communities, media, and businesses in creating synergies that build vibrant communities. He can be reached at: John@Truly-Local.org.