How important is community pride or community self-esteem to the overall vibrancy of a community? Many believe a massive transfusion of dollars is the most important factor. While dollars are important, it may turn out that without elevating the sense of community pride, self-esteem, and self-worth, the massive transfusion of dollars may be for naught. Taking it one step further, ample evidence indicates growing your community pride and self-esteem are directly related to the local growth of the GDP or revenue outlook of the community as well.
When it comes to a community, the old adage that “perception is reality” may actually have a firm basis in truth. What residents feel toward their community has a direct correlation to their overall involvement, their volunteering likelihood and their civic contributions. A great example of this plays out on the voting front. While voting has become less of a civic undertaking across the country, those communities having a low self-esteem only seeing a bleak future are usually near the bottom of voting percentages as a community; they have just lost interest in their own community.
When one thinks of this, I don’t believe apathy should come as huge surprise; it actually makes total sense. That leads to a follow-up question. How do we bring back the pride and self-esteem so vital to a community’s well being? How do we turn around the negative mindsets so pervasive within the boundaries of our community?
How do communities overcome their self-perception issues? How do communities bridge the often times Grand Canyon size gulfs of self-esteem? How do communities lift themselves up from past mistakes, false starts and the constant cadence of the naysayer’s drumbeat? The answer to each of those questions lies in two words – Vision and Leadership!
Vision has the ability to transcend the widest of gulfs, healing the sickest of communities, and sparking the renaissance of ideas and innovation. Vision can take a community that dares to dream big from the depths of the valley of nightmares to the mountaintop of dreams. Vision dares you to dream big, reach high, and raise the bar.
While any community can have lofty visions, the reality of the matter is few do. Most communities and leaders are stuck in the traditional minefields of failed strategies and policies that have in fact created many of the problems they are dealing with today. Those strategies and policies had their time and place; but like 8-track tapes and the shelves of comprehensive studies lining city hall, failure to change leaves them mired in the antiquated sameness of Neverland.
While most will say they have vision and the willingness to go where that leads, studies and practical observation show otherwise. While the numbers vary by study, they indicate less than 10% will eagerly adapt to significant changes in vision. Approximately a third of those would be considered true visionaries, willing to take the risk and lead the charge towards a future full of vision and hope. The other 90% are followers waiting to be swayed, but only after great effort. Let those numbers sink in; in a community of 10,000, that is only 1000 adaptable to change. But more important, there are only a few dozen capable of truly leading change.
The odds of success may seem to be stacked against those with visionary dreams. They can take comfort in knowing that every successful community transformation, nearly every successful business and in fact, the United States of America came about due to those persistent 1% of visionary leaders. Let me also add, the best leaders are visionaries. Those in leadership positions without vision are simply tools of stagnation. In today’s economic and community realities, communities can’t afford stagnation.
You see, setbacks don’t stop visionaries; setbacks further motivate them. Public opinion doesn’t deter visionaries; following the herd mentality has never had much appeal to them in the first place. Perfection is not a priority in a visionary’s mind, as they understand it is rarely achieved, and that “perfect is the enemy of great.” So the real task for communities is to find the true, trusted and financially prudent visionaries, follow their lead and hold on for the ride. Those are the communities that have a hopeful tomorrow.
John A. Newby, author of the “Building Main Street, Not Wall Street “ column and Facebook group dedicated to helping communities and media companies work together allowing both to not just survive, but thrive in a world where truly-local is lost to Amazon, Wall Street chains and others. His email at: john@360MediaAlliance.net.