Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Wanted: Rural Leaders Now

March 2, 1998

Rural organizations need help! Our existing leaders have been serving for a long time. We need new blood to give relief and re-energize our community efforts. More people need to join those who have already gone the second and third mile. We know you are in high demand in a community where needs are great and help is limited.

Positions available: Dynamic leaders who work for positive change while at the same time preserving the delicate balance of peaceful and harmonious relationships in the community. Must be able to develop a consensus, mobilize support from among already busy people, and work around resistance while maintaining their goodwill.

Please note the qualifications of those talents ideally suited for the job. However, if you are breathing and want to help, we'll find a place for you.

- Able to join others in working for common goals.
- Be a team player.
- Willingness to work.
- Thick skin. Tolerate jealousy, envy, gossip, criticism, and unfair characterization.
- Ability to keep confidences.
- Ability to listen to many opinions. Able to empathize and show respect and goodwill for opposing groups.
- Ability to communicate vision, goals, ideas and to involve others in the planning and goal-setting process.
- Have the best interest of the community at heart. Your motives can't be self-serving. No hidden agendas. No special interest axes to grind.
- Willingness to include others and diversify the base of community leadership.

Communications and relationship skills:
- Keep personal opinions to self while drawing out ideas from others. Help create an atmosphere where people can share ideas in a nonthreatening manner.
- Facilitate frank discussion. Be open-minded. Fashion the final result to be of everybody's best thinking.
- Be a good listener. Work to understand objections and problems and find mutually satisfying solutions.
- Plant ideas ahead of time so that people can assimilate and react to them before key decisions are to be made. Resolve concerns ahead of time. Make sure major players are on board before pushing for a final decision.

Mobilization and management of human resources.
- Involve as many people as possible. Delegate meaningful responsibility. Put the right people in key positions. Maximize their strengths and work around their weaknesses. Follow through with assignments.
- Give others the limelight and recognition for accomplishments. Express appreciation privately and publicly.
- Do the hard work. Serve so well and so selflessly that others will grant you the goodwill and cooperation you need.
- Acknowledge mistakes. Help others to save face.
- Don't waste time. Keep meetings under control and on the agenda.
- Have training sessions. Bring in outside resources to help in the process. Build up the awareness, knowledge and skills of the group. Get outside training yourself.
- Learn to delegate and let go. Provide enough oversight and reporting so that you show concern and care for the work others do.

Minimize conflict.
- Accept defeat graciously. Learn from your mistakes. Regroup and try again. Or go on to something else.
- Don't personalize conflict or differences. Mend fences. Even if you can't please your opponents, find ways of being respectful and friendly in other settings.
- Be above board and fair. Be consistent with your principles so people will accept your decisions. Give everyone a fair hearing for their ideas.

Take care of yourself.
- Keep personal friendships strong. Have confidential relationships where you can unwind and speak your feelings completely without fear.
- Find time for yourself. Get personal renewal through relaxation, leisure, and contemplation.
- Keep your marriage and family life strong. Integrate your community work into a life that is well balanced.

- Warm friendships and enjoyment that come with doing good things together. Have some fun while doing good work.
- You can make a difference. You are needed. You'll see tangible results of your hard work.
- You will be pushed into wider and wider spheres of leadership. You'll grow because you'll have to grow.
- The work will have variety.
- The highest prestige in the community is reserved for those selfless, community-minded people whose energy makes things happen and soft manner calms troubled waters.

Warning: You will be in much demand. Your community will see your value and want you to serve in many ways. Draw a boundary between your family and the community and give your family the priority it deserves. You will have to learn to say no to things that really don't fit with your personal, family, and service oriented goals.