Chain Reaction Foundation
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Traits Leaders from Lower Socio-Economic Areas Tend to Exhibit

by Margaret Bell | April 7, 2017

Leadership. It seems like a pretty straight forward concept. There are good leaders and bad leaders. In order to be a good leader, one must do certain things. It is an easy recipe for success. Right?

At Mount Druitt Learning Ground, we have plenty of experience in working with community leaders. They are not as one-size fits all as people may think. We have discovered that developing programs for our community leaders in low socio-economic areas requires different skills sets and considerations than in other areas. When you think about it, this makes sense.

Those who lead in low socio-economic areas have needed to learn their skills in unique, high pressure circumstances. Rather than sitting through carefully researched, prestigious training programs, these leaders earn their place through on the job learning.  It doesn’t happen in front of a desk, but rather in real-time and real life situations.

When one develops leadership skills in real time rather than in theory, a number of things occur out of necessity. Leaders tend to hone skills in openness and flexibility when it comes to thinking. Where “textbook” leaders learn to define a problem, establish resources and plot a course of action, real-time leaders often must do all these things simultaneously. Thus, rather than plotting a course deliberating over it and sticking to it, such leaders learn to adapt as new information arises.

Similarly leaders from these areas are familiar with the pressures of time. Where leaders from other backgrounds take time to appreciate a cautious let’s talk about it well analysed approach, leaders from lower socio-economic backgrounds often work multiple jobs or play multiple roles. They have to become efficient in order to meet all of the needs of day to day living. There is little room for “testing the waters”. They want the most important information right away so they can move on.

With these leaders, another consideration is motivation. Here, you will not see leaders who are driven by a desire for prestige. While reputation absolutely matters, the real status symbol here is hard work. A leader is admired because he or she achieves something rather than is someone.

Finally, such leaders tend to be extremely practical. In the same way that they have learned to be efficient with their time, they are value oriented in their undertakings. Every project or program proposed to them must demonstrate obvious value added in their ability to do their job.

In the coming weeks, we will explore each of these traits in more depth. The hope is that by understanding which traits diverse leaders exhibit, and similarly, which they can’t afford, we can grow stronger leaders across all communities. 


Margaret Bell, AM - Founder and CEO of Chain Reaction Foundation.

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