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MDRC cultivates disability pride and strengthens the disability movement by recognizing disability as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity while collaborating to dismantle all forms of oppression.

The model of leadership development used by Connections to Community Leadership is based on the idea that leaders develop skills with practice. There are three components of leadership skill building – Self, Community, Visionary. This model is not a developmental model; each piece acts to improve the skills in the two other parts.

The Lejuste Three Components of Leadership Development is a model of practice. Leadership skills cannot be learned only from a book or in isolation, but at some point the skills must be practiced, the emerging leader must reflect and learn from that practice. No component comes before another component rather each part recognizes and strengthens the skills identified in the other two components.

The focus of leadership within the self is to grow and deepen a sense of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-awareness. These characteristics live inside a person and are necessary to the development of a strong leader. As an individual comes to trust their ability to make choices, to understand their current situation, and to know their impact on other people and the world, they will be more likely to step up to leadership responsibilities.

Working together as equals on a specific project offers a kind of laboratory for individuals to practice a variety of leadership skills without having to assume a formal role as “leader”.

Within the group the peer members build relationships with each other based on cooperation rather than a chain of command. They participate together in conversations about their experiences as members of a shared social/cultural group, or perhaps as people who share similar values.

As peers work on a shared project they talk to each other about various issues, they may identify barriers, analyzing information, develop and take action, and consider the outcome of the action. During this activities member of the group become accountable to the task and to each other. They may experience conflict and the necessary conflict resolution. Some will learn basic organizing skills of making cold calls, building partnerships, speaking with the media. Others may find an outlet for already existing skills – writing, art design, hospitality, bookkeeping. Many will move from telling their personal story to articulating a social justice/social change issue, all skills of a good leader.

This shared experience can increase self-esteem, self-confidence and self-awareness. It can also assist some individuals to articulate the voice of the people, a necessary skill for a visionary leader.

With connection to community and developing an understanding of how the larger social and political system impacts a group, a leader occasionally emerges who has a sense of a larger picture. A successful visionary leader often has a natural charisma or an ability to speak in a way that is easily understood that encourages people to follow. This person knows how to capturing an idea and capture an audience.

Some skills of a visionary leader can be learned. A visionary leader is able to listen to others and indicate that he/she understands what they hear. A visionary leader can learn to articulate the hopes and dreams of the group he or she is leading.

This person inspires movements and helps to develop strategies for significant societal change. A visionary leader continuously deepens the interior skills of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-awareness. The visionary leader understands that they cannot lead without a community of followers who are willing to put the dream into action. Therefore, the visionary leader seeks relationships with others, is not afraid to promote the leadership of others, and always listens to the experiences of his/her group.

Reflection, both individual and in the group is central to learning leadership skills. After an action, a difficult task or meeting, or an emotionally charged interchange, as an individual or a member of the group, we encourage developing leaders to review the following four questions that guide reflection.

  1. What just happened?
  2. How do you feel?
  3. What does it mean?
  4. What would you do differently?

We use 6 qualities of leadership that function in all three components of this model to identify growth in leadership capacity. The six qualities are: Worth, Self-Knowledge, Desire, Voice, Action, and Reflection. Below the qualities are listed. Below each quality there are 3 statements that someone might say depending on which component of the model they are currently focused in.


  • Self - I am worthy of respect
  • Community - I am worthy of joining others
  • Visionary - I am worth listening to


  • Self - I know my strengths and limitations
  • Community - I know what I have to offer others
  • Visionary - I know what my group can do


  • Self - I know what I want
  • Community - I know what my group wants
  • Visionary - I know what needs to be done by my group


  • Self - I speak up for myself
  • Community - I am part of a shared voice
  • Visionary - I can voice my group's issues


  • Self - I take action
  • Community - I take action with others
  • Visionary - I lead my group's actions


  • Self - I reflect and learn about myself
  • Community - I reflect and learn about my group
  • Visionary - I reflect and learn about my leadership

They can be used as a pre and post measurement for movement of an internal sense of self. They can also be used as a means to measure the effectiveness of various components or specific circumstances of a program. For example, after a participant delivers a successful statement at a public hearing, or a group works through a particularly difficult conflict, answering the questions could provide information about the effectiveness of an activity or intervention.

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