Brooks: Meeting of unassuming leaders

Last week I sat in a room full of unlikely leaders.

I say unlikely because you might not recognize them as leaders if you passed them on the street.

They are fairly ordinary people. They get up every morning, care for their children, go to work, play soccer on weekends and try to connect with family on Sundays after church.

I call them leaders because they lead their families while navigating changes in the economy and life stages of aging children and parents. They lead neighborhood associations and school committees. Mostly I call them leaders because they have a vision for what they want our community to look like and they are actively working toward it.

We were gathered together for the inaugural evening of a leadership institute. To start the evening, we went around the room sharing why we chose to participate.

One woman came because she owns a small business and she wants to learn to run it better.

Others answered that they want to better serve the community.

Some said that with all they do for their jobs and kids, it is nice to take time to focus on one's own development. Whatever the reason that drew us, the common theme was a desire to develop as better leaders.

We committed ourselves to growing in three key leadership areas: relational skills, community development practices and spiritual development. Then we got into some practical skills that will move us closer to our goals for our city.

As a group of neighborhood leaders from five Costa Mesa neighborhoods, we have articulated five objectives toward a healthy Costa Mesa: foster healthy families, promote English proficiency, support childhood literacy, obtain city leadership roles and increase safe living conditions.

These goals emerged from listening and planning with neighbors throughout the city. Part of the motivation of participating in the leadership institute is the realization that we are going to have to step up our leadership capacity in order to reach these goals in the next three years. It was exciting to see the room full of neighbors committed to growing together and focused on their shared vision of the city.

In this election season of trying to see and understand the vision every candidate has for our country, state and city, it was comforting to be a part of neighbors planning specific action steps toward their vision and goals for Costa Mesa. It was reassuring to see people's willingness to develop personally and work together for a community that reflects their values and dreams.

I felt proud to be part of a group focused on five objectives that we can work toward no matter who wins whichever election. We know what we are about, and we are developing ourselves, building partnerships and doing the work it takes to make the vision a reality.

CRISSY BROOKS is co-founder and executive director of Mika Community Development Corp., a faith-based nonprofit in Costa Mesa, where she lives.

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