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Impact of Community Leadership Programs on Work Performance and Community Engagement.

Summary: Filling a Gap in Research and Leadership

Until now, there has been little available evidence to describe the impact of community leadership programs (CLPs). Our researchers recognized that a better understanding of CLP outcomes would be valuable to individuals, organizations, and communities investing in such programs. Addressing this gap in the field, Third Floor Research asked the question: Does participation in a CLP positively change leadership behavior in the workplace and stimulate greater involvement in the community?

Soon after its creation in 2007, the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) conducted a listening tour of Kansans working for business, faith, nonprofit, religious, and government organizations. The strongest message from those conversations was that more leadership was needed for communities and organizations to become healthier and more prosperous. Furthermore, a different kind of leadership was required to understand and address tough challenges.

This leadership gap spurred the creation of dozens of community leadership programs (CLPs) in Kansas, and more than 1000 such programs have formed across the U.S. over the past 30-40 years.

CLPs vary in format, content, and scale. Traditionally, programs are designed to generate awareness of local community challenges and build networks for emerging leaders.

More recently, CLPs have focused primarily on developing leadership skills. In the 1990s, the Kansas Community Leadership Institute (KCLI) integrated a skill-building approach into its CLP curriculum.

In this report, we distinguish these two approaches as “generalist” and “KLC competencies.”

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This research project aimed to identify the impact of CLPs. We sought to answer the following question: If participants completed a CLP, would there be a change in their leadership behavior at work and involvement in their community? We focused our research on eight CLPs in Kansas. Of the eight CLPs, five focused primarily on KLC leadership competencies, and three on a generalist approach.


Employee leadership = Enhanced employee engagement

KLC competencies CLPs develop new leadership skills for the workplace. While all CLP participants report using leadership behaviors at their workplace after a leadership training, KLC competencies CLPs develop a new set of leadership skills at significantly higher degrees. The new workplace leadership skills include empowering others, addressing problems in new ways, and enhancing self-awareness.

Three Times as Likely to Serve in a Civic Role

Alumni of KLC based community leadership programs are three times as likely to serve their community in a civic role (e.g., board member, elected official, advisory group, committee member, etc.). 41% of alumni from KLC competencies CLPs serve(d) in these roles. 22% of participants in generalist CLP programs are involved in these roles. This compares to 14% of Kansas who serve(d) in civic/community roles, (KS Civic Health Index, 2016)

Community Engagement Outcomes Increase

Participating in CLP programs significantly increases community engagement outcomes (e.g., political involvement, volunteering, civic participation, donations). Most significantly, there was a 37% increase
in aspiration to serve in an appointed or elected position for KLC competencies CLP participants versus a 29% increase in aspiration for generalist CLP participants.

    Confident to Lead a Group

    CLP alumni believe that they can successfully lead a group. Participants have an above average degree of confidence in their leadership efficacy – an ability to self-regulate stress and improve team performance.

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