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10 Takeaways from Community First! Leadership Academy

From Hayley Douvros and Stormy Pecchioni…

We headed down to Austin, Texas, to attend a Leadership Academy hosted by Mobile Loaves and Fishes at Community First! Village last month. This was a three-day leadership development experience focused on helping us understand and harness the power of our unique leadership style.

This academy was created specifically for those working toward replicating the Community First! Village model in their own cities and was designed to develop leaders who are empowered into a lifestyle of service with the homeless.

Here are 10 quick takeaways from our time in Austin…

1. Games don’t always have winners

Over the course training, we played several games, and the point of many of these exercises was not to exert leadership through winning at all costs, but through listening to your team and those surrounding you. Often the game was more about the process of collaboration than it was the champion.

2. We got to experience life in the village first hand

Staying in tiny homes, we got to experience the village life first hand. This was one of the highlights of the training! We got to meet neighbors in the community, pet their dogs, and learn what they loved most about being a part of this special place.

3. Be, Do, Have. Don’t reverse it.

First and foremost, be in community with others. Then do what people in community do. And lastly, have the things that a community has. Don’t try to have the things and do the actions in order to prove that you are in community. That won’t work.

4. Celebrate the goodness in ourselves and others

We all have unique gifts that God has given us. Stepping fully into our leadership is about embracing our own giftings and then surrounding ourselves with others that have different giftings than we do. This is the beauty of a well-rounded leader.

5. It starts with us

A theme of our time was looking at our own selves and addressing our own judgements, patterns of blaming, and skewed ways we can view others — often as objects instead of as people. We want to invite others around us to speak up on how they experience our leadership and the impact it has on them.

6. “Culture will eat strategy for breakfast.”

The homeless culture pulls many men and women down to depths they’ve never known — quicker than we’d ever expect. What are we strategizing for — behavior modification or culture enhancement? One is temporary, the other can be legendary.

7. Feelings aren’t necessarily truth and truth doesn’t always feel good

Replicating a feeling of joy, excitement, or something else is a relentless, exhausting pursuit. A feeling of trust in someone can lead to great disappointment if that trust is broken. Seek the truth within your surroundings and in others, not the feelings you get.

8. Intent vs. Impact

“Our intentions tend to be much more real to us than our actions; and this can lead to a great deal of misunderstanding with other people to whom our actions tend to be much more real than our intentions.” If your good intentions still create a bad impact, approach others, explain, own your part played in the negative impact, and work together for good intent with great impact!

9. Have a vision BIG enough to call you through the pain

A vision for something new, something that moves the needle for homelessness, exists outside current reality, otherwise you wouldn’t need the vision. Tension exists in the journey to seeing your vision out — discouragement, distractions, delays. Transformation occurs as you press on knowing your vision is too big, too strong, too important to be given up on.

10. We need everyone

The DISC Assessment shows an individual’s tendencies to err towards Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, and Compliance. A room full of only I’s could end up in days’ worth of debates, D’s in arguments for ages. We’re meant for community. We’re meant to complement each other. Celebrate your similarities AND differences.

It is a dream of The Human Impact to replicate the Community First! Village here in Dallas for our friends on the street. Community First! frequently says “A house does not heal people; community does.” We could not agree more. The foundation of our work is building relationships with the homeless so that together, us and our homeless friends, can thrive together in healthy community.

We are grateful for the opportunity we had to learn from the Leadership Academy so that we can better relationally pursue those around us, and one day, God-willing, open a village of our own to welcome our friends home.

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