After studying this topic, you should be able to: appreciatewhat leadership is in rural communities, understand what leadership developmentis, and, recognise the functions of community leaders in agricultural extensionand rural development.

Appreciation of what Leadership is inRural Communities

Leadership, in essence, is simply influencing theattitude and actions of one or more persons, leading toward the achievement ofsome purpose or goal. This is generally accomplished through various ways. Forexample, imparting knowledge, giving advice or suggestions, expressing a beliefor opinion, making decisions on behalf of groups, providing assistance,exercising power, lending approval or support, also by example ordemonstration.

Most leadership position call for some degree ofdecision making, may call for power or even authority. All leadership positionsrequire having a real concern for others on the part of the leader, consciouslyor unconsciously, if one is to really function as a truly effective leader;otherwise one would not have followers. For leadership requires followership,based upon service to and support from people.

Most important of all, leadership is more than havingbeen born with favourable characteristics, such as appearance, voice,personality and ambition. These characteristics may aid a person in developingleadership ability, but this ability is acquired as a result of training andexperience rather than as a result of being born with certain attributes. Ifpeople have the desire to lead they can learn to be leaders. Some will not beas effective as others, even after considerable effort.

Leadership generally arises out of social situationsof some kind that happen to call for particular leadership at given times forspecific purposes, sometimes even crises; arises out of the need forleadership. It is usually based upon some degree of previous accomplishment inthe eyes of the group or one’s followers who grant leadership or acquiesce toone assuming it.

Thus, leadership reflect a relationship between peopleor between a person and group members. It is sometimes earned. It is bestowed,for without having been given permission or support by the people concerned, itdoes not exist. A leader is only one who has followers or influence amongpeople, based upon their judgement about his accomplishment, nature andpotentiality, and the needs of the particular leadership job at hand. For aperson to merely think he is a leader is not enough. Nor is it enough for aprofessional worker to think a person is a leader without adequatelyconsidering whether or not he has any followers or leadership relationship withthe group or people under concern.

Leadership distribution follows relationships.Research bears out that leaders are generally rather widely distributed andvary in scope of influence according to the group relationships and concerns ofthe people in given social situations. Communities themselves, large or small,are networks of relationships or social systems. Within these systems varioustypes and patterns of leadership usually function and can be identified.

The elitists who conceive of power in terms ofdomination of the masses by an oligarchy of the few, favour the reputationalapproach of identifying community leaders, while the pluralists who see poweras decentralized in a democratic society, favour the use of the decisionalapproach of identifying community leaders. Other approaches are; thepositional, social participation and opinion leadership approaches.

People of given population segments, or social systemsgenerally, are best reached through leadership of their own people. However, inmany cases, their interest in a given subject and your rapport with them mayfirst have to be developed.

Leadership development is increase in the involvementof people, increase in their ability to carry out responsibilities or otherwisefunction in given leadership roles, and increase in their own personal growthas a result of their greater participation or involvement. Always the factor ofmaturity and growth must be considered by professional workers as they workwith people in programmes. Very few leaders start out at the top of a ladder.People grow in leadership through experience and training.

One form of growth is advancement in kind of positionsheld.

A good technique of leadership development is toprovide opportunities for people to serve at the bottom of the ladder inbeginning ways or as help on special occasions; in other words, to start themup and see to it that they are given recognition and encouragement. They becomea reservoir from which to draw when filling other positions later.

Leaders also grow in their ability to do better ingiven leadership positions; not all need to be ‘’promoted’’ for development totake place.

People grow in personality development, too, as theyhave opportunities to function as leaders. Besides performing a particular taskor leadership function, one gains in knowledge, interest, aspiration andsatisfaction.

Thus, leadership development, made possible throughexpanding opportunities to become involved, is truly human resourcedevelopment.

Frequently it is best to avoid referring to persons as‘’leaders’’, or of using the term ‘’leadership’’ when working with givenpersons or groups. One reason for this is that most good leaders prefer to behumble and not known by such a weighty title. For many, the term impliessomething they do not think they are or want to be; they prefer to be known bythe particular position they are in at a given time, such as president,secretary, committee man or counsellor, rather than as a “leader”, a term whichto them tends to imply too much “front”, “authoritative” or “top” position.

Another reason why professional workers avoid over-useof the term “leader” and “leadership” is that such terms may weaken therelationship between a leader and his group, which gives rise to his leadershipin the first place.


  1. Leadership,is simply influencing the …………and……………of one or more persons,leading towards the achievement of somepurpose or goal.
  2. Leadership distributionfollows ……………………………..

Functions of Community Leaders inAgricultural Extension and Rural Development

Regardless of their dwindling influence, communityleaders perform many functions to promote agricultural extension and ruraldevelopment particularly in Nigerian rural communities. Some of the functionsare:

  1. Education: They take partin training other community residents how to carry out agricultural extensionprogrammes once they have undergone such training themselves. They therefore increasethe volume of teaching carried out in the rural communities.
  2. Legitimation: They giveapproval to rural development programmes which are brought into theircommunities for implementation. The approval of the leader is crucial in determiningwhether many rural development programmes brought into a community are acceptedor rejected by the generality of residents of the community.
  3. Planning: They take partin planning extension and other rural development programmes which are to takeplace in their communities. Community leaders often serve as officials such as chairmanof programme planning committees set up in their communities to plan ruraldevelopment programmes.
  4. Programme Execution: They take an active part in carrying out ruraldevelopment programmes in their communities. Specifically, they contributemoney, landed properties, time and energy, and also attend meetings aimed at facilitatingthe execution of rural development programmes. They also organize, superviseand motivate other people to carry out rural development programmes and tocontribute their resources to such programmes.
  5. Spokesmanship: They also represent the community in extra-local meetings. In lessimportant instances, they select other community residents to represent them inmeetings outside the community so that they can concentrate on dealing withpressing local issues.
  6. Father-Figure: Community leaders are looked upon as the fathers of the communitiesparticularly by the outsiders. Many issues concerning the community aretherefore referred to the leaders first before attempting to reach othercommunity residents. Some issues are resolved at the top by the leaders.
  7. Summoning to Meetings: The leader summons other elders to his house to meetregularly. He summons other village residents for meetings less frequently todeliberate on community issues or to visitors to the community who might beinterested in meeting them. The leader normally ensures that such a meeting is necessarybefore he summons the general community meeting. He often chooses anotherresident to perform the function of summoning people for him.


  1. Listthe functions of community leaders in agricultural extension andrural development.
  2. What is legitimation?


In this topic we discussed the appreciation of whatleadership is in rural communities as well as the functions of communityleaders in agricultural extension and rural development. From all this we must havelearnt to make use of leaders invited into programmes. As soon as possible openopportunities for them to serve or contribute. Provide them guidance, trainingand assistance. Then give them recognition – words of commendation andencouragement.


The main point in this post includes the following:

  • Leadership issimply influencing the attitude and actions of one or more persons, leadingtoward the achievement of some purpose or goal.
  • Leadership ismore than having been with favourable characteristics, such as appearance,voice, personality and ambition. These characteristics may aid a person indeveloping leadership ability, but this ability is acquired as a result of trainingand experience rather than as a result of being born with certain attributes.
  • The methods ofidentifying community leaders are reputational approach, decisional approach,positional approach, social participation and opinion leadership approaches.
  • Leadershipdevelopment is increase in the involvement of people, increase in their abilityto carry out responsibilities or otherwise function in given leadership roles,and increase in their own personal growth as a result of their greaterparticipation or involvement.
  • Some of thefunctions of community leaders in agricultural extension and rural developmentare education, legitimation, planning, programme execution, spokesmanship,father-figure and summoning to meetings.


  1. Discusshow leadership in rural communities can be appreciated.
  2. Explainthe term ‘’leadership development’’.
  3. Outline the functionsof community leaders in agricultural andrural development.


Addison.H. M (1973). Agricultural Extension: A Reference Manual.

Food and Agricultural Organization ofthe United Nations. Rome,

pp 91-102.

Jibowo,G. (1992). Leadership in Rural Communities: Essentials of

Rural Sociology. Gbemi Sodipo Press Ltd, Abeokuta,pp 180-201.

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