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Monday, April 14, 2008

How to pick our community leaders

Living in the sky can be very pleasant - if everybody works together as a team

Are you inspired by the outcome of the recent general election? Do you too think you have what it takes to “govern” an area, so its people can prosper?

If you live in an apartment or condominium and answered “yes”, you may be just the person your building’s management body needs.

Sure, at times, the work to ensure the smooth running of your community can be perplexing; even bewildering. But if you care for the future of your loved ones and yourself, have determination, and an outlook that you can make the difference, you have the makings of a member.

What the law says
Whether the group running your project is called a Management Corporation (MC), a Joint Management Body (JMB) or a Residents’ Association (RA), it is essentially an assembly of unit (or parcel) owners all looking out for their best interests.

The only thing setting these bodies apart is that an MC comes under a piece of legislation known as the Strata Titles Act, 1985, while a JMB is under the new Building and Common Property (Management and Maintenance) Act, 2007 (BCP Act). As for an RA, it is a voluntary organisation registered as a society.

Your fellow owners and you can form a JMB soon after taking possession of the keys to your units – you don’t have to wait until your developer calls for the first annual general meeting of buyers to have a say on how your project will be managed and maintained.

All too often, however, only a few stratified unit owners turn up or are interested in managing the project. Call it apathy if you wish, but what this means is that the handful of volunteers who are willing to serve will be burnt out after some years of providing their service … and why your project needs you.

Challenging duties
Under the BCP Act, a JMB should be made up of between five and 12 unit owners, while the Strata Titles Act (that comes into the picture as soon as strata titles have been issued) states that an MC should consist of between three and 14 owners.

Sitting in any of these bodies does not attract any financial gain – as mentioned earlier, it’s all voluntary. However, the duties are great as people’s lives as well as the preservation of their investments are at stake.

Following the saying that “behind every successful man is a woman”, it is vital for every good JMB or MC to be headed by a leader with the vision, commitment, knowhow and people skills to drive the team.

He or she must also be somebody who recognises “the right things” and can motivate others to get those things done.

The other attributes should include:

• Ability to accept criticism: Nobody in a position of power can escape criticism, but a good leader knows how to discern criticism and when to accept it.

• An open mind: A leader must be able to approach a problem creatively. Perspective is an invaluable leadership tool. A council or committee that is afraid of change will stagnate.

• Strong communication skills: Some council members might be valuable and productive, but not particularly articulate. A good leader, however, must be able to express ideas clearly and persuasively.

• Decisiveness: Taking a stand involves making mistakes. A good leader takes a stand and if an error is made, acknowledges it and corrects the situation.

• Enthusiasm: This is contagious. With it, council members can be motivated to keep on volunteering. Without it, voluntary work can become a burden.

• Leadership by example: A good leader arrives on time, never shirks responsibilities and demonstrates good work habits. He or she also instils cooperation among volunteers and pitches in alongside them instead of ordering them about.

• Listening to others: A good leader sources for and uses other’s ideas and gives credit when it is due.

• Ability to solve problems: The good leader uses knowledge and experience to help get the job done.

• Sensitivity: A genuinely caring leader inspires confidence in others, which in turn leads to results. Leaders delegate, give and seek constructive feedback, criticise constructively without attacking personalities and know how and when to give praise.

• Providing sound judgment: A good leader has the ability to identify and prioritise issues, and then weigh the alternatives carefully before making decisions.

• Taking responsibility: A good leader never blames others for problems. If you think you possess all these qualities, congratulations! But as the final test before you offer your services, consider these questions:

• Can you understand the functions of the MC and are you familiar with significant events in your community? If not, you might end up being the proverbial stick in the mud, bogging down the MC.

• Are you genuinely interested in your community and its activities? Other members will know if you’ve got a hidden agenda or selfish reason for being part of the MC.

• Do you have time to attend meetings? There’s little point in being part of the team if your work or other commitments cause infrequent participation.

If you now get the feeling that an MC is like a mini government, you’re not far wrong. Your “citizenship” and right to be part of it comes from your ownership, whether you like it or not.

From our experience, we at the National House Buyers Association have noticed three types of owners: Those who make things happen; those who wait for things to happen; and those who ask, “What happened?” Which group do you belong to?

The National House Buyers Association is a voluntary, non-profit, non-political organisation manned by volunteers. For information, email: or surf to

By New Straits Times

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