A ship without a captain
Let's have a think about this - if there's no clear goal, or clear vision for why we're a part of an organization, what happens?
Well, likely, either we'll lose interest and find somewhere else to organize, or we'll form our own initiatives based on what we think we'd like to or should be doing.
There's nothing wrong with that...except usually when we start an organization, or people organize in a community, there's a purpose for its existence and their participation - otherwise, why do it?
So, when members of a community aren't clear on the purpose or goal, it's usually because that goal hasn't been communicated or reinforced effectively.
This is where the role of leadership comes into play.
As community builders we're responsible for defining and communicating the direction of our communities to our community members.
If we don't do this, then, our community becomes a ship without a captain - it may "set sail", it may even go somewhere, but it won't be able to react to unexpected needs in an effective and timely way, and it's unlikely to meet the goals we originally set out to achieve with it.
Leading by Example
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Monette Satterfield (Co-Founder and Community Manager @ creatopia.studio - they're doing amazing things for independent artists and art collectors, check them out!) she brought up some interesting points on how leadership should work in a community, namely:
- Communicating the goal of the community to every new member as early as possible.
- Explaining what's expected of each community member (for example, defining acceptable behavior, language and content)
- Participating in your community in the same way that you expect of its members.
This made a lot of sense to me because we are members of our own communities, and so it's our responsibility to also act in a way that's consistent with the community's goals and values.
Leading also means Listening
"You have to be a dispassionate observer, not that you don't care, but that you have to be listening with the goal of observing and understanding"
As with anything that involves a large number of people, there are bound to be a number of diverse needs, and there's always the potential for unwanted friction within a community.
Monette made the astute point that as community leaders, we need to keep our fingers on the pulse of our community by being diligent listeners.
When it's clear that the needs of the community demand a shift, or slight course correction, we should embrace it, and make sure that the voice is heard.
When it's clear that certain things (for example, offensive language, or contentious topics that don't really belong in the community) are causing undue friction, we need to be able to react to that and build a culture of understanding in our communities, and reinforce the idea that certain discussions are better held elsewhere.
What do you think about leadership in your communities?
I'd love to hear back from you, what are some of the things community leaders should be doing to make sure their communities are healthy and on course?
Image Credit: https://www.aaepa.com/2018/10/lessons-in-leadership-connecting-vs-controlling/