Thursday, August 19, 2004

Role of a community leader

Lets talk today about one of the critical elements of a community. It's a leader. Typically when communities form they do so because there is one or a small group of individuals who are extremely passionate about something. It could be cars, drugs (the good kind), airplanes, engines, or nail polish. It doesn't matter. Having a passionate leader can make or break a community. I have truly come to believe that most of us are just plain lazy. We are interested in stuff but we tend to participate only if someone else does the heavy lifting and we reap the benefits of someone else's hard work. In comes the community leader. The leader will at first bear the whole burden. Arranging meetings, finding speakers, deciding on discussion topics, taking notes, disseminating notes, checking schedules, etc. Once the community has stabilized a bit, the community should take on most of the roles. There should be someone in charge of meetings, a sub group that determines topics of interest, someone else who works with venues, etc. At all points in time you want to constantly ask yourself. Are these activities worth it? Is what I am getting out of this community worth the time I am putting into it. If the answer is yes, you are in the right community. If the answer is no, you are looking at the community experience as something else you have to do and maybe you want to reconsider your membership. This latter point is unfortunately easier said than done. Sometimes you are required to be part of a community. If you are a graphic designer and you are not part of a graphic design community there is no telling what new technology and shortcuts you could be missing out on.
Ah, we digress. The community leader. The primary role that a community leader should play is that of social bee. He/she should be the person everyone knows and that knows everyone in return. When you talk to someone in your organization and you say John Doe is our community leader, the person you are speaking with should recognize the name and smile and say good things about them. A community is all about networking, about getting people together and making sure the experience is a positive one. Who wants to be part of a community that makes you feel bad when you leave. Life's too short for that.
A community leader also brings accountability to a community. Especially within an organization where all of us have goals, the leader should encourage the community in such a direction so as to help meet the member's professional goals. That's a win win for the organization and for community members. Another critical requirement for a community leader is tenure. I know I will have some criticism about that. New hires can be very knowledgeable in their fields, be extremely passionate and be good community leaders. True. That all can happen and I am sure it does.
However, in most organizations if you don't have tenure then you don't have the social bee ability. You don't know people and people don't know you. And if they don't know you and can't trust you then how can you form and sustain a community.
We have seen examples of two kinds of leadership. The single passionate leader as well as team leadership. Guess which one lasts longer! That's right! Team leadership. When you have a leader with a passion and everyone else is just a recipient then when the leader leaves, the community dies. It happens to whole organizations sometimes, so why not to small communities.
This little write-up gives you some specifics on community roles.
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1 comment:

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