3 Lessons in Building Community from Leaders
As someone knowledgeable and often looked at as a leader in the community building field, many would think I wouldn’t have much to learn. But one lesson I’ve learned is that in this rapidly evolving field, or any field, not one person knows everything and we all can become better leaders when we open ourselves up to learning and understanding.
Leaders are always learning.
Over the last 2 years, I’ve learned three things that have changed my views on communities. Each one came from a leader in their own right.
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First, Angela Maiers spoke at a conference I was hosting for community managers. While most of us look at our communities as everyone and anyone who has commented, liked, RTd (retweeted), followed us or +1’d us, Angela made a statement during her talk that made me stop and think.
“Every member of the community must contribute fully, with 100%, in order to be part of the community.”
There were audible disagreements and visible heads shaking in disbelief, but this made me stop and think, if we only looked at those contributing fully to the community, our efforts would be more focused and our results would be greater.
Next, Thomas Knoll came to visit me and some of my coworkers at The Huffington Post. He talked about the community vs. the crowd. if you look at a concert, there are plenty of people who buy a ticket, attend and go home. Then there is a small group that connects with people in other cities, put on parties when there is no concert and keep bringing more people to the concerts, regardless of which city it’s in. If we look at the Lady Gaga example, do you want to focus on the locals in Chicago who just show up to see her at Lollapalooza, or do you focus on the “Little Monsters” who connect with each other and follow her whether she’s in Chicago, London, Sydney or Tokyo. Just like the lesson I learned from Angela, focus on the small numbers that deliver big results.
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Jeff Power spoke with Ayelet Baron and I on a CreatingIs hangout, recently. Although I’ve known Jeff for over a year and have talked to him many times, he made an important point during this hangout about the villages he works with in Africa through Global Hope Network International and Pangeo Coffee. If every member of the village doesn’t look out for the others in the village, the village will become no more. Taking care of your community for the villages is not a matter of maximizing your return, it’s a matter of survival. As we start looking at our communities, it may not be a matter of life or death, but we need to start treating everyone in the community with respect, dignity and encouragement in order for everyone to be able to prosper.
Three community lessons I pass on to you:
1. Every member of your community should contribute fully
2. Know the difference between the community and the crowd
3. Treat every member of your community as if survival counted on it.
As I wrote this post, I thought of a fourth lesson, more geared toward leadership:
4. Leaders are always teaching, even though they may not realize it.
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