For some being a leader at work is not enough – they needed another area where they can fulfil their leadership potential, at the same time making other’s life a bit easier and maybe also happier. That’s what community leadership is to me – a unique type of leadership that’s aimed at group of interests, often based on place/location.
Why would you want to be a community leader?
- You can make a difference – have some key contribution that can change the community, improve your surrounding or make someone’s life better
- It develops you as a person and a leader. In community you will come across challenges you normally won’t experience at work
- You can share your knowledge and shape other leaders
Understanding the community
- Understand what integrates the community – what do people have in common? Maybe a purpose – special care after nature, a situation they are in – members of the new estate.
- Understand what divides the community. This will be the items you need to treat with special care – try to address but don’t force them. Tackle step by step.
- Understand internal and external relationships. Who influences who, what subgroups have been created, who dislikes who, who’s an outsider, what sources of external influence you have to deal with. Identify the influencers and the “grumpy cats”. Create tactics to tackle them all.
How to become a community leader?
- Listen to people. Hear what people have to say, understand their problems
- Get the buy in for what you do. Allow people to participate in shaping the change, influence the influencers; create a strategy for “grumpy cats”
- Be ‘the news person’. Build relationships with key people and organizations. Have the news before others do, become the source of key information
- Mobilize others. Put them forward, encourage to pick up and own actions. Don’t force your ideas, embrace others, promote teamwork
- Lead by example. In community we all should be equal. You won’t have your own office nor a personal assistant here. So put your shoulders to the wheel and get going.
- Learn people respect for their space, common purpose and each other. That includes following common rules and doing no harm to others.
- Bring balance. In a big community you will come across contradicting views and interests. Be the one to balance them all, bring order and stability.
- Be the connector. Introduce people to each other so that they can benefit from their relationship.
- Bring fresh blood to the community. This might happen with or without your control – embrace it at any case and turn into your/community benefit.
- Shape new leaders – people who can support the community, lead the change, work together for greater good.
Use case – integrate community of newly built housing estate.
A challenge will be to understand the community – it can take long time as it formulates itself on your eyes. That’s also an opportunity because you can influence and shape it from the very beginning.
- A good start is to set a common collaboration platform – it can be a simple Facebook group or something more complex like a dedicated platform owned by a landlord.
- Next – integration. People need to get to know each other. Arrange a joined barbecue where people can talk, get to know each other, understand where they live, what common problems they have. Other ideas: arrange a secret Santa day for kids, Easter egg hunting, joined decoration of a local Christmas tree
- Spend time on getting to know everyone. Stop at the parking to have a chat, lend a ladder or barrow a screwdriver. Soon you will receive a list of community pain points. At the beginning target more common, unifying problems like getting more trash bins. This will give you a smooth transition into a leader role. It will help you understand each person’s role they will play in the community
- Be the “news person” Establish a relationship with the landlord or estate developer – have the news before others do and share at the collaboration platform. Soon you will become a go to person.
- Be innovative, surprise people – if you need to gather money for something that you arrange for the community don’t ask for money transfer. Put a piggybank in front of your house. This allows people to put any amount of money, it’s anonymized, kills the discussion on who gave and how much. The purpose is being put as the priority here. Make sure you publish receipts afterword’s – that builds trust for future events like this.
- Propose a strategy and a plan for your community. This might include some events, way of collaborating but also some rules to follow and respect
Soon you will get:
- A list of common issues to deal with
- An integrated group that fill fight against any common problems they have
- A strong position of a Leader that has been driving stuff from very beginning – your capital for future
Being a community Leader is a leadership from choice. It not always comes easy, can be draining and frustrating especially that usually it goes with voluntary work, but the satisfaction of changing/shaping the surrounding is bigger than that. That’s a responsibility but a privilege at the same time that as a Community Leader you will get. Dream big, set goals, achieve.