Community leadership, online

Date: Thu Nov 08 2007
Having a strong leadership is essential for an online community. The role the leadership has is in focusing the agenda and purpose of the community. Another role the leadership has is the maintanence and operation of the web site. They make sure the bills get paid, the software runs, it gets fixed when it crashes, the security is adequate for the community needs, and so forth.

Effective leadership is about nurturing the community, and helping it grow. Leadership is not about efficient means of dominating others. Instead leadership is about holding an intention to create something in the world, and "enrolling" people into assisting in that creation.

How would you implement a leadership team for an online community?

This is up to you, but here are a few guidelines:

  • Have more than one leader, eventually. You may start with one leader, but over time it will be best if the community intention is held by multiple people.
  • Always be grooming successors to take on leadership duties.
  • The leadership circle will need their own communication channel through which to discuss ideas amongst themselves. It may be helpful to have those discussions in the open, though often it is not.
  • Always remember that the leadership circle does not own the community. They control the purse strings and certain aspects of the community, but these amount to owning the building where the community meets. Again, the community is made from the connections between the people.
  • Be aware that some community members will hate the leadership circle. This is known as transference and no matter how well you accomodate the needs of the community, some will transfer their authority issues onto the leadership circle and be in resistance to anything the leadership circle does.

The leadership circle will generally have greater permissions in the website software than the normal users do. When the leadership makes a decision, they must have the means to enforce that decision. It is with the greater permissions that they can do so.

Usually this means they have extra buttons when they browse the web site, buttons that let them change things.

For example, if a community member posts an inflammatory message, a leadership circle member can edit or remove the message.