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"Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.
It is precisely that simple and also that difficult.”

– Warren Bennis

Communities

How to build your leadership community

Part II

I n the first part, we talked about what it takes to create internal and external tribes. Now, let’s take a look at thought leadership and influential communities as two other ways to implement a community-building strategy.  

BECOMING A THOUGHT LEADER

People form communities around influential individuals and their ideas. When you put the two together you get thought leadership, which is proving to be one of the most powerful ways to build communities. Thought leadership benefits both your company and yourself in the form of increased visibility, trust, and goodwill that comes from providing value to your group. Typically, this involves leveraging you or your company’s unique expertise in a particular area to create content around which people can unite. This concept is also related to the idea of personal branding, now a staple of building influence and leadership stature.

An example of thought leadership can be seen with the lean startup movement which emphasizes rapid iterations and validating ideas before launching full products. In startup circles, this “lean” idea has become a lifestyle and philosophy for many. In a similar vein, for more established organizations, you have the agile development movement which emphasizes a structured method for expediting company workflow. Like lean, agile has created an entire ecosystem and community around a set of ideas and processes – from community meetups to consultants that assist companies in making agile transformations.

JOINING INFLUENTIAL COMMUNITIES

Aside from building your own communities, you will want to join and align yourself with already established organizations. For business leaders, the most obvious sources of community can be found in general leadership networks, entrepreneurial organizations, industry groups, and political action committees. But you don’t need to limit yourself to business interests – you can join influential communities around philanthropic endeavors such as education and clean water or art and cultural associations.

What are the attractions of these (partially leaders-only) organizations? It’s human nature to want to associate with people who share something in common with you, especially when that something is as universally attractive as success and money. Business leaders can justify their time and money commitments to these organizations solely for their transactional value, resulting from connections they make. But leaders are no longer measured only by money and deal-flow. The values of these leadership organizations go far beyond that and no longer serve only those who have achieved success on the bottom line. From expert counsel to warm introductions, these communities provide value in various ways.

If you’re considering joining another community, here’s a quick overview of the main types:

Type 01 – Leadership Organizations

These groups are focused on the professional role of leaders, specifically C-suite, founders, and board leaders.Communities are formed around the unique status and challenges of being a business leader. These communities are particularly important due to the lack of emotional and mentoring support for leaders once they reach the top.

 

Type 02 – Industry Organizations

Associations and regulatory boards bring together industry professionals to provide advice on best practices and ensuring that the operations of members contribute to the advancement of the industry and vice versa.

 

Type 03 – Political Organizations

Industry groups typically congregate and work together to participate in the political realm. This plays out in the form of lobbying and action committees where companies and industries, or whole regions or countries, attempt to influence politicians to provide more favourable outcomes, at least from their perspectives.

 

Type 04 – Philanthropic Organizations

Influential and affluent individuals come together with social activists and social entrepreneurs to go beyond the profit motive and create change for its own sake. There are funders and fieldworkers and many in between who need to coalesce for success.

 

Type 05 – Cultural Organizations

Being part of a community doesn’t necessarily have to serve any purpose other than having new experiences, participating in entertainment, and enjoying life. But a natural side effect is that these experiences and events can lead to holistic individual growth and a greater sense of wellbeing.

 

Type 06 – Cause-related Organizations

Causes attract people from across the board and focus on working together to improve the world through aspects such as charity, improved education or new initiatives. Participants may include passionate individuals from all stripes of life: a local school teacher and chief executive may both share an interest in improving public schooling.

The days of the lone hero are past: Key issues can only be solved with broad alignment and active engagement of leaders across the full spectrum of enterprise and endeavor.”

In the future, the importance of cultivating leadership communities will only grow. Traditionally, businesses could operate in a cold transactional manner with no real connection to the customer. With the rise of the internet and social media, this closed approach is dead in the water. In its place is a brave new world brimming with social and business entrepreneurs, each competing for attention and engagement with branding, personal engagement, and aspirational customer lifestyle taking center stage. In the future, various communities, operating in the cloud, but activating grass roots citizens and enriched by mass participation, will provide the performance stages, immersive experience, the social engagements, and the platforms for our interactions and transactions.

The goal of all communities is to create the viral and network effects that catapult growth and make them central forces in the lives of their members and the broader society. That is no small challenge, but leadership organizations like The Argonauts, YPO and EO together with social learning initiatives like MindValley and IVY are generating excitement with their commitment to knowledge sharing, curated best practices, and an open-ended social university – one might call it a multiversity – capable of supporting and scaling the blossoming of these new communities of our digital age.

In the near future, we can expect to see more alignment and participation between communities. Influential communities and tribes are cooperating with each other to solve problems and work on projects at scale. The days of the lone hero are past: Key issues such as protecting the environment, addressing income equalities and maximizing human potential can only be solved with broad alignment and active engagement of leaders across the full spectrum of enterprise and endeavor.

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