Community Leaders and The Problem Of Transparency

December 22, 2014Comments Off on Community Leaders and The Problem Of Transparency

There are three broad creation stories to communities.

The first is the community came together naturally through increasing interpersonal contact. By meeting at various events the community naturally formed. 

The second is a community manager provided a platform and structure for the community to connect. The community manager was a facilitate that kept things on track. 

The third is the community was brought together by a strong leader. In these communities, the leader is often a celebrity in their field with a significant following.

You usually find these leaders have an air of mystery to them.

It’s this mystery that lets them perform the acts which make them a leader. To outsiders, it’s a black hole. Members don’t know what’s in it – so they project their own ideas into this mystery. Their ideas usually include a reason why they can’t also perform the same acts.

Many of us have been following Seth Godin’s work for years and we still don't know how he thinks with such clarity and sees the things we don't. We might believe it’s the result of a unique upbringing. This third sentence is our projection which explains why we can't be him.

In almost every dictatorship, propaganda associates the leader with divinity for this very reason. The audience can’t see it. They can’t replicate it. They project their own thoughts and ideas into the hole. They believe they can’t reach the same level so should follow.

Once the mystery is unveiled, once people understand how the leader performs their feats (or believe they can see it), they believe they can replicate it. This brings the leader down to their level and reduces the power of the leader.

This is why leader-driven communities must be careful about exposure of the leader. The very things that work well for a community created by a community manager are a bad idea for leader-driven communities. The community manager should attend as many meet-up groups as possible, interact with every member, create, publish, and moderate as much content as possible, and take on the work that no-one else wants to do. 

The leader shouldn’t do any of these things. It brings her down to the level of the rest of the community. That's not what members want, not really.

In the leader model, we need a little mystery we can project our own biases into. It's this mystery that captivates us. 

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