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Community 101 Series: What to Look for When Selecting Your Community Leader

Posted Jan 02 2011 8:06pm

Qualities, Attributes and Characteristics of an Online Community Leader

Once you decide that an online community will be of value in helping to accomplish your project or company goals the first task to accomplish is to hire a fantastic community leader. This will be the most important decision you make for the community. The success of the community as a whole is contingent on the qualities and skills of this person. So what do you look for? What makes a good online leader?

Genuine Passion – Your community leader must believe in your  mission, company, project (fill in the blank) and what it represents.  Passion and engagement begins with the community leader. They need to be the cheerleader, coach and inspiration of the community.  If they do not buy in and pour themselves into building relationships and constructing knowledge together with community members online, no one will. Community leaders do not just lead- they also instigate and this takes passion and personality. This attribute just can’t be faked and is the most important one to the success of the community.

Photo Credit: Nancy White (click 2xs to make bigger)

Vision of the CEO or Superintendent – Community Leaders must know what the long-term vision of the company/school is  and be able to represent the mission as well. They should be able to find creative ways to work the mission/vision into the activities that take place in the community. They should be willing to make the time to develop a relationship with those in oversight of the project.

Walk the Walk- Community Leaders should be interested in developing community period- both in their global communications outside of your project and within the project’s virtual space . They should be natural collaborators and interested in what other community leaders are doing, especially within their own organization. Community leaders should seek to build community with other community leaders. They should be the poster children for connected learning.

Social – It’s  called social media; so strong social skills are a plus. Great interpersonal skills, the ability to listen well, being a conversationalist, and a good question asker all are positive traits for the community leader to have. In general, this person should be a people person- not shy, and not a loner.

Personable and Open-minded – Not only on the client side, but the employee side as well.  Your community leader will be working with practically every department in your organization, along with people from all walks of life on the consumer side. Whether they’re chatting with an intern, CEO, participant or someone interested in joining your community, they should treat each equally.

Writing Skills – It could be 140 characters, a blog post, a threaded discussion or behind the scenes emails, your community leader will be doing a ton of writing.

Multiple Hats – Your community leader will need to understand how to balance several things or conversations at one time. They need to have great organizational skills, time management skills, and understand how to leverage technology to their advantage in doing their job.

Action Researcher – They must want to grow and learn themselves while they are helping your community participants grow and learn. They need to constantly be reflecting upon their own skills and testing what works and what doesn’t. They need to understand scale and how to learn from the data they collect within the community and from their efforts.

Celebration- Good community leaders find ways to celebrate and share the small and large successes of the community members. When good things are happening to the members in their individual lives the community leader needs to be sharing that information with the community at large.

Online Footprint – Community Leaders should have well developed digital footprints. While you’re Googling them, take a look at things like their participation in other social networks, their comments and other writings to get a feel for their writing style and personality.

Event Organizer – It may be a local tweetup or an online webinar; either way your community leader needs to know how to round ‘em up and keep them entertained. Creativity is a great attribute for community leaders. Finding novel ways to build trust and a sense of community through face-to-face or virtual events is a strength.

Speaker and Rock Star – As of 2010, expect your community leader to be in demand as a speaker at local, national, even international events and conferences to share their experiences and provide thought leadership while representing your work . The more visible they are the more of a win-win it is for both of you.

Teacher – Your community leader will be tech-savvy, and should be able to educate their colleagues on the importance of technology as well as how to do it right. The  focus of the community work should be clearly on outcomes, learning and vision – not the tools themselves.

Bean Counter- Understanding how to and how not to use analysitcs in the support of your community goals is a plus.

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