What Makes a Great Online Community Leader?

Updated: Mar 23

According to Gustav Nossal, a renowned Research Biologist, community leadership involves “the courage, creativity, and capacity, to inspire participation, development, and sustainability, for strong communities”.

As ‘participation’ is slightly synonymous with ‘engagement’, the definition is certainly applicable to the notion of online communities.

How can you become, or continue to become, the greatly needed figurehead for your

online community of members and followers?

We found Dr Sara Eaton’s analysis of community leadership well-constructed and detailed.

Here, we’ll build upon five of her key points, with an online community perspective.

1 They Understand Individuals

Your online community consists of individuals, or users. These individuals have their own unique goals, missions, targets, interests, activities, personalities, and qualities. By spotting the strengths of each individual, a leader can effectively give guidance on meaningful micro-contributions to the community.

So, understanding who your members really are, is wonderful leadership. With such understanding, each member will feel valued, and stay motivated to contribute.

2 They Ensure Teamwork & Collaboration

In The Community Model for Membership & Subscription Businesses, we highlighted how effective communities share a common purpose.

If 40 out of 100 of your members are disengaged, simply disregarding them is a counterproductive approach. Instead, it’s worth researching and testing ways to get these disengaged members to collaborate with your most engaged members.

That is, to collaborate in line with your community’s purpose.

Also, a healthy and vibrant community dynamic may not necessarily involve blind worship of the community leader. Rather, it may arise with opportunities to collaborate.

So, a great leader will ensure those opportunities are accessible, and oversee.

3 They Inspire Action Through Mobilisation

Suppose all of your members are in love with your business and community. Without member action, it’s invisible and intangible. There’s little influence.

‘Mobilisation’ is far from militarily ordering members about. It’s closer to suggesting and assigning tasks that favour the individual member’s interests, which also favour your community’s trajectory. In essence, there’s a balance to strike.

Consider a medium-term goal for your online community. Then, market it as a fun and collaborative project. Once you’ve split the project into tasks, ask your most engaged members to ‘help build the community’ by offering them a task that they would like.

4 They Remain Accountable

Your members must feel safe within your community. They must feel as if their leader is supporting and protecting them, even when things aren’t working the best.

The best community leaders take ownership of their decisions and practices, to support

and protect. Simon Sinek’s book titled ‘Leaders Eat Last’, focuses on this concept.

“The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest”.

Thank you Simon Sinek! That’s moving stuff!

5 They Have Foresight

A community leader undeniably has the most information about the community’s future.

And, a great leader will anticipate its future challenges.

Moreover, painting the ‘bigger picture’ to members is an underestimated part of ensuring collaboration and inspiring action, two points that we mentioned previously.

Foresight is what’s initially needed for that. So, ask yourself those futuristic questions!

Read more of Dr Sara Eaton’s insights on this topic, by clicking the link below! Though she primarily focused on in-person communities, there are interesting online parallels.

https://drsaraheaton.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/10-characteristics-of-community-leaders/ In future releases, we’ll dive deeper into online community leadership strategies. Stay tuned!

If you are a community leader, or in the business of community, try a Ugenie hub, for free, for 45 days.