Building a community is an exercise in leadership, but not in the traditional sense.
As a community leader, your role is less about having all the answers and more about fostering an environment where members feel empowered to contribute their expertise.
This is the holy grail of communities – a place where members are empowered and able to contribute their insights, expertise and energy to create something greater than any one of use could have made.
Taking this step can be scary, but it's critical for your success. I had to take this step with my first online community – and it turned disaster into a 17+ year project that continues to this day.
My Launch Failed and My Community Won
In 2007, I had this big idea to start an online community for endurance athletes. I was pumped, fired all my one-on-one clients to dive into this new thing. Then, bam, things went south real fast.
I had hired this tech firm, dropped $50,000 on them. But they just couldn't deliver. All I got was this lousy webpage, not the awesome platform I dreamed of. Less than 24 hours pre-launch I was miserable, wondering how I had failed all of these people.
So, I decided to just spill it to my community. "Folks, it's a mess." Expected them to bail, but guess what? They didn't. They actually rallied. Designers, marketers, photographers in the group stepped up. They were like, "I can do this part. Let's fix this together."
And that's what we did. We turned that trainwreck into something real. It hit me then – building something cool isn't just about the idea; it's about the people who get behind it. We pulled it off together, and it turned out way better than I ever imagined...and is still growing today. You can read the gory details here.
Embracing Member-Led Initiatives
Introducing events and activities initiated by members themselves allows for a level of experimentation and creativity that wouldn't be possible if everything was top-down.
This approach takes some of the burdens off your shoulders as a leader. You don’t need to fill every gap, learn every new skill, or stretch your schedule to accommodate every new idea.
Instead, your job is to find, engage and empower the people with skills to grow!
The Power of Delegating Responsibility
By delegating the responsibility for certain events to members, you lighten your workload and enhance the value of these activities.
When members lead an event, they bring their unique perspectives and skills, making the experience richer and more relatable for other members.
The best communities have spaces for members to grow. If your community is built like a maze that lab rats have to finish, nobody wins.
Cultivating a Culture of Experimentation
Encouraging member-led initiatives also fosters a culture of experimentation within the community.
It takes the pressure off of you – and it enables members to try out new ideas in a supportive environment. If your community isn't a place to try new things, it's probably not going to make it.
Bonus that "member events" bring far less pressure for others – FOMO is reduced and the vibe grows.
The Ripple Effect of Member-Led Events
The impact of these member-led events goes beyond the event itself. It sets a precedent, showing other members that they can contribute significantly.
The realization that the value of the community is within the membership is transformational powerful.
Being a community leader is really about setting the stage for your members to shine. It's not about being the star of the show, but about spotlighting the incredible folks in your community.
Here's the Playbook for Creating Member-Led Events
Adapt this to fit your model, and keep going. The road might get bumpy but that's where the magic happens.
- Be Present and Engage: You’ve got to be active in your community. It's not about overseeing from a distance. Get in there, interact, and really get to know your members.
- Spot the Superpowers: Every member has something special, their own superpower. It might be something they tell you, or you might just pick it up from watching them in action. Whatever it is, that's your goldmine.
- Encourage Them to Lead: Reach out, maybe through DMs or a quick chat, and see if they’d be interested in leading a session or sharing their skills. Some might jump at the chance, others might need a bit of encouragement.
- Show Your Support: When they do step up, make sure you’re right there cheering them on. Add your voice to theirs. It’s crucial that everyone in the community sees this is the kind of initiative you value and support.
- Give Them a Shoutout: Recognition is key. Whether it’s in your community forum, a newsletter, or a social post, make sure you give them a big thanks. It shows everyone that this is the kind of leadership and participation that makes your community great.
Looking for more? I consult with community builders and lead the occasional workshop. Learn the details and book the consult call that will unlock the power of your audience here.