• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint

Empower Your Leaders

Becoming a leader is a major transition point in the Membership Life Cycle—as significant as the transition from visitor to mem-ber.Not every regular will want to take on a leadership position, but those who do will relish the status and visibility that comes with an officially sanctioned role.

Although it often requires substantial time and effort, playing a leadership role can be tremendously rewarding. It deepens and extends a member’s web of relationships, binding him or her even more tightly into the social fabric of the community. Leaders often learn valuable skills on the job, and they get the satisfaction of helping others and the automatic social status of the insider.

Defining a Leader’s Role

To develop effective leaders in your community, you have to define the roles you need them to play. Different communities require different kinds of leadership, and a detailed account of all possible positions and responsibilities is beyond the scope of this book. There are, however, a few roles that emerge spon-taneously, over and over again, in communities all across the Web. Keep in mind, though, that this isn’t an exhaustive list.

  • Support providers answer questions, help members solve problems they’re having with the system

  • Hosts keep the key community activities (games, conversations, shopping, etc.) running smoothly

  • Greeters welcome newcomers, show them around, and teach them the ropes.

  • Cops remove disruptive members and/or inappropriate content

  • Event Coordinators plan, coordinate, and run one-time and regular events

  • Teachers train community leaders, offer classes, or provide tutoring

  • Merchants run shops, provide services, and fuel the community economy

Of course, not every community needs all these functions. If your community centers around conversations, you may need hosts to keep the discussions lively and focused, greeters to welcome and instruct new members, and cops to remove inappropriate comments or disruptive people. For games or contests, you’ll need support personnel who can resolve technical issues, and deal with reports of cheating and system hacking. For planned and scheduled events (see Chapter 7), you’ll need people to promote, coordinate, manage and follow up those events. These duties aren’t always performed by official leaders, nor are there strict divisions between the roles—the responsibilities can be split apart and recombined depending on the scale and style of your community. For example, hosts on the WELL are responsible for greeting newcomers, keeping the conversation going, and removing inappropriate content.

All these roles may seem a little overwhelming at this point; if your community is small, you probably won’t be dealing with most of them. But as I’ve mentioned, things can change: if your community gets some positive press, you could easily experience a rapid influx of new members that throws your community into disarray. If you’ve thought about leaders in advance, you can respond quickly and effectively if the need arises.

Who’s in Charge?

Any member of a Web community with ideas and initiative might end up an unofficial leader, hosting conversations, scheduling events, or mentoring new members. This may be all a small or casual community (like a mailing list) needs. But if that mailing list were to grow into a full-fledged professional organization, with a bustling Web site, you’d need officially sanctioned leaders with the authority and skills to keep the community running smoothly.

Your formal leaders might be volunteers, staff members, or part-time contractors. Whoever they are, they must be properly selected, trained, and then empowered to do their job effectively. This is not a trivial process: to start with, you need to choose people who are genuinely enthusiastic about the community and eager to improve it, rather than those just seeking social status and power. Then you’ll need to educate them, with both a written leadership manual and some kind of formal training. You’ll need to identify your leaders to the rest of the community, by providing some kind of uniform or identity tag, for example. And you need a way to communicate with your leaders and a way for them to communicate with each other “out of earshot” of the other members.

All these elements go into building an effective leadership program. In the next chapter, we’ll examine each of them in detail and show how to implement them successfully.

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint