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Building A Leader Community Within Your Organization

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Creating a leader community can yield a myriad of benefits for both individuals and organizations. Such groups provide a platform for individuals to connect and collaborate. This fosters a sense of belonging and support, which is vital for personal and professional growth. Members can share their experiences, exchange ideas, and offer guidance, creating a robust support network that can help individuals navigate the challenges of leadership more effectively. These communities often expose leaders to diverse perspectives and approaches, enriching their understanding of leadership and promoting adaptability.

In addition, leader community groups offer excellent opportunities for continuous learning and skill development. Leaders can stay up-to-date with the latest trends, strategies, and best practices in the field, ultimately improving their leadership skills and decision-making abilities. These learning experiences benefit individuals and contribute to the professional development and success of the teams and organizations they lead.

Cross-departmental collaboration

Leader communities play a crucial role in promoting and supporting cross-departmental collaboration within organizations. These communities often consist of leaders from various departments or functional areas, providing a platform for them to exchange ideas, align objectives, and foster a sense of collective responsibility. By bringing together individuals who hold influence within their respective departments, leader communities facilitate open communication and the sharing of best practices. This collaborative environment encourages leaders to transcend departmental boundaries and work towards common organizational goals. It helps break down silos, prevent duplication of efforts, and enhances the overall efficiency of the organization.

Leader communities can also identify and address conflicts or roadblocks to collaboration, fostering a culture of teamwork and cooperation that filters down to the entire organization. In essence, these communities are instrumental in creating a collaborative and harmonious work environment that drives success and innovation.

A Leader community

A leader community is a dynamic network of individuals who share common leadership goals, values, and aspirations. It provides an environment for leaders to collaborate, learn, and grow, ultimately supporting the growth of leaders on various levels. Here are the benefits of developing a leader community.

1. Knowledge Expansion

One of the primary ways in which leader communities support the growth of leaders is by facilitating knowledge expansion. Leaders often face complex challenges that require a deep understanding of various subjects. A leader community provides a space where leaders can share their expertise and learn from others. This knowledge exchange helps leaders stay up-to-date with industry trends, best practices, and emerging technologies.

2. Skill Development

Leadership skills are not innate but cultivated through continuous learning and practice. A leader community offers a supportive environment where leaders can enhance their skills through various means such as:

  • Peer Feedback and Mentoring: Within a leader community, leaders can seek feedback and mentorship from their peers. Constructive feedback allows leaders to identify areas for improvement and refine their skills. 
  • Skill-Sharing Workshops: Leader communities often organize skill-sharing workshops or training sessions. These workshops can cover a range of topics, including communication, conflict resolution, time management, and emotional intelligence. By participating in such events, leaders can acquire practical skills that they can immediately apply in their roles.
  • Leadership Challenges: Some leader communities organize leadership challenges or simulations where leaders can practice their skills in a safe and controlled environment. These challenges often mimic real-world scenarios, allowing leaders to develop problem-solving abilities and adaptability.

3. Personal Growth

Leadership is not just about knowledge and skills; it’s also about personal growth and development. A leader community supports leaders in their journey to becoming more well-rounded and emotionally intelligent individuals. 

  • Emotional Intelligence: Leader communities emphasize the importance of emotional intelligence. Leaders learn to better understand their emotions and the emotions of their team members. They become more empathetic and skilled in managing relationships and conflicts.
  • Confidence Building: Leaders often face high-stress situations that can challenge their confidence. A leader community provides a safe space where leaders can discuss their concerns and receive support from peers who have faced similar challenges. This peer encouragement helps boost confidence and resilience.
  • Networking and Relationships: Building relationships is a fundamental aspect of leadership. Leader communities offer a platform for leaders to expand their professional networks and form valuable connections. These relationships can lead to collaborative opportunities, partnerships, and new ventures.

4. Accountability and Commitment

Being part of a leader community creates a sense of accountability and commitment. Leaders set goals and commitments to their peers, which motivates them to follow through. The community is a support system that holds leaders accountable for their promises and helps them stay on track. 

5. Inspiration and Motivation

Leadership can be a lonely journey, and leaders may face periods of burnout or self-doubt. Leader communities provide a source of inspiration and motivation. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals who share their challenges and triumphs creates a positive atmosphere. Leaders often draw motivation from the success stories and achievements of their peers.

6. Diversity and Inclusion

Leader communities often promote diversity and inclusion, which is essential for the growth of leaders. Exposing leaders to diverse perspectives and experiences helps them become more open-minded and culturally aware. This, in turn, enhances their ability to lead diverse teams and navigate global markets effectively.

7. Collaboration and Innovation

Leaders frequently collaborate on projects, share resources, and co-create innovative solutions. The diverse backgrounds and expertise within a leader community enable leaders to explore unconventional approaches and think outside the box, leading to breakthroughs in their respective fields.

8. Leadership Opportunities

Being part of a leader community often opens up new leadership opportunities. Members may be invited to lead committees, chair conferences, or contribute to leadership publications. These opportunities provide leaders with additional avenues for personal and professional growth, while also enhancing their visibility and influence within their respective industries.

Creating a leader community is an investment in the future of leadership. It serves as a catalyst for knowledge expansion, skill development, personal growth, and continuous improvement. By fostering a culture of collaboration, accountability, and support, leader communities empower leaders to thrive in a rapidly changing world. As the world continues to evolve, the growth of leaders through these communities remains essential in ensuring that leaders are well-equipped to navigate the challenges of the future.

Exercise | Deliberate practice

Starting a leadership community can take time and effort. In our fast-paced society, time is a factor that we don’t have a lot of. It is crucial that when you approach other leaders to talk about forming a leadership community you need to have a clear, concise, and engaging reason to ask for some of their time. The key is to approach them with a plan that outlines what’s in it for them as well as you.

Reasons or needs

If you have read this far perhaps you have a reason or a need for your department or organization to pursue this idea. If you don’t have a journal, you will want to start one for this.

Step 1

From your point of view or perception, list the area(s) and rationale, using the collaborative and professional areas below as a starting point, where you see an opportunity, reason, or need that would benefit from the development and guidance of a leadership community. 

Collaborative reasons

  • Team Building and Bonding: A leadership community can help foster relationships and collaboration among team members.
  • Conflict Resolution: When conflicts arise, having a leadership community can provide a forum for discussing and resolving issues in a constructive manner.
  • Mentoring and Coaching: Experienced leaders can mentor and coach newer or less experienced employees to help them develop their leadership skills.
  • Professional Development: A leadership community can facilitate learning and skill development through workshops, seminars, and training programs.
  • Decision-Making: When important decisions need to be made, a leadership community can provide a diverse perspective and input, leading to better choices.
  • Change Management: During times of change or organizational transitions, a leadership community can provide support and guidance for both leaders and employees.
  • Innovation and Problem-Solving: Leaders can brainstorm and collaborate within a community to find innovative solutions to challenges.
  • Employee Engagement: A leadership community can work on strategies to improve employee engagement and job satisfaction.
  • Performance Management: Discussing performance evaluations and feedback within a leadership community can lead to fair and consistent evaluations.
  • Crisis Management: When a crisis occurs, having a leadership community can help in formulating and executing a crisis management plan effectively.

Professional reasons

  • Professional Growth: Being part of a leadership community allows individuals to continuously develop their leadership skills and knowledge, which can enhance their career prospects.
  • Networking: It provides opportunities for networking with other leaders, both within the organization and in the broader professional community, which can be valuable for personal growth and career advancement.
  • Enhanced Problem-Solving Skills: Collaborating with other leaders in a community can improve an individual’s problem-solving abilities by exchanging diverse perspectives and insights.
  • Increased Confidence: Active participation in a leadership community can boost one’s confidence as one gains peer experience and recognition.
  • Personal Fulfillment: Many people find personal fulfillment in contributing to the growth and success of their colleagues and the organization.
  • Leadership Experience: It provides an opportunity to gain leadership experience in a supportive environment, which can be especially beneficial for emerging leaders.
  • Exposure to Best Practices: Being part of a leadership community exposes individuals to best practices in leadership, allowing them to apply these principles in their own roles.
  • A Sense of Belonging: Being part of a community offers a sense of belonging and camaraderie, reducing feelings of isolation or stress often associated with leadership roles.
  • Personal Growth and Well-Being: Engaging in a leadership community can lead to personal growth, a sense of purpose, and overall well-being as individuals work together to create a positive work environment.

Step 2

Identify three to five peer leaders whom you would like to approach with this idea. These leaders can be from the same department or if you want a more diverse environment invite a leader or two from different departments. Before you spend too much time developing this idea, make sure there are leaders who would be willing to take the time to do this. 

Share with them your thoughts, observations, and your rationale. Ask them what they see happening within the organization or what would be important to them as well, this helps with the buy-in. Ask them right up front if this is something they see value in and would be interested in participating in. 

Step 3

Once you have identified your leadership group invite them to an initial brainstorming meeting. Before the meeting make sure you develop an agenda. For the initial meeting keep your agenda very focused and limited to two or three items of discussion. This is a meeting for everyone to share their thoughts and ideas so the content for the meetings starts to emerge.

These questions can stimulate a thoughtful and informative discussion about the rationale and benefits of establishing a leadership community:

  • Why is it important to establish a leadership community within our organization? This question encourages participants to explore the specific organizational goals and objectives that underpin the need for a leadership community.
  • What are the key challenges or issues that a leadership community can address in our workplace? This question delves into the problems or opportunities the community is meant to tackle, helping to identify the rationale behind its formation.
  • How can a leadership community benefit the personal and professional development of its members? Discussing this question allows participants to explore the individual growth and career advantages associated with participating in a leadership community.
  • What effect can a leadership community have on organizational culture and employee engagement? This question invites reflection on the broader cultural and employee-related benefits of having a leadership community in the workplace.
  • In what ways can a leadership community contribute to the achievement of our long-term strategic goals? Participants can consider how the community aligns with the organization’s strategic direction and contributes to its overall success.

Rules of engagement

If the group decides to move forward, create an agenda template so there is consistency. As a group, decide what areas the group wants to address. Use the list of collaborative and professional opportunities found in step one. Share the responsibility of the meeting facilitator so it doesn’t become a burden to one person.

Meeting rules

I always suggest having a few simple rules for the group. Here are the five rules I always use. You can use these or change them. 

  1. All titles are left at the door. This is a meeting of leaders dedicated to developing a leadership community.
  2. Create a safe space to have open and honest discussions without repercussion or judgment.
  3. Confidentiality, what is discussed in the meeting stays in the meeting.
  4. Practice active listening, trust, empathy, and respect for one another.
  5. Set strong boundaries around what topics are off-limits. 

Step 4

Once you start meeting on a regular basis, make a commitment to each other to be there at the meetings. If you want this to work, you need to be as consistent as you can.

Voice of experience

You might be surprised by how many people ask if this is group therapy. As my leadership community groups develop over time and trust builds between us I would start the meeting by asking the question, “What do you bring to the meeting today?” This is an opportunity for members to share what they are experiencing like anxiety, excitement, burnout, frustration, etc. It gives them space to share how and what they are doing, and it helps with well-being especially when other members begin to realize they are not the only ones feeling that way. 

Even though this meeting has structure it is still organic in the sense that meeting time will naturally evolve to meet the needs of the group based on current situations in the office. You might find yourselves discussing how to best approach annual reviews during that time period of the year rather than another time of the year. 

Give the meetings some space to breathe. You might often find yourselves drifting off-topic and addressing something different, let it happen as long as it’s productive. Do not let this turn into a time to complain about everyone and everything, that is not the purpose, the purpose is to be proactive as a leader. 

Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. What you have is today and this is the best time to begin anything.

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