Lessons Learned About Community Leadership

It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve in technical community leadership at the local (Richmond Virginia) and regional level. It’s not the same as managing geeks, but there are similarities.

I’ve considered serving on a national level but not taken that plunge. Over the years I’ve learned some lessons that I thought I’d share. I believe some of this stuff applies to everyone at all times, not just leaders when they are leading. In no particular order I offer the following:

  1. Serve the people you lead. As often as possible, do the non-glamorous parts of the job. Show up early. Stay late. Clean up. Take out the trash. Strive to help. Always.
  2. Love the people you serve.
  3. Engage in Active Humility. Respond to compliments by reminding folks you’re part of a team. Mean that when you say it. Be an example of service and love. Never believe your publicity or trust in popularity.
  4. Listen to the Community. Prove you’re listening by implementing some of their suggestions. Give credit to those who made the suggestions.
  5. Own your mistakes. Apologize when you’re wrong. Apologize when you’re right but you offended someone. There’s no statute of limitations on apologies because there is no statute of limitations on hurt feelings. I was reminded of this when I apologized for something I did years ago. The first response was, “Well that was a long time ago,” which was accurate. But then this person shared details… it turns out it wasn’t too long ago after all. I share this not as criticism but as proof. It stinks to get hurt. It stinks more to not receive an apology.
  6. Empower and enable others. Leaders multiply leaders. Community leadership takes a village. Assume a team with members leaving and joining is the norm because, well, it is.
  7. Cherish the opportunity to lead. Like all things, this too shall pass. You will miss leading when you’re done.

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