John Mertz drew inspiration from a grove of aspen trees in the Rockies. In Activate Leadership, Mertz shares about a snowshoe journey into the mountains and powerful revelation by his guide. The guide explained how the aspens grow in community. They do not grow alone. Rather, the aspens are bound together by an incredible root system. Those nuggets of wisdom and the elaboration found in Activate Leadership are a fitting reminder. Leaders are not so different from aspens. They grow better in community.
Research and writing about the burgeoning numbers of millennials in the workplace has given rise to an affirmation of the importance of community. I am grateful for the emphasis. Most leaders have grown comfortable accepting the fact that authentic leadership is a relational journey. But, it’s not unique to millennial leaders. No matter your age the path to great leadership is never traveled alone.
Sometimes the “people side” of leading is just another bullet point on a list of best practices. Are you ready to acknowledge the need for community? The following thoughts about community may help you answer the question, and perhaps spark some positive change in your leadership. When I hear the word community, I draw meaning from positive experiences. These experiences help define community and provide a practical framework for leadership. There are three reasons leaders create community.
Community is knowledge-based.
Before turning to analytics, think about another type of knowledge. In a healthy community, people know one another. How well do you know your team members? A working knowledge of strengths and weaknesses is a start. But, community beckons for more. Even a cursory reading of literature on emotional intelligence reveals many virtues and benefits of social competence. Chief among those virtues is the requisite art of listening and that spawns incredible learning experiences.
Community is about helping others.
A healthy community dispels selfishness. It’s a natural by-product of developing social competence. Community breathes energy and life into collaboration because of purposeful interaction. For some leaders, conversations about building community in the workplace may seem a little too soft. But, there’s nothing soft about building a stronger team. Helping others yields positivity in the workplace. Improving levels of engagement and connection for the purpose of movement toward a shared purpose is a core competency.
Community brings healthy tension.
Without community it’s just too easy to settle into the cozy comfort of stasis. Conversely, it’s hard to hide behind a mask when you live in a healthy community and you are surrounded by leaders who know you and who look for ways to invest in your growth. It’s a place where iron sharpens iron. It’s a place where it’s safe to be vulnerable. It’s not always comfortable. But it’s safe. The virtues of community are not some nostalgic throwback to a forgotten time. Community fosters real growth. Healthy tension becomes a catalyst for personal development.
Look for opportunities to create community together and then anticipate opportunities for new levels of innovation and creativity in your leadership.