Should Your Community Manager be a Leader?

Photo cred: Steve Jurvetson

Does a Community Manager need to be a leader?

I asked this question and god a lot of different views after a really insightful conversation with Teresa Basich on twitter.  I think that leadership CAN play a role in community management in a number of ways, but it is not a pre-requisite.

When talking about something as broad and undefined as “Community Management”, you’re going to get a lot of varied angles.

The Community Manager can be a leader in the space.

When I think about this, I think about people like DJ Waldow, the Community Manager for Blue Sky Factory.  People view DJ as a leader in the email marketing space and so his participation in the “email marketing community” will drive potential customers to their service.

I think about people like Andrew Hyde who until recently was the Community Director for TechStars.  Andrew has become a leader in the startup space, starting projects like Startup Weekend (which is so awesome), and so by participating in the start-up space, he drives more recognition and credibility to TechStars.

This obviously isn’t all they do, but I see it as a big part.

If your Community Manager is a recognized leader in the space, their influence can really help your brand.  Imagine if Seth Godin emailed you, personally asking you to write about his project on your blog.  Chances are, you’ll give that email some real consideration.

The Community Manager can be a leader for the brand’s community.

When I think about this role, I think about Ryan Paugh, the Director of Community for Brazen Careerist.  Ryan is extremely active within the Brazen community.  He drives conversations, acknowledges loyal users and is constantly interacting.  He is the leader of the Brazen community in my eyes.

I think about Erin Bury, the Community Manager for Sprouter.  Erin hosts events for entrepreneurs, interacts and drives the community within Sprouter.  She too is a leader for her brand’s community.

This gives the community a central person to turn to with their feedback, and questions.  It gives a face to the brand.

The Community Manager should be a leader within the company.

See Andreana Drencheva’s post that reminded me of this one.

This is an important one. I think that whoever is driving your company’s community efforts should be a leader within your company.

They should be someone who has the authority to make decisions and influence other decision makers.

They should be someone who can take the needs of the community and implement them quickly.

They should be a leader in the company because when they interact, it makes the customer and community feel more entitled.  It lets the community know that you care about them.  If your intern is talking to me on twitter, I feel a lot less connected to your brand than if I’m talking to the CEO.

With that said…

I don’t think that the community manager absolutely has to be a leader.  Or at least, there are different ways to look at it.  I think one great method is the “Lead from behind” method (Thanks Alexa).  It’s about understanding what drives a community and providing the resources for it do grow.  It’s about identifying the natural leaders in your community and letting them lead.

A Community Manager might have more “behind the scenes” responsibilities, depending on their goals.  If they’re more strategy focused, they may just need to be savvy in putting the pieces in place.  They may have more of a marketing focus, working more on campaigns.

What’s your take?  Does a Community Manager need to be a leader?

How To: Find a Mentor

Today’s Mentor Monday post comes from my friend Ryan Knapp.  After reading this post, check out his blog to find out more about him.

Photo cred: Kathy a.k.a. "K"

In 2006 I went from a PhD program in Linguistics to becoming a President/Owner of a minor-league soccer club (quite the life change, right?).  Thrust into my new position, one of the first things I did was make a list of what I needed to be successful.  Right below ‘make loads of $$’ and just above ‘hire an assistant’ I had scribbled ‘Find a Mentor’.

So I Googled, “Find a Mentor” and after reading 10 posts about why a mentor is so important and how to find a mentor in 5 steps (or for $29.99) I had a silent freak out moment,

“Oh God, I DON’T have a mentor…what do I do? Where do I start? and HOW do I find one?”

My previous life in academia I was lucky enough to have been ‘given’ three amazing mentors, or advisers as they are more commonly called.  I know many college students who are stuck with an adviser they despise, but my adviser in High School and my two advisers in College (Dr. Jeri Jaeger and Dr. Wolfgang Wölck) are/were incredible mentors and friends, but I never had to venture further than down the hall to find them.

For the first time in my life I was stuck finding a mentor on my own, and I had no clue.

So I took up an industrious approach and searched out potential mentors and read their bios and scrutinized as if I was interviewing them for a job to work with me.  “Nope, too young.  Nope, not in my field.” Lo and behold I came up empty.

However, after a few months of my failed mentor search I realized something — finding a mentor isn’t about trying to find a mentor at all.

Finding a mentor comes from forming quality connections and relationships with new people without a set outcome in mind.  Using this approach opens up a world of possibilities and you view mentorship in a completely different context.  The ‘search’ becomes unnecessary and your focus shifts to a productive two-way relationship with both give and take.

From the get-go you may have been looking for a big-shot in your field to be your mentor, but just because someone isn’t a big shot means they have less to give you.  Maybe you are a business focused person but your mentor might be someone who is an artist but can show you 1001 different ways to look at a situation.

I have been lucky enough to find two incredible mentors who have been instrumental in my growth professionally and personally.  Both Kiko Suarez and Keith Burtis became my mentors during transitions in my life, and they helped me get to where I am today, and are helping me reach where I’ll be tomorrow.

So, if you do not have a mentor but you are looking, don’t fret.  Put yourself out there and keep on making connections and meeting new people.  The beauty about our world is that your mentor could be someone half way around the world, a group of people, or you might become a mentor to someone in the process.

How did you find your mentor?  Were you looking, or did it just happen?