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Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Creating a Culture of Community Leadership in Your Company


Organizational culture has undergone a transformation in the past five years. Industry leaders like Microsoft have experimented with shorter work weeks and Google has allowed employees to take control over their remote working schedules. These big businesses have made serious investments into the people that make their workplaces exceptional, and are seeing the reward in reduced turnover and higher efficiency.

This human-interest approach to organizational culture has been a breath of fresh air for many, but it’s also exposed poor leadership in business and has exacerbated the unrealistic expectations that managers and decision-makers have about how their business should operate.

Nonetheless, big and small businesses know that investing in your people is the way to go, and there’s no better way to start that investment than creating a culture of community leadership within your company.

Defining “Culture”

The importance of having a strong organizational culture has grown in the past few years. Organizational culture is loosely defined as the “shared values and beliefs that inform how people within a company behave.” These values and beliefs shape the way that companies work, and are felt in every department from HR to finance.

While organizational culture doesn’t have a singular origin point, it is up to leaders to ensure that the culture of a business is instilled in all external and internal operations.

While this sounds simple, organizations should be particularly picky about the people they choose to lead their business and should seek out the true leaders in their companies — people who ensure that other employees feel safe and valued.

The Value of Leadership

Effective leadership makes a world of difference to a company. It ensures that organizational culture stays on track, and helps improve your bottom line by reducing turnover rates, improving customer service, and creating an engaged workforce that works hard to deliver innovation and higher profits.

However, those in leadership positions aren’t always best suited to leading a team at your workplace. They simply may not have the interpersonal skills to inspire those around them, or might not truly understand the demands and pressures their followers face. This is where community leadership comes in.

Community Leadership

Community leadership is a democratic approach to leadership, in which the decision-makers crowdsource ideas and use contributions from their external and internal community to guide business decisions. This is particularly useful if you don’t have experts on a particular challenge within your organization, but still want to respond to a current trend or social issue.

If you utilize external leaders, you must ensure that you treat them with the same respect and professionalism that you would treat any other guest speaker or industry leader. Community leaders have been working diligently for decades and can help your organization understand its role in combating social problems like racism and climate change.

If you’re more interested in internal community leadership, you can utilize new leadership strategies that have been developed during the pandemic. These strategies intentionally offer new opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups and use digital technology to work efficiently in an age where more of us are working asynchronously than ever before.

Engagement Opportunities

If you’re relying on community leadership for the first time, you might run into one major barrier: lack of engagement. Because employees haven’t been engaged in decision-making before, they may not fully appreciate the opportunity that community leadership presents them, or may see community leadership programs as a waste of time.

To overcome a lack of engagement, consider utilizing the following community leadership strategies:

       Employee Development Initiatives: Setting aside time for employee development will signal that your company genuinely values its employees. This will help improve your company culture and will ensure that folks are more likely to engage with leadership initiatives.

       Use Feedback: Managers around the world claim to have an “open door” policy for feedback, but few implement the feedback they receive. To increase engagement in community leadership models you must actively use and publicly credit any employee feedback which has improved your business.

       Allow for Anonymity: Sometimes workplace politics can be complex and can stop folks from bringing forward useful ideas. While we all hope that everyone feels comfortable at work, you should also give people the chance to share their ideas anonymously.

       Set Aside Time: Your employees are probably working harder than you appreciate. So, adding something extra to their plate is unlikely to fill them with joy. Instead, tell them that you are setting aside time to work on community leadership, and adjust any deliverables accordingly.

It’s also worth noting that your employees will be far more likely to engage in opportunities that make a meaningful difference in their local community. This kind of external community engagement is deeply rewarding as employees will see the difference that your organization makes in the real world, and can feel proud to represent a company that supports local businesses, sponsors local events, or helps to beautify the local area.

Planning for Disruption

Opening up your organization to democratic thinking through community leadership will almost certainly lead to disagreements and arguments between employees. However, this disagreement and argument is a good thing — so long as you have a strong framework that guides the discussion and helps you overcome stalemates.

As a decision-maker within your business, you should plan for discontent and disagreement by establishing clear rules for discussions and should have a system in place that supports employees who may be having a hard time adjusting to community leadership. This will look different depending on your business, but it will save you serious headaches in the future.

Creating a culture of community leadership is a difficult but deeply rewarding process. When done correctly, employees will see that their opinions and ideas matter, and will feel great loyalty to your organization. Ultimately, this helps boost your bottom line, and will help improve productivity and spark innovation. 

About the Author: Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and business topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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