Leading by Letting Go: The Community Empowerment Revolution
Building community doesn’t work as a solo endeavour. When it’s a collective journey, people take turns to lead.
This means you create spaces where like-minded people connect, learn, grow and have their time at the front. Often it requires stepping aside. For any community to progress, it’s important to shift the focus from one or few individuals to the community as a whole.
In a world that champions individuality but also magnifies isolation, the allure of collective growth is powerful.
We can’t work in silos and wave at the rest of the world to pay attention to us and seek validation and proof of our worthiness. To thrive, we need to commit wholeheartedly to the collective spirit of the community.
In this article, let me share the importance of stepping aside and let others lead from the front.
The Perils When It’s On One Person
Sole leadership leads to pitfalls within a community.
If a community becomes over-reliant on one person who is always at the front, it risks collapse. Who is to say they are as invested and enthused when take-up doesn’t live up to expectations? The same person leading everything can also create an echo chamber, when it becomes a single agenda, limiting the diversity of thought and action.
This was reflective of myself when I used to take everything on board with YATM. When it’s all on you, it can also become draining. As the years have progressed what has happened is the ability to step away and let others take the lead.
It’s about building a place of trust, something that can’t be achieved alone.
A Framework For Others To Have Their Turn
For a community to keep momentum, an environment has to be shaped that inspires people to lead.
It’s about finding new opportunities. This ensures it’s not all on one person’s shoulders.
For collective leadership to work, it’s important to invite community members, where trust becomes the currency. This is how it works, step by step if you can see a time when it is time to pass the baton to others.
Create the environment where people want to be.
Building community means it has to be visible, it doesn’t have to be hidden away in a Slack group or on Discord. It works when people can look around and see others and feel that they can be a part of it. It works when there is a central place to which people are attached, such as a newsletter or a Facebook Group. Over time, they become comfortable that this a space they enjoy spending time in.
Let people see the effort you put in.
A community builds from the few to the many. When beginning, a lot of the work is down to one person. This is the person who shows up, continually. This is where persistence and delivery are important. There has to be a willingness to share authentic stories, where challenges are and putting ourselves out there, even when it feels lonely.
Find ways to get others involved.
When people make themselves known to you, it opens up the thought process that you can open doors. It doesn’t have to be grand gestures, but ways for others to know they can join in that involve a small amount of effort. For instance, it could be input for an article, or it could be sharing someone else’s work with the rest of the group. It’s important to know that others have a role to play.
Then invite people to lead.
Trust plays such a huge part in handing over to others, but is essential. For instance, if a person stepped up with their own agenda, this can harm the whole dynamic. If there is no familiarity this can also create an imbalance. It takes time and the moments that feel right to hand over to someone else, become gut instinct.
Give the new leaders full support.
If you hand over and walk away, it means the unwritten etiquette that has taken time to build, becomes fragile. To someone else, taking the lead can be completely new to them. Whilst you may not be involved, you still need to give support and guidance, as well as appreciation. What you are doing is making something better as a collective approach, rather than an isolated drive. When you join the dots, you back each other up to create a memorable final output. What you are doing is making someone else feel comfortable and championed, so when they step up again, it feels natural.
Sharing Proof With You
You Are The Media Lunch Club events are now being delivered without me as the host, but others from the community to lead. This has already happened in Bath and Bristol, but not with the events near to home.
The recent October event was delivered without me in the room!
Christophe Stourton took the microphone and lead the event. It still picks up on the show element with different sections, but one person to gel the occasion together.
The sections remain, such as a challenge (have a look below at the most Post It Notes on your face in one minute), but with a different host for each event.
What I wanted to prove is that the theme and idea around which the community gathers is more important than one individual’s drumbeat.
The theme and approach is how businesses can be self-sufficient and build their own space, where people want to be. When people attend a YATM event the focus is to give people the confidence to create. For instance, for the last event, we set a task for people to use AI to create ideas for Santa’s grotto being built on Brownsea Island. The intention was to give people the confidence to apply their side.
The occasions we create are for people to ask, to share, have fun, to pick up an idea and help them with their own efforts. More importantly, it is the ability to scale camaraderie. When people come together for an in-person event, it is more about the collective effort than it is about the person at the front of the room.
This all comes about by the collective strength of the group. That is what community represents.
If you can see progress, let others put their own interpretation when it feels right for them.
Christophe Stourton, who lead the most recent YATM Lunch Club, shared this perspective of being at the front. “I don’t see being a leader as something separate from the task; if you are doing your job well as a leader, then leading is what you are doing well.
“My aim for Lunch Club, was to build on its success as an event with a buzz, that people wanted to be at, to participate in, learn and socialise (to tell their friends they’d been to it!). The challenge was to lead in my own way while keeping to the ethos that is established by Mark (Masters).
“I knew I had the freedom to think creatively; to bring ideas forward to add to what was already there, and be committed to making them happen. Yes, I felt responsible for this event but I also knew that I had been trusted with it, and that support was always there when needed – and that’s Mark doing his job well as a leader.”
What I Have Learned So It Can Work For You
To now be in a place where the community leads comes from initial groundwork.
There will come a time to let go.
Holding too tightly to the reins can stifle community growth. Allowing others to put their unique spin and personality, can lead to unexpected and exciting outcomes. For instance, Liam Toms is a game show host and he leads YATM Game Nite events like no other with the talent he has.
Others can develop their place within the community.
When someone steps into the middle, it helps when there are familiar surroundings already there for them. It can also be rewarding such as recognition by others and having a central role to play means more opportunities to progress.
People need the freedom to interpret in their own way.
YATM doesn’t come with a rulebook, more the ability to keep with a format. People don’t want to be micromanaged, they need trust and support. Members of the community can make valuable contributions.
Empowering community members to lead helps to amplify enthusiastic contributions. To see it happen is contagious and motivates others to actively participate. You want to do it again.
When community members know their contribution and participation matters, the entire community prospers.
By letting others lead, a community becomes more valuable by continuously incorporating new activities and ensuring that people remain engaged.
The community leadership approach is clear: create an environment where collective leadership thrives, foster a sense of camaraderie and collaboration, and shift the focus from an individual leader to the strength of the community itself.
Remember, building community isn’t about a solo performance; it’s the school band where everyone takes centre stage, giving it their best shot to play in tune together and then the solo loops. That means we create something pretty special.