Be an effective community leader – tips from a veteran!

Building and maintaining WomenInTechPK is the hardest thing I have done in my decade long career and it was more to do with my own personality quirks and the way I process things than about the way communities work. I am a socially awkward introvert with a lot of reluctance in starting conversations and an active abhorrence to social settings. So naturally, forming a community online looks like a safer approach for someone like me but trust me it is not. Because the number of people who recognize me now while I am going about my day has grown exponentially and it only makes me a bit more awkward than I usually am.

It has been a little over 3 years since I started from a Facebook group and so far, we have over 6000 female members from all around the globe who are doing amazing work in the technology ecosystem in Pakistan and around the globe. With time, we have accumulated an excellent number of active and invested stakeholders and of course, I have a lot of help in the smooth sailing of this chaotic work.

I have learned a lot in this adventure of creating something meaningful and today I want to share a few tips with you. These tips may or may not work for you because WomenInTechPK is not a business/product/service-oriented community and the sole purpose of its existence is to work towards the inclusion of women in the technology ecosystem and in Pakistan’s economy. Truth to be told, it has turned into a mini NPO. So whatever I am telling you today, is coming from my experience and context.

Still interested? Great, read on!

1.Create a culture

You need to build a culture of trust, transparency, respect, and authenticity. This is more important than having a written set of rules or having a team of spam police.

2. Don’t tolerate assholes.

It comes right after building a culture of respect. Don’t be scared of letting people go and make sure they know why they have been removed or banned. Don’t tolerate people disrespecting others, spamming or polluting the space, or creating chaos.

3. Show Gratitude

Showing gratitude to your community members for their valuable time should be part of your every day. Be it someone who is responding to a query, posting jobs or contributing overall. In our community, we do that by posting monthly insights and thanking the top contributors.

4. Be more

Whatever you plan on doing with your community, make sure you have plans to turn it into something more substantial. Don’t be just a bunch of people who likes to gossip or share random things, be more like a place of safety, ideas, and transparency.

5. Setup onboarding questions

If your community is on Facebook (like ours), this can prove pretty useful for you. Use a set of questions, no more than 3 to weed out unwanted membership requests. Keep them simple and to the point and also, make sure you keep on updating them over time.

6. Attention is overrated

You will see that a lot in community leaders, they think attention can turn them into better leaders. I think otherwise, working behind the scenes is highly underrated and helps in building character. Also, people around you will most probably follow suit and find meaningful avenues for themselves rather than seeking momentarily attention.

7. Don’t hold grudges

People will disagree with you, will be mad at you for taking a stand, you will bear anger tantrums, will be involved in petty drama, you will also be name called. Whatever happens, learn from it and let it go. Holding grudges will lead nowhere, also, your work is mainly to unify people and create a common ground, so stay focused on that!

8. Pass the torch!

When the time is right, make sure you let someone else take the rein. It is absolutely important for community leaders to pass the torch to aspiring leaders and give them the necessary tools and mentorship to excel in this role.

9. Measure your effectiveness

Be it using your group insights for engagement or doing online surveys or even talking to members individually, it is a must-do for a mission-oriented community leader to measure their impact and effectiveness, this data can help in creating better plans and fine-tuning the existing activities.

10. Keep your eyes on the prize

You will get distracted and lose focus, not just once but repeatedly, trust me on that!

But what you need to do it to realign yourself and create periodic rituals so that you stay focused on achieving your goals. In my case, I spot-check my community daily, talk to a few members each day and consult with my community plans every other day. Find something that works for you and stick to it!

See how none of these tips are around growing your community in numbers? The reason being, I strongly believe that communities should grow organically and their members should value them for their effectiveness and culture and not for their size.

I hope these tips will help you on your journey to be an effective community leader.

Do you run a community and have some advice for me? Feel free to tweet at me!