Episode 14: Community

Listen Here

In this series, we're focusing on nourishing a culture of leadership by applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this episode, we're exploring Community. As a leader, it's important to recognize the difference between organizational development and community development. And that community development is as important to pay attention to for organizational success as organizational development is.

Leadership Development Focus: Community

As we approach this topic of leadership skillfulness with community in organizations, we offer you two assumptions that we believe are important when considering community.

Assumptions about Community

Assumption One: When two or more people get together around a common purpose, you have an organization. Development and growth follow...or it dies.

Assumption Two: A sense of community develops among the people in an organization.

It is helpful for people engaged in leadership to have some understanding of organizational development theories...and of community development theories. Organizational development and community development are not approached in the same way and are not considered to be the same.  The comparison is too complex a topic to get into here.  Simply being aware that they are not the same may be useful to you, especially if you are familiar with one path of practice but not the other.

Developing a Sense of Community

Keeping our focus on community, and hence on community development, let us take a little peek at community development. Going back some time in history, there was community development in relation to a common purpose for personal or community betterment, also showing up in tribal behavior. An example would be the ‘settlement house’ movement in Canada in which a ‘settlement house’ was established in some of the major cities, in areas where new immigrants would be located to assist them in various ways including community development. Of course, as people settled and were able to do so, they moved away from those neighborhoods, and yet many of those neighborhoods had some sense of continued community around the settlement house.

In more recent history, until the 1990’s, a focus of developing a sense of community was to have a common enemy...city hall, a disaster to be overcome, a boss. Having an enemy drew people together to form a community. Foe based community development tended not to be sustainable community development as the community seemed to dissipate if the ‘enemy’ was overcome or removed.

Since the 1990’s, there has been greater emphasis again on developing a community by having an attractor field of a common purpose to achieve something important together. There are efforts to accomplish sustainable engagement in community around the shared purpose as the shared purpose remains a constant anchoring energy for the community. Developing community and creating sustainable communities continues to be explored as we find ways that work. Sustainable community in this sense is not referring to the common concept of environmentally sound practices for sustainability. Rather, it refers to being able to sustain a sense of community feeling and engagement…this may of course include care for the environment.

Does the Formal Leader Fit Into the Sense of Community within the Organization?

If the foe to accomplish a sense of community is perceived to be the formal leader, does the formal leader fit in? No, the formal leader does not fit into the sense of community but is perceived as separate and apart from community. There was a leadership style that lasted for decades and in some instances still does, in which the formal leader led by fear, reinforcing the separation.

If a shared purpose is perceived to accomplish a sense of community, does the formal leader fit in? Even if the sense of community is around a shared purpose, a purpose that the formal leader also shares, the answer to whether the formal leader fits into the sense of community is a ‘yes and no’. The formal leader’s role in community within the organization, and amongst external stakeholders is to be in the community by showing up and being fully present in the community while simultaneously not being in the community. It is a difficult and paradoxical stance to take, showing up and being fully present while simultaneously being detached from the outcome of feeling included in the community.  If you imagine taking a physical stance in which one foot is in front of you, and one foot is behind you, it is similar to this situation. The front foot is fully present to community and the people in it, while the back foot is firmly rooted in detachment from being included in the community. It is a difficult stance to retain balance in, not impossible, just difficult.

If a shared purpose is perceived to accomplish a sense of community, does leadership within the organization fit in to the sense of community? If a culture of leadership exists, it is possible for people to engage in leadership and participate within community, accepted by the community. When a culture of leadership is not present, those engaged in leadership have a tough time retaining a sense of community with the community. Pockets of acceptance as being part of the community exist. Others react against those engaged in leadership, not accepting people engaged in leadership as part of the community. This latter is sadly frequent, putting pressure on the person engaged in leadership to conform to the norm of the community or to be excluded from the community.

Developing Leadership Skillfulness with Community

Action 1: Show Up and Be Fully Present

Develop your ability to show up and be fully present. This requires discipline, self awareness, noticing, and self correction.  This requires the discipline to say to oneself ‘I will do what it takes to learn how to show up and be fully present’. There is no common definition of what it means to show up and be fully present , but basically, it is showing up with your mind, heart and spirit, and not having part of yourself focused on something other than what you are present to in the moment. For example, no texting, emailing, or making a grocery list when you are showing up to be fully present to someone or to the community of people.

You can begin this action by coming to your own realization of what showing up and being fully present means. For example, it is common enough to show up and be fully present for that which feels good. Are you also including that which does not feel good to you when you contemplate showing up and being fully present? There are a number of resources that you can tap into to develop your skillfulness, and yet what we outline here in Action #1 would give you a good beginning.

Action 2: Pay Attention To Your Thoughts

Are you attached to feeling included as part of the community? Can you master retaining a loving energy, an attitude of gratitude maybe, while detaching yourself from the attachment to be part of the community yourself?

Learning to detach from outcome, in some spiritual practices, is a more advanced level of mastery. Yet, we need to be able to do so in our leadership skillfulness with community. As you are learning to be detached from outcome, be careful not to detach with an aloofness. To be detached from outcome without being disconnected. This is not healthy for you or for the people. Rather, it is detachment from outcome with a loving energy.

Aside from noticing your thoughts, it is helpful to meditate daily, going into the state of stillness that comes in meditation, and supports you in growing your capacity to detach from outcome.

Action 3: Learn to create and nourish a culture of leadership

These are a few simple words with a lot of meaning behind them. If leadership is valued throughout your organization’s culture, people engaged in leadership can retain participation in the sense of community. To get started, you can go through the different facets of what is offered in the Extraordinary Leadership Network’s Leadership in a Coffee Break series and consider what would be beneficial to you in creating and nourishing a culture of leadership.

Strengthening Your Leadership Skillfulness with Community

You can strengthen your leadership skillfulness with community by going through the modules in Leadership Development in a Coffee Break on a regular basis, year after year. Every time you go through, you will notice different things because you will be experiencing the learning from a different stage of your development.

As well, you can strengthen your leadership skillfulness with community by sponsoring meetings in your organization that address real issues of business or community concern or opportunity using the meeting method Open Space Technology. Open Space Technology, by its nature, requires a non-interventionist approach by the facilitator within a well defined structure. It also requires a leader, throughout the meeting, to be fully present and yet detached from outcome.

About the Developing Leadership Series

We work the Genuine Contact way, nourishing a culture of leadership, applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this learning series, Birgitt Williams and Rachel Bolton are sharing our own wisdom and insights about the art of leadership. We'll be inviting you to consider your own experiences in life and business so far, and how you want to further your leadership development with this theme.

In this series, our intention is to offer you unique opportunities to continually develop your leadership. By developing your leadership you expand your potential. Your life changes and you gain greater insights and capacity for leading your life. Your leadership of your team, organization, congregation, and even your family brings about possibility thinking, transcending ordinary thinking and ordinary results.

In each episode, we will be exploring one key principle. You will hear our own experiences and understanding of each of these timeless principles.  We'll suggest simple activities you can do to develop your own leadership by working with these principles too. Subscribe to receive future episodes by email.

Rachel Bolton
Follow Dalar International Consultancy:
We specialize in developing leaders, teams, and organizations for the new leadership paradigm of "leading so people will lead". In this series, our Dalar team of Birgitt Williams and Rachel Bolton are sharing our own wisdom and insights about the art of leadership.
Rachel Bolton
Latest posts from

Leave a Reply