A long time ago in the Interwebs far, far away... I proudly signed off all my posts and emails with the title: Owner, Administrator. Anyone in a 10-mile digital radius from me was made well aware:
I AM AN OWNER AND ADMINISTRATOR. I AM IMPORTANT I PROMISE. I OWN AND ADMINISTRATE!!!
Granted I held off on the all-caps, but still.
My assertion permeated throughout all areas of my online presence.
Though well-intentioned, my identity as an administrator pushed me away from the community I fostered.
I focused more on growing the group rather than being part of the group, thus creating an unspoken hierarchy that placed my members below me.
Recognizing your members are living, breathing, sentient people is one of the most important aspects of community building, but I couldn’t see the forest from the trees.
Part of me enjoyed the authority and power attached to my role as the website’s administrator. But with that power came isolating separation – the dark side if you will.
A community I unknowingly built was unrelatable to me because I was unrelatable to them. Is it possible to remove “me” and “them” from the equation entirely and replace it with an “us?”
Our community members aren’t naive to the fact that someone does technically own the community, and that part of your role as a community leader is administrating. It’s less about the title and more of the mindset. How can you connect with your community? By being relatable and approachable. Better yet? Leading by example.
Shifting your interpersonal narrative from administrator to community leader can profoundly change your community’s culture for the better.
As a community leader, you’ll inevitably perform administrative tasks, including the nitty gritty like group promotions, moderating and reputation (all critical functions for a high-functioning community). However, it’s possible to execute said functions while cloaked under anonymity that the administrator title can provide (that’s not necessarily good or bad, it just is). An important component to community leading is visibility.
For many years, I made sure my Invision Community software was up-to-date, licenses paid, the registration system worked, spam defense was light-saber slicing the plastic-surgery-gambling bots to Tatooine. I was a fantastic administrator, but my presence from my community, the very place I worked tirelessly to keep running, was sorely missed.
The moment I went “all-in,” meaning I decided to become an integral part of my community outside of the administrator role (by commenting on members’ topics, responding back in private message group chats, reacting to content, listening to feedback and opening up about real-life success and failures) is the moment I evolved into a community leader. I wanted to be seen.
My deliberate change of self perception produced exponential growth in terms of traffic and new registrations. More importantly, I became a better community leader.
I feel compelled to not only share pop music news with my community, but also what’s going on in my life. It wasn’t a comfortable transition, but a necessary one. Upon stripping away my title from administrator to community leader, I became a role model. I became someone my members came to for more than just technical forum advice. They wanted to see how I was doing. They wanted to share their wins and losses with me after seeing me succeed and fail in public. They saw me as a person; a leader.
At the end of the day, community leading means forging connections, sharing your highs and lows and showing up for your members. That starts from within, which may feel incredibly awkward at first, but get comfortable with discomfort and watch you and your community blossom.
Thoughts on transforming from administrator to Jedi community leader? Sound off in the comments! And may the +1 be with you.