Community managers have a lot on their plates. They’re the wheels that keep a community running, ensuring that all members get what they need from the community while taking charge of its day-to-day operations.

Community management goes beyond simple interaction with customers, it’s about nurturing and engaging with people who share a common interest. The goal is to foster a sense of belonging, ensuring that community members feel heard, valued, and involved.

However, the success of community management largely hinges on the leadership style adopted by the community manager. Leadership styles not only dictate the way a community is steered but also have profound impacts on the community's culture, engagement levels, and overall satisfaction.

In this article, we’ll delve into the nuances of various leadership styles of community management. By understanding these leadership styles, community managers can successfully guide their communities to meet their goals.

4 community management strategies that boost online engagement
Building an engaged online community in today’s digital world has never been so important. But what kind of strategies ensure it blossoms? In this article, we shed light on how Community Managers can shape the online identity of a brand.

Understanding community management

The goal of community management is to foster an engaging, valuable, and sustainable relationship between an organization and its members. It involves building and maintaining a supportive and interactive environment, encouraging member participation, managing conflict, and ensuring a collective focus toward shared goals and values.

Community management centers around three key aspects:

  • Engagement: The primary goal of community management is to facilitate active engagement within the community. This involves organizing activities, stimulating discussions, and encouraging collaboration and interaction among members.
  • Moderation: Community managers monitor and guide conversations, ensuring that they remain constructive and align with the community's guidelines. They also manage conflicts and handle inappropriate behaviors to maintain a positive and respectful community environment.
  • Feedback and support: A crucial aspect of community management is listening to the community members' needs, concerns, and suggestions. They often act as a bridge between the community and the organization, conveying feedback to the relevant internal teams.

Community managers are the face of the organization within the community. They drive engagement by fostering relationships, stimulating discussions, and providing value through relevant content and support. In this capacity, they also gather valuable insights and feedback from the community that can guide the organization's strategy and decision-making process.

The community manager's leadership style significantly influences the community's dynamics. An effective leader fosters an environment where open communication, collaboration, and mutual respect thrive. They can rally the community around shared goals, manage conflicts, and create a culture where each member feels valued and heard.

A community manager's leadership style also impacts the level of engagement within the community, the quality of interactions, and the community's overall satisfaction and loyalty towards the organization.

So, the effectiveness of a community is largely contingent on the leadership style of the community manager. Understanding and adopting the right leadership style is a crucial component of successful community management.

A guide to understanding community member roles
Online communities are powerful platforms for brands, and each member plays a specific role. Understanding these roles is essential for effective community leadership.

Leadership styles in community management

A leadership style refers to the approach, behavior, and strategies a leader uses to influence, guide, and manage a group of people. In community management, leadership style greatly influences how a community manager interacts with members, makes decisions, handles conflicts, and fosters an engaging and positive environment.

Several key leadership styles can be used in community management, each with its unique strengths and potential challenges:

Democratic leadership style

Democratic leadership, also known as participative leadership, is characterized by shared decision-making, active member involvement, open communication, and high levels of cooperation. In a community, democratic leaders actively seek input and feedback from members and involve them in decision-making processes.

Benefits: This leadership style fosters a sense of belonging and ownership among community members, encouraging active participation, and generating diverse ideas and solutions. It helps members feel valued and heard.

Drawbacks: There can be a slower decision-making process and any potential indecisiveness if there is a lack of consensus among members.

Autocratic leadership style

Autocratic leadership is characterized by individual control over all decisions and little input from group members. Autocratic leaders typically make choices based on their judgment and ideas and rarely accept advice from members.

Benefits: Autocratic leadership can resolve issues quickly and efficiently in times of crisis as they don’t have to wait for feedback or consensus.

Drawbacks: This style may limit creativity and innovation, as members may feel their input is not valued. It can also lead to decreased engagement and satisfaction among members who prefer more involvement in decision-making processes.

Transformational leadership style

Transformational leadership is characterized by leaders who inspire and motivate their members through a shared vision of the future. They are adept at instilling enthusiasm, stimulating intellectual curiosity, and promoting innovation and change.

Benefits: Transformational leaders can ignite passion, inspire, motivate, increase member engagement, and drive the community towards ambitious goals. They foster an environment that encourages innovation, creativity, and forward thinking.

Drawbacks: With their focus on big-picture thinking, these leaders may overlook the details and practicalities, focusing more on overarching visions and less on day-to-day operations. They might also raise expectations too high, creating potential disappointment or frustration if the ambitious goals are not met.

Laissez-faire leadership style

Laissez-faire leadership, or "hands-off" leadership, involves providing minimal direction and allowing members to make decisions independently. It works best with self-motivated and highly skilled members.

Benefits: This leadership style can foster a sense of innovation and creativity among members. It also encourages a sense of autonomy, leading to higher satisfaction and engagement among community members.

Drawbacks: This style can also lead to a lack of direction, inconsistencies, or conflicts if not appropriately balanced with guidance and oversight.

Servant leadership style

Servant leadership is focused on prioritizing the needs of the community above all else. In this style, the leader prioritizes the needs of their team members, focusing on their growth and well-being. Servant leaders exhibit high levels of empathy, listening, stewardship, and commitment to the personal and professional development of others.

Benefits: By prioritizing the needs of community members, servant leaders cultivate an environment where members feel valued, heard, and cared for. This can significantly boost member satisfaction, loyalty, and engagement.

Drawbacks: Potential drawbacks may include a lack of assertiveness or difficulty making unpopular decisions that may benefit the community in the long run. There's also a risk of being overly accommodating, which might result in a lack of direction or discipline within the community.

Collaborative leadership style

Collaborative leadership involves building consensus through participation and developing relationships among a diverse group of members. These leaders often act as facilitators rather than directors.

Benefits: A collaborative leadership style can harness the collective knowledge, skills, and experiences of community members to solve problems and make decisions.

Drawbacks: This style may also lead to longer decision-making processes, and leaders must be adept at managing different opinions and potential conflicts.

Empowering departments with community-led growth
We’re turning the spotlight on some of the crucial departments of your business. That’s right, we’re talking about sales, marketing, finance, and customer success, and exploring how these departments can seriously benefit from a good dose of community love!

Choosing the right leadership style for your community

Selecting the right leadership style in community management is not a one-size-fits-all decision; it is influenced by several key factors that each community manager must consider:

Community size

The size of the community can impact a community manager’s leadership style. Larger communities may require a more structured leadership approach, like autocratic or democratic styles, to maintain order and coordination.

Smaller communities might benefit more from laissez-faire or collaborative leadership styles, where individual contributions are more pronounced.

Community maturity

The stage of community development also influences the choice of leadership style. New communities might need more directive leadership, while mature communities with established norms and active members may thrive under democratic, laissez-faire, or servant leadership.

Community goals

The objectives and purpose of the community play a crucial role in which leadership style would best suit. For example, if the goal is innovation and creativity, transformational, or laissez-faire leadership might be most effective.

If the goal is to reach a consensus or to engage all community members in decision-making, then democratic or collaborative leadership might be suitable.

Community culture

The culture and values of the community should also guide the leadership style. Communities valuing independence and individual initiative may respond well to laissez-faire leadership, while those valuing teamwork and inclusivity might appreciate democratic or collaborative leadership.

The role of a community manager is highly dynamic, and often, a single leadership style will not suffice. As the community evolves, so should the leadership approach. A skilled community manager will need to fluidly switch between different leadership styles based on the situation.

During a crisis or conflict, an autocratic approach might be necessary to quickly restore order. In contrast, when seeking input for community improvement or exploring new ideas, a democratic or transformational style would be beneficial.

Effective community management is not about rigidly sticking to a single leadership style but adapting and blending various styles as per the needs of the community. This flexibility ensures that the leadership approach remains responsive and relevant to the community's evolving dynamics and needs.

Driving community-led growth: The power of market research
Online communities face unique challenges in their quest for growth. But how can community managers effectively navigate these challenges? The answer lies in the power of market research.

Final thoughts

Being an effective community manager is no easy task, but it’s a vital role to ensure smooth sailing for a community and its members. Successful community management involves a delicate balance of leadership, fostering engagement, maintaining a positive environment, and ensuring the community's voice is heard and valued. Understanding and adeptly implementing various leadership styles paves the way for building strong, vibrant, and successful communities.