No One Member is More Important than the Whole

This is something I’ve experienced with COLOURlovers, but it is a lesson I learned with my non-profit community. As they grow, communities need leaders to step-up and take on extra responsibilities. In almost all situations, this will naturally happen. You begin to rely on these leaders so much, that sometimes you think the community wouldn’t survive without them.

In one of my volunteer communities, we had a small group of leaders who were growing exhausted from the hard work and irritable with new arrivals. They felt since they had been around longer that they were entitled to more than others. I struggled for a while to try and keep this group happy and spent considerable energy dealing with issues that were being created by these leaders. It was stressful because I thought that if I asked the leaders to leave I would have no ability to send my work crews out the next day. Without my leaders everything would crumble and I was sacrificing the happiness of many for the comfort of a few.

It got to a non-pass point with this small group of leaders and they left. What immediately happened in the chaos of this change? People who had been around a little while and some fairly new people stepped up and assumed the leadership roles. I could have asked those troublesome leaders to leave ages before, and the organism that is the community would have replaced the roles on their own.

Lesson: There is always a number 2 or number 3 who is willing and eager to take on a bigger role. Your most active and valuable members will leave and a new batch will replace them.

The system, however, is not perfect. And it’s out of control. So sometimes, despite your best efforts, the whole thing will go sideways. Know that, as with most successful communities, someday you will be facing…

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.alohastartups.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Darius_profile.png[/author_image] [author_info]FBI, founder of the design community COLOURlovers and co-founder and board member of the All Hands Volunteers international charitable organization. Alumni of Y Combinator and mentor with 500 Startups. @bubs[/author_info] [/author]