Some of the most powerful people on the Internet are commoners like you and me. The effective moderation of a successful forum takes a great amount of discipline and ability, but yields great success and respect. It's very likely that these superusers are lingering in forums and communities across the Web. They might not be moderators in every case, but chances are they're highly respected individuals with a lot of influence in the communities in which they participate.
A big part of my personal success in this area comes from my passion for quality leadership. Leadership takes many forms and manifests itself in various ways in our lives. Individuals like Winston Churchill and Rudy Giuliani manifested leadership in their times of crisis. Leadership is influence, and these were among the most influential people of their times.
If you moderate a community, large or small, or you're charged with the task of administering one, let this article be a challenge to you. A position does not make you a leader. Influence makes you a leader.
The fact is that, as a moderator, you have a unique gift called leadership. This gift has given you the opportunity to work as a moderator on whatever board you're part of. But leadership is simply a raw force -- an energy -- that drives us and influences others. It's like fire, having the potential to both bring reward and cause harm. It depends on the person who wields that leadership, and the maturity with which he or she uses it.
In most western societies, a boy becomes a “man” when he reaches the age of maturity. Being a boy does not take masculinity from the boy: he is as masculine a boy as he will be a man (unless something happens in a hospital somewhere!). But he is only recognized as a man once he reaches a certain age, or displays a certain level of maturity.
Similarly, in the world of influence, a leader is not made, but a leader is recognized.
Tom Landry, the legendary former coach of the Dallas Cowboys (which, I might add is NOT America's, team!) once said:"Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you're in control, they're in control."
The key lies not in controlling the surroundings, but in being able to control your own responses to those surroundings... how you carry yourself, your composure and collectedness, how you ask and respond to questions.
Leadership is defined by how you promote what you are trying to create, rather than how you denounce what you are against. People will, to a degree, more readily accept correction from someone who has a relationship with them than someone who just wants to lay down law.
One of the most critical links in the leadership chain is the mentoring process. This is often overlooked by those in leadership positions who are more concerned with their own personal power and control than in raising up effective leaders, and this alone can be the biggest stumbling block to community growth.
There is a four-step process to nurturing fresh leadership:
1. Let them watch you do the job.
This is the step where potential leaders are recognized. In this step, existing leaders notice those who naturally stand out and seem to attract others through natural charisma, knowledge and abilities. These individuals are not necessarily destined to be leaders, but they exhibit leadership traits. It's at this step that a new candidate is chosen.
2. Teach them to do the job.
At this stage, the candidate helps the leader perform his duties, learning the trade along the way. The leader will impart valuable insight and maturity throughout this process, instructing the trainee as they work together. A good example of this would be an electrician's apprentice.
3. Make room for them to do the job.
This is where the trainee gets all his practice. A wise leader makes room for failure, allowing the trainee to learn the hard way, by making mistakes, and shape his own philosophies and tendencies. An effective leader will not quench opposing ideas, but will corral these philosophies and traits toward a commonly-held positive goal, teaching the trainee how to use those qualities to have a positive influence on those that are being led.
4. Get out of the way and let the new leader do the job.
This is the final step. The trainee has matured and gained valuable wisdom and insight through the training process. They've made mistakes and learned the hard way. They have established a rapport with those they're to lead, who look to the leader for direction. At this point the leader can step back and allows the protege to do the job without individual restraint. New ideas and philosophies flow into the arena, and the new leader can begin to look among those he leads for people that exhibit the qualities of a future leader. And so the cycle continues.
A deciding factor in good leadership is to determine whether people are following the leader, or simply obeying him. Anyone can get into a community and start telling others what the rules are, but if that person doesn't demonstrate that they can be trusted, the people will simply obey and not follow.
How do you establish trust and confidence? Good question. One way is by communicating a vision of where you are going, what you are doing and what you believe. If people sense a lack of confidence or ability, they will not respect your place as a leader. It's important to understand that the people make you a leader, not a higher-up. By establishing this respect with those you work with, you will be recognized as a leader.
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