CAT | Leadership
Originally published in Open Source Business Resource January 2010
“…success comes entirely from people and the system within which they work. Results are not the point. Developing the people and the system so that together they are capable of achieving successful results is the point.”
Recently, that quote stirred some controversy among my peers. The part about “results are not the point” was hard for some people to understand and come to grips with. Aren’t results always the point? Well, as with most things, “It depends”. The people and community that evolve around an open source software project will ultimately determine its success. Even if the core team launches the project with spectacular productivity and results, this phase of evolution will be fleeting if the necessary processes and community to make the project a long lasting success are not put into place.
This article presents some of the actions open source community leaders can take to ensure not only results, but a system that encourages productivity and longevity.
Seth Godin coined the phrase Purple Cow to make the point that companies and products have to be different in order to gain attention and attract customers in today’s marketplace. His point is well taken, if you want to stand out and attract people to your product you need to appear AND BE different.
The same holds true for communities, especially now with so many companies trying to engage with their customers. Just a couple of years ago communities were never discussed… ever (unless you were talking about open source). Now I’ll wager a bet that nearly ever marketing meeting has some component of community discussed, dissected, and regurgitated (is that what a Purple Cow would do?) on a daily basis. Community has gone from the unknown servant to the Belle of the Ball, a true Cinderella story , in only a few short years. But are companies really distinguishing themselves with their community efforts? Are they creating Purple Communities or just another Facebook Fan page? (more…)
Trust influences nearly every interaction we have during any given day. Every communication, every action, every conversation is shaped in some way by the trust and reputation that we infer on the interacting party. It is the currency communities, both online and offline, trade in. Without trust, lasting relationships can’t be built and authentic communities can’t be maintained. As a Community Leader, part of our job is to build reputation and trust for our communities and the people associated with them. This may sound easy, but it can be very hard since you rely on the actions of others for much of your community’s reputation and trust. Think about it… You may be the most trustworthy and reputable person in the world, but if your community is acting in the wrong way, your efforts may be for naught. (more…)
There seems to be a misconception about what’s required to build a vibrant open source community and it’s not “community management”. Community management focuses on providing infrastructure and facilitating communication for a community. This includes setting up events, maintaining TO-DO lists, keeping forums under control, making announcements, etc. And that’s all well and good, in fact it’s vital. However, although this role is important it will likely not lead to any significant growth in your community. Communities need Leadership in order to grow because leaders create a vision of the future that draws people to their communities and motivates them into action.