Three happy professionals meeting around a table at the office.

We live in an era unique in human history.  For the first time, we have the technology to create a decent life for every human being on this planet.  The major obstacle to achieving that goal is the inability of disparate groups to overcome the history of isolation, mistrust, competition, and powerlessness that prevents them from working on a human agenda.”   Juanita Brown, founder of World Café.

How do we to overcome these barriers and begin working on a human agenda?  Many leaders have begun work in what is being called “community building.”  Here is how I think about what a community is:

It is a group, team or organization where there is high trust, effective communication, equality, respect for differences, and high levels of cooperation.  It’s not without conflict. Yet, members of the community have the perseverance to see conflict through to a healthy outcome.  The focus of the community is on a vision of the future that is created together, with the actions needed today to get to that future. 

Community creates belonging.  And belonging can motivate members to elevate their performance and dedication to what they most care about. Isolation creates hopelessness.  We cannot impact the complexities that face us alone.

Community is a way of being together with both individual authenticity and interpersonal harmony so that people become able to function with a collective energy even greater than the sum of their individual energies.

Today, we are experiencing the effects of an ever-increasing technologies, organizations in chaos, distrust of political systems, racial tension, and on and on.  Powerlessness and apathy are taking a toll on pride and productivity.  How do we take back power and personal responsibility for creating a desirable future?  By coming together with other individuals to work on complex agendas, one conversation at a time.

Community decision-making and planning helps people regain power and energy for creating positive change.

What does it mean to be a citizen of a community?  It means you are responsible for co-creation.  You don’t wait for someone else to do it.  Co-creation eliminates the burden of that leader to create for others. They are part of all of it and therefore more. Committed and responsible for the outcomes.  Citizenship in a community means that you are willing to contribute to the progress wanting to happen.  You are willing to discern with others, “what do we care about together?”

How do you want to be in community with one another in the communities at work?  Are you willing to co-create a community that is distinct from the past?  What is the possible future you are willing to co-create?  Ask yourself, “To what extent am I willing to be invested in the well-being of the whole?”  This ends the focus on me and mine. It broadens the view to us and we.  This is the way forward. 

The question is not whether to generate high-involvement and participation, but how.  The benefits are many.  But how? Here are three steps to creating community:

  1. Gather people who have expertise and a stake in the issue.  And in the gathering, be a good host, not the hero of the day.  You are not in charge of this. You are the host of the gathering. 
  2. Think together.  None of us is as smart as all of us.  Ask questions that require thoughtful responses. Then, listen and learn.  Encourage diverse perspectives. Invite people to share about how they see the world.
  3. Name the conversation that matters.  Follow the energy of the community. What really wants to be discussed and discovered?

I challenge you as a leader to begin learning more about what it is to co-create community.  I believe this is the evolution of leadership going forward.  Great leaders are community stewards and show up as their intimate, authentic selves.  They ditch the old paradigms of leadership for something more fluid and inclusive.  


  • Dede Henley


    Henley Leadership Group

    I founded Henley Leadership Group 22 years ago to help leaders and organizations create more equitable and productive workplaces and ignite the nascent leadership potential of employees at all levels. Through individual coaching and programs designed to generate positive business results, Henley Leadership Group has served thousands of corporate leaders in a variety of industries, including healthcare, technology, energy and finance. Away from work, I live with my husband, and try not to meddle too much in the lives of my half-dozen kids.