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You’re a leader, even if you don’t realize it. We tend to think of leaders as people who have charisma and lead massive organizations, but a leader is more than that. A true leader doesn’t need a title or a rank. A leader is simply one who leads, and you fit the bill in one way or another.
Your presence and behavior always has an impact on the people around you and that influence is your unofficial form of leadership. The way that you think, speak, and act could be a determining factor in the health and longevity of whatever group you’re in. This is even true over the Internet, such as in the context of a remote team or online community.
In the Internet age, the question sharpens: what are the qualities of a good leader and how can you apply those qualities when everyone in your group is separated by thousands of miles?
Invest In the Bigger Picture
The most important step that any leader can take is a shift in mentality. The “self mindset” must be replaced with a “group mindset.” That doesn’t mean that the group is always right, nor does it mean that individuals should be sacrificed for the good of the group.
Instead, the “group mindset” recognizes that the group is a real entity with a life and purpose of its own. It’s the change that occurs when you stop asking “What can the group do for me?” and start asking “How can we progress together?” It’s about investing in the group and the people within it.
A good leader will contribute in ways that inspire motivation and cause members to be emotionally involved with the group’s purpose.
- Use wiki software to keep the group centralized. Important information, notes, and updates can be posted there. For an Internet group, wikis are great for establishing headquarters.
- Use discussion boards and next-generation chatrooms to simulate a “water cooler environment” where members can engage in small talk, get to know each other, and develop relationships.
- Use video conferencing software to take it to the next level. The group bond strengthens when you can put a face to the name.
Encourage and Build Up Others
Morale is a necessary component of any healthy group. Once morale begins to fall, members start to demand more from each other and become less forgiving of mistakes. They lose faith in the group and the mission, ultimately turning inward and losing their sense of investment in the whole.
That’s why words of edification are important. Think back to any time you’ve been encouraged and uplifted. It felt good, didn’t it? Brought up your morale? Made you more likely to be positive? It only makes sense that a group would have higher morale if the members regularly encouraged one another. (Be honest and constructive! Empty compliments will backfire.)
- Check out our etiquette tips for the digital age and keep them fresh in the back of your mind. Not every tip will apply in this context, but many of them do.
- Be mindful of your email compositions. Here are six irritating email mistakes that you don’t want to make!
The takeaway is that you want to build a culture of gratitude and growth, not one where everyone is tearing each other down. Resentment is hard to scrub out once it takes root and nothing destroys a group faster than irreconcilable differences.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
A good leader is always prepared. One way to keep yourself prepared in all circumstances is to practice proactivity. With a bit of foresight, you can see what the near future will look like and plan accordingly. A reactive leader, on the other hand, is always scrambling to recover from the unexpected.
Quell interpersonal tension. It’s always better to nip an issue in the bud than wait for it to fester and explode, particularly when it comes to social relationships. For example, if you spot some tension brewing between coworkers (or friends), don’t wait until it becomes a real problem before you start seeking solutions.
Schedule a conversation. Avoid email if possible. Use Google Hangouts or Skype. Face to face contact and the human voice go a long way in conveying emotions.
Adjust to changing circumstances. In the context of a business, you might be able to sense a shift in the landscape before it actually happens. Voicing your concerns to the proper channels could end up being beneficial for the team. The same is true if you spot a better path than the group’s current one.
The takeaway is that a good leader is always alert and aware. If you’re just going through the motions and doing the bare minimum, problems are going to sneak up on you when you’re most vulnerable. Keep your eyes and ears open.
So, how can you be a better leader on the Internet? The answer is found in attitude. Care for the group, care for the individuals, and be proactive in the pursuit of both. Leadership isn’t just a behavioral thing; it’s an attitude that leads to the right behaviors, and it doesn’t require an official title.
Have you ever tried to lead a remote team or online community? What tips and advice do you have for someone who might find themselves in a similar spot? How can a member unofficially contribute leadership to a group? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!